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The curse of restlessness

Many of us are afflicted with the curse of restlessness. Dissatisfied with the status quo, we leave, looking for adventure. And in looking for adventure, we may find more than we bargained for – we change, often for the better.   But will everyone who goes on a journey come back a better …
By Seth Barnes
shackletonMany of us are afflicted with the curse of restlessness. Dissatisfied with the status quo, we leave, looking for adventure. And in looking for adventure, we may find more than we bargained for – we change, often for the better.
 
But will everyone who goes on a journey come back a better person?  If I
go on a road trip will I be more holy?  If I take a vacation to India,
will it necessarily change me?
 
Consider the case of Ernest
Shackleton. In 1909, Shackleton returned home from his Nimrod expedition to
the South Pole to fame and public honor.  He was knighted by King Edward
and made a Commander of the Royal Victorian Order.  He received the
Gold Medal of the Royal Geographic Society, and all his crew received a
silver Polar Medal. 

However, the expedition left Shackleton so heavily in debt the
government had to bail him out with a grant of ₤20,000, a sum that would
have exceeded $2 million in 2008, and even that was not enough to cover
the whole expedition.  To pay off the rest and support his family, he
began a busy public speaking schedule.  He also started several
ill-fated business ventures.  Among them were a tobacco company, a
collector stamp printing business, and a Hungarian mining company.  Each
of them failed, and he was left steps away from poverty.  Far from
curing the curse of restlessness, his journey only increased it.

A few years after the expedition it looked like his curse of
restlessness had been cured and he was ready to settle down.  He wrote
to his wife, “I am never again going south and I have thought it all out
and my place is at home now.”  However, it seemed he could never make a
home for himself at home. 
 
His public speaking schedule meant he
traveled constantly.  With his business ventures failed and failing he
couldn’t pay his bills, and despite his promises to his wife, his mind
drifted to the sea, to Antarctica, and to what was left unexplored. 

In 1914, five years after returning from Antarctica, Shackleton departed
back toward that cold continent for his infamous Endurance expedition.
His ship was sunk when it was struck by a large floe of pack ice. His
crew just managed to escape to the floe that sunk them.  They were
hundreds of miles from land with just a few life boats.
 
Survival seemed
impossible, yet he managed to lead all of his crew of 22 to safety.  It
took three years, but in 1917 he returned to England, his expedition
failed, but he and his crew alive.
 
Shackleton’s journey was certainly an adventure, but my conclusion is that, to lick the curse of restlessness, he needed to invest more in the inward journey that we all must ultimately take if we are to find peace.

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