Traveling—that itch to get away, to hit the road, to see the world—feels like a distinctly modern craze. Yet it was common in Ancient Rome for people to escape the heat and the frenzy of the bustling city to get away for some time in the countryside. It is likely that those excursions influenced Marcus Aurelius’s belief in sympatheia—the belief in mutual interdependence among everything in the universe, that we are all one.
Marcus Aurelius liked to say that he wasn’t a citizen of Rome, but of the world. Matt Kepnes, or better known as “Nomadic Matt,” quite literally is a citizen of the world. Matt spent a decade living out of a backpack, traveling the world. He captures the journey and everything it taught him in Ten Years A Nomad, which released this week. In our interview with Matt for DailyStoic.com, we were curious to find out if—given all the different cultures he’s lived in and the people he’s met—it’s been his experience that we really aren’t all that different from each other. Matt said:
People really are the same everywhere. Interacting with people, watching them commute, pick up laundry, go grocery shopping, and do all the other everyday things you did back home—you really internalize the idea that, fundamentally, we all just want the same things: to be happy, to be safe and secure, to have friends and family who love us. The how of what we do is different but the why of what we do is universal.
This is true not only right now, but it’s true for the past and the future. Humans are humans are humans—for good and for bad. How much better a place would the world be if we could all remember this? If the Stoic concept of sympatheia was never far from our minds (it’s why we created a reminder of it to carry in your pocket)? Certainly we'd get along better, collaborate better, and be more understanding of each other. If you’ve done any bit of traveling, Matt’s answer likely reminds you of your own experiences of being far from home but finding comfort in realizing that the people are just like you. Doing their best. Just wanting to feel happy, safe and secure, loved—and around the people who put them there the most. That is universal.