Lessons from a short trip to Las Vegas

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So I know I should use this post to tell you about how I went to Vegas last week, and in the process made lots of money, drank several Olympic pools worth of ethanol, and close with something that brings up the “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” line. Alas, I am a bit of a boring man when it comes to the usual sources of entertainment, but I did learn a couple of things here and there that might be of use to someone else.

When you gamble out of necessity, you lose out of obligation

That’s a line I overheard while walking around the casino in Treasure Island. If it sounds a little bit unnatural it’s because I heard it in Spanish and just translated it into English word by word. Still, I think it does get the meaning across: play for the fun, not for the (unlikely) winnings. Obviously, no one plays to lose, but the idea is that one should focus both in the journey (playing) and the destination (wining). We’ve previously gone over a similar topic, and how we can get stuck in an infinite loop of paralysis by analysis if only the destination is important.

There is an additional lesson that comes from that phrase, however. Given how unlikely it is for anyone to hit the jackpot in a predictable way, it makes no sense to play expecting that result. Instead, if you play embracing the fact that you will lose some and win some, then it will be much easier to know when to stop playing both to lock in your earnings and cut your losses. This lesson is not only applicable to Sin City, but also to life in general. Do your best, but remember that there’s only so much that you can control and sometimes you have to accept whatever life throws at you.

The masters make it look easy

Growing up, I remember watching VHS tapes (I’m not that old, but I’m getting there) of every sort of film and show. In particular, my mom and aunt had a bit of an obsession with Cirque du Soleil (which I think was due to them being really into ballet in their youth). My grandpa also enjoyed those tapes, but he was more of a gymnastics and calisthenics kind of guy.

Looking back to those days I remember thinking “I could do that” during some of the acts. I mean, I was just a dumb kid, so it’s understandable that I thought that. Going to some of those shows during this trip brought home how difficult it actually is and the dedication and work that goes into the performance. Just as I’ve dedicated quite a large part of my life into becoming a scientist, so have all the performers done the same in their careers. Bearing witness to that is awe inspiring, humbling, and an experience that I’ll look back fondly on for a long time.

The heat’s unbearable

I live in a rather hot and humid place. Sometimes it feels like living in a sauna, but most of the time it’s quite confortable, and neither too hot nor too cold. Vegas is a completely different beast altogether. I’ve travelled to the UK, Canada, Central America and some desert regions along the US-Mexico border, but this kind of heat was completely new to me. Imagine being inside of a car in the middle of the day, with the windows rolled up and no A/C: feels like being inside an oven, right? Well, the Vegas heat was just like that, to the point that every single time I went outside it felt like I was being hugged by a wall of fire. Of course, the sensation only lasted a couple of seconds, and it wasn’t that bad, but it’s not the sort of thing you want to be continually exposed to either.

Where am I going with this? I thought I knew what hot climates were like, but I was wrong. Just like I’ve been wrong about tons of stuff before, I expected something, and got another thing in the mail instead. At the same time, hot and humid climates make people slower paced. They walk more calmly, take their time when having meals, take naps and just live at a slower rate. People in a hot and dry climate are just as fast paced as those in cities. Perhaps even more so since they, understandably, want to get out of the sun quickly.

Things can change a lot in a short amount of time

Some of the other people I traveled with had visited Las Vegas before, and when planning the trip they constantly talked about the things that we could do and see. They got it quite wrong. Now, they based their advice on previous experience, but the city had changed enough for such experience to no longer be accurate.

This reminded me of my grandma, growing up during the 1930s and living to this day in a world of smartphones, the internet-thing, and the several changes society has gone through. She can’t use a smartphone or a computer, so we all help her with that, but when it comes to offering insightful advice, it’s like she has a vault full of brilliant ideas. It’s thanks to her that my perspective on several issues has changed and some issues I thought were of the utmost importance turned out to be quite insignificant. I can’t imagine what it’s like for her to live in a world that isn’t really made for her anymore. It seems like a terrifying prospect to reach that old age and depend so much on others. If Vegas changed so much for my friends in 10 to 20 years, how much has everything changed for my grandma?

In closing

Traveling is one of those things that allows us to experience a completely different lifestyle, climate and perhaps society in a quick and mostly easy way. Although there is a clear difference between moving to another country for several years and visiting a close city for a week, you can learn a few lessons if you know where to look and you pay attention to what goes on around you.

I hope you enjoyed this post. See you next week!

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