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Javanese Proverb

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Javanese Proverb


“If you start off north, go north, don’t turn east, west, or south.”
Javanese Proverb

I read this proverb from Java a few days ago and have not been able to shake it since.

To take one single direction to fruition has never been my fancy. But the thought of it, has gotten my wheels a spinning. It is a simply philosophy, and one that I can learn a few lessons from.

I have always held a certain fondness for starting off in one direction just to splinter off in another, and then another and then another, until my route of travel (or life for that matter) begins to resemble the colorful messes that elementary students call art. I have never really liked nice looking anythings, and fluid paths have never appealed to me. I think that I have made a career of dabbling – dabbling in professions, dabbling in lines of study, dabbling in curiosities. I think I am an incorrigible dabbler.

Though one who gets quite lost in his dabblings.

My path of travel has always been made up of starts and stops that go everywhere with shear signs of nonsense – and anywhere but where they where planed to go. As Andy says, “A plan is just something I do until I come up with a better idea.” I like doing things like this. I like whims. I like going north only to realize that I would rather go east, or west, or west then east then north again. I like just going to where ever my feet take me. But this Jananese proverb puts an idea into my head.

Hmm, maybe it would be fun to start off in one direction and keep going. . . Just keep on going until I have circled the globe. Maybe it would be enticing to travel towards a DIRECTION, rather than towards places. Who cares about places anyway? I don’t care much about places. The pursuit of a great path could perhaps be a far nobler pursuit than the pursuit of any great destination.

I do not believe that Richard Burton cared a darn for finding any source of the Nile or any other such place that he said he was looking for. I do not believe that he cared too much for destinations. I think he just went to Mecca for the fun of it. He went to war for kicks. It is my impression that he walked through Somalialand and got a javelin plunged through his face for the joy of the journey. I think that Richard Burton was a man who chased curiosity. He took off and kept going. I am not sure if he ever looked back. I have found a new infatuation in that bearded javelin eating explorer of humanity.

I think that there can be no end to a curiosity.

The same can be said for directions: they just keep going.

Pick a place, and you run the danger of arriving. Pick a direction and you can keep going into infinitum. Pick a curiosity and you will be lost for life.

I like the sounds of this.

I already know that I have no care for where I stand. I don’t want to stand, anyway. I want to run and keep running. Peak into a corner, peak into another, peer through the solicitous peep-hole of the world just to find out who is standing stark naked on the other side.

I have tried to stand before, though. I worked hard in university studying Chinese and Asiatic anthropology. I sat for a long time in a stiff backed chair – pretending that I was some breed of rag-tag scholar perhaps – but one day I just lost passion for any semblance of it. I realized that I simply did not care. I did not believe in the words that I was writing. I knew that it was all fairytales. In a flood, I also realized that I could not waste away another beautiful day writing some checked and balanced nonsense research paper that would be so boring that not even my poor mother could suffer through it. I did my time, I wrote thousands of such pages. But all it taught me was that the scholar killed the story teller.

I just want to tell stories.

East is now my direction.

The old time travelers always moved to the east: towards the ever beaconing morning light. East East East. East is where Europe is, the Middle East, then the Far East. To move east is to go in an even progression across the earth – with the landscape ever becoming more and more “Eastern” the further you travel. To view the world as an ongoing progression, I think that east is direction that must be traveled. East through Europe, East through Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, east to Pakistan (somehow), east through Nepal, India, Bangladesh, SE Asia, Malaysia, all the way to Java – say thank you for the proverb – and then to Japan, until I cannot go east no more

East is the direction that I choose. North you run into icebergs, south you run into icebergs, go west and you eat the desert of your travels before the dinner. Go east and you get the full course meal of planet earth.

Going East.

With Javanese proverbs in mind.

Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Copan Ruinas, Honduras
March 24, 2008

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Filed under: Travel Philosophy

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3048 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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