Travelin’ Notes

Jan 29, 2010

One of my favorite things to do is to travel.  I like traveling abroad, I travel for work and for school, I even take a wrong turn intentionally sometimes to travel around other neighborhoods near my home.  And my navigational skills are such that I often take wrong turns unintentionally, too.  So I have lots of opportunities to feel like I do not know exactly where I am or which steps to take next.  I like the way it feels to be rushed into the moment per setravel, with mundane questions such as ‘am I traveling in a direction that takes me ultimately where I would like to be?’  What I mean by “rushed into the moment” is that at that moment, the moment of making a decision while traveling, many other things to think about fall away and I am stuck in the primacy of staring up at a street sign, or walking down a corridor in a train station.  All the meaning of life questions, urgent priorities, mistakes and regrets, aspirations and plans take a back seat to the immediate need of determining a next move.  That is what I like about traveling.

I also like meeting new people as I travel.  I mean interacting with sales clerks, other tourists, savvy locals, basically anyone who shares the road with me.  I am always struck by the kindness of people.  Many times my faith in my fellow humans has been enriched by my experiences traveling.  I have asked for help in many languages, many situations, from many people, and by and large I find a helpful face who is willing to point me in the right direction (see above regarding my navigational skills), recommend a restaurant, or give me a hand with my luggage.  Or, on more rare but special occasions, I have received money and time from concerned on-lookers who just seemed to know that I was in trouble and needed assistance.  In these moments of vulnerability the kindness of strangers has a poignancy that is underscored by the fact that they did not have to do any of it.

This gets me thinking about how travel is like life.  Many people like to say, and I am hearing this a lot more these days, that life is about the journey and not the destination.  If so, then the “journey” of life is lots of “travels” put together, is it not?

I suppose when I think about my favorite experiences while traveling almost none of them are at the actual tourist hot-spot I was seeking.  Instead, one is on a no-name side street that I probably could not find again if I tried, following a volunteer tour guide around the streets of the French Riviera as he thought I needed to learn how to avoid pickpockets.  My tour guide demonstrated as though some unassuming woman who approached us on the street might be trying to pick our pockets and as she looked up bewildered I didn’t know whether to look at her apologetically or look at my tour guide appreciatively; I simultaneously attempted both looks and ended up in a laughing fit.  Other favorite moments include cheering when the food I ordered, via the point-and- hope method, did arrive and was very edible.  Or of rehearsing for hours what to say (in French) to the train attendant and then successfully buying tickets for a trip I did want to take, that is simply buying the tickets was a highlight.

So, if I relate this to the idea that life is like one long string of different travel experiences, I guess I can feel why this idea of life being a journey is so powerful.  Generally however, in life it seems there is so much pressure to know and strive toward the specific goal or destination.  I know at least in my life I have felt this way.  But, as I reflect on it now, I see that if I were to apply the things I love about traveling to the journey of my life, what a difference that would make! I am now considering how I could enjoy the feeling of not knowing exactly where I am going more in my life, and how I could receive and give more support to those in my life.

How about you?  Do you encounter this idea that life is like a journey, not a destination?  Given your travels, what do you make of this notion?

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