Part 10--Thoughts on Travel
Trip Start Apr 07, 2004
10Trip End May 29, 2004
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When it comes to travel, I would guess there are three versions:
1--Travel as an ESCAPE--a break or diversion from the routine of life.
2--Travel as a COMPARISON--experiencing from a perspective of "how are things here versus how are things back at home (or some other place of comparison)."
3--Travel as an OPPORTUNITY--with an openness to adventure, to chance, and to the surprises it has in store for us.
1--The American Version--a 1-week holiday to a resort (preferably luxurious one). When time is limited, the choice to travel is often just for relaxation or adventure (no matter what the destination--at home or abroad).
2--The "Traveler" or "Tourist"--seeing places in comparison to other places or to life at home. Whether complaining, "Nothing here is the way it is at home" or grumbling, "Everything here is the same as it is in Cairo-or-Cuzco-or-Kathmandu." It's all very much the same.
3--The Curious Adventurer--shaking up his complacencies by being continually open to newness--new perspectives, new experiences, new realizations...allowing the experience of travel to challenge everything previously taken for granted. "Traveling not in search of answers...but of better questions!"
I have experienced all 3 at one time or another:
1-The one-week Caribbean Cruise with friends where I just want fun-in-the-sun and happy times shared all around.
2-I think it is oftentimes inevitable-making comparisons (made all the much easier since so many people you come in contact with also do).
3-But deep down, this is the person I am! Especially on longer journeys...especially when traveling-alone-yet-meeting-locals-oftentimes-along-the-way...this is the person I am (or hope to be!)
By my last count, I have visited over 60 of the world's countries--some big, some small...some for a day, some for a month or two. I have been to some countries much like the U.S...and others very different. I have seen wealth and seen poverty. I have seen mothers offer their children to me (to raise)...girls willing to marry my on the spot (in hopes of a better life). I have seen tropical bliss...and tropical misery too. I have climbed pristine mountain peaks to arrive at amazing sunrise vistas...and have seen mountains of trash simmering in stench in the late-afternoon heat. I have walked on landfills-turned-homesites where slow-flowing streams-of-sewage filled the air with a sweet nauseous aroma...and each step was if on a cushiony bed--the ground unstable underneath.
I have seen much...the comparisons are endless...but...I have experienced even more.
Travel is about newness--maybe even a return to more childlike days.
Travel is about an unquenchable thirst.
Travel is about a slow, growing satisfaction.
Travel is about challenge.
Travel is about bliss.
Travel is about work.
And...Travel is like love--not familiar at first, but becoming more so each day.
"If travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it is a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end."
"I travel in large part in search of hardship--both my own, which I want to feel, and others', which I need to see. Travel in this sense guides us to a better balance of wisdom of compassion--of seeing the world clearly, and yet feeling it truly. For seeing without feeling can obviously be uncaring; while feeling it without seeing can be blind."
"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accomodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the world whose riches are differently dispersed. And, we travel, in essence to become young fools again--to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more."
All this philosophy notwithstanding...in reality...the joy of traveling is "simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle."
Much of the world sees reality through different eyes than we do in the U.S.
One of the satisfactions I gain from traveling stems from the communication I have with others of a different land, a different perspective, a different belief system, and a different set of values, goals and priorities. Not only do I gain from them--but--I hope they gain from me as well! For, in seeing with new eyes (theirs)...they in turn see through new eyes--the ones I provide! I become their contact with the world outside...just as they open me up to their world.
This leads to a challenging interchange:
"How to import--and export--dreams with tenderness."
"How to balance truthfulness and tact (i.e. "The American Dream")
For, throught my contact with them--I seek to provide a real and balanced sense of what contemporary America is like...while also bringing them a fresh and renewed sense of how special is the warmth and beauty of their own country (from the perspective of one who can compare it with other places around the globe).
Oops...getting long-winded here!
For me, the best part of travel is really two-fold:
--Discovering the best in others.
--Discovering the best in myself.
When traveling, I can seek to acknowledge good, to see kindness--to focus on the good in others (or the opposite).
For myself, when traveling, I can remake myself for better or for worse. Some people travel to "get away" and use it as a cradle for false identities. For me, however, travel tends to enhance truer ones!
So...I suppose travel reaffirms goodness, and returns me to my home country rejuvenated and ready to once again live life with passion and with concern for others (not only while abroad--but at home as well).
"Travel, at heart, is just a quick way of keeping our minds mobile and awake."