I’ve missed it. I’ve really missed hitting the road, meandering the random roads, visiting museums, poking my head into little shops, eating in places where I can’t recognize the names on the menu or where there is no menu.
A recent question at a book club made me ponder this question: why do I love to travel? Why do I miss it so? The question we discussed as we sat at big dining table enjoying a holiday dinner was, “What was your childhood dream and are you living it?”
Hah! Didn’t t take me long to come up with an answer. While my childhood was idyllic in many ways, my dream was to “get out of the small town I grew up in.” As I thought about that almost out of control outburst, I thought? Hmmmm. Was Spring Lake so bad? No, of course not. It was pretty good actually.
But as I child and as now, I wanted to see the world that existed beyond the one I grew up in— a town with 4,000 people, most of whom were totally happy with Friday night bowling and Sunday church socials.
I wanted more.
Travel to me is much more than “getting away.” It’s really more about the “going to” and that’s an important point. Nothing is wrong with “getting away” from the stresses and routines of our lives, whether it is a trip to a new museum in a neighboring town or one of those around the world in a private jet trips described in pamphlets I drool over.
But I love and crave the “going to.” The seeing and experiencing lands and cultures very different than my own. Trying to understand the values and dreams that drive the people to do what they do. What gives them pleasure? Joy? Peace? Happiness? What are their struggles? Why is the architecture the way it is? What kind of art do they make?
I believe the statement that a mind stretched by new experiences can never go back to its old dimensions. I’m invigorated by the stretching and the confidence that comes with the new experiences.
I love the moments of awe, of magic like seeing a polar bear lumber over across the ice to check out the boat we are on in the Arctic Circle or the fabulous reflections of mountains in the Norwegian fjords.
I’m forever changed by meeting the woman who regularly and for all her life blackens her teeth with a mixture of beetle juice and other materials found in the hills and forests of her North Vietnamese home.
The old cars in Cuba and the tourists in Paris. Traveling makes my world bigger and smaller at the same time.
A friend of mine says she likes to travel because she’s interested in the history of places and how they came to be. And others find travel to be healing. One only needs to read books like “Eat, Love and Pray” or “Wild” to experience this process. I recently read a book about a woman’s month long trek on the Camino de Santiago to understand how getting away can fix the broken parts. (“Walking Home: a Pilgrimage from Humbled to Healed” by Sonia Choquette).
Challenging all the senses is another pure pleasure. India immediately comes to mind. It was almost too much some days. I’m eager to learn about ancient religions that are just as important and influential as the ones practiced by people in my home town.
I’m not alone. From when Marco Polo took off to see the world and found the routes to buy spice or when Columbus just had to see what was at the end of the ocean, people have ventured into the unknown. Right now hundreds add to lists to go into Space when that frontier opens up. It will. Maybe not in my life time, but my grand daughter may go out into the universe some time and say, “Nana would have loved this.”
And she’s right.