Friday, October 5: I want to become the quintessential nomad. This from a person who never ventured out of North America until the age of 43, when I went to the not-very-exotic England. Before that, I was mainly a tourist in America. I took a 3 month trip around the country with my husband Bill right after we graduated from the College of William & Mary, traveling in a Chevy van with his two pugs, Ulysses and Max. We drove a big loop, crossing the border into Canada several times, and ended up right back where we started from, in our hometown of Williamsburg, Virginia. In 1980, we moved to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and from there explored Glacier National Park; Banff, Canada; Oregon, Washington, California, Montana and southern Idaho. Still. My travels stayed within the boundaries of North America.
Going to the Bahamas was my first time out of the country, in 1990, with my second husband Mike. That was the most exotic place I had ever been. Once I went to England in 1998, there was no turning back. Though not exotic, per se, it was romantic and extraordinary. I discovered the famous ordnance maps, which showed the English countryside in such great detail that we could fashion hikes through people’s yards and farms. I love it in England that walkers have the right-of-way and that if property owners have fences around their properties, they must provide a passage through the fence where the trail crosses over. We hiked through the countryside in the Cotswolds & the Lake District. We explored history in Bath and London. I was amazed at how different life could feel in a country that I thought would be similar to America.
Other travels have been to France (twice), Germany, Mexico, Egypt, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Turkey, China, Japan, India, Korea, Jordan, and Greece. The more I traveled, the more I learned about myself, good and bad things, things that had been in the dark before the journeys. I began to read travelogues; Bill Bryson was one of my favorite travel writers.
I happened upon a wonderful book by one of my favorite writers of all time: Swiss writer Alain de Botton. He writes about various subjects in a philosophical manner, focusing on the subject’s relevance to everyday life. The book was The Art of Travel. In this book, de Botton explores why we should travel and how we can be less miserable and unfulfilled as we do so. Traveling can be uncomfortable; it takes us out of our zone of familiarity and thrusts us into a strange world that can be disorienting. But it can also teach us about ourselves, prod us to push the outer edges of the envelope of our lives. Travel can be a discovery of who we are, the good, the bad and the ugly. In all our questionable glory…..
He talks about travel from the first inkling that comes to a person. The idea of a place takes hold of a person, then germinates. There are dreams about the culture, based on something that has struck a chord, possibly a book, a movie, a documentary, music, a painting, a photograph, a person met at random. Imaginings take hold. He talks about how travel can be a disappointment, troublesome, irritating, highly uncomfortable and inconvenient. Yet. It can also be exotic, delightful, poetic, seductive. Longings are awakened. Curiosity blooms. Boredom happens, but in the midst of boredom, awe and nostalgia and a new way of seeing are brought to life.
I read yet another book that inspired me: The Way of the Traveler: Making Every Trip a Journey of Self Discovery, by Joseph Dispenza. This is a series of essays that discusses how travel can raise consciousness & promote spiritual growth. Travel can be a journey to self-discovery.
With these two books as inspiration, along with the biography of Freya Stark, Passionate Nomad, I seek to become a better traveler. They say the worst thing in travel is that you can never escape yourself. I hope to learn to discover myself, learn to like myself for my good qualities, and learn to live with my bad ones. I hope to become more self-confident, more adventurous, more aware, more open-minded. I want resilience. I want to be more sociable and less shy and reticent. More independent. I want to learn to care for myself and for others, to learn to love.
I found that living in the U.S. most of my life, I had blinders on too much of the time. I often found life tedious and I got to the point where I didn’t even notice my surroundings. As I’ve traveled, I’ve learned to become aware, awake, awe-inspired. I want to take back home with me that ability to notice, to be present to the moment. I have always had a good life in America. I hope when I return from my travels, that I will be able to appreciate it more. I hope for a lot. I hope to grow up. I hope to become the highest version of myself.
Some of my favorite travel quotes:
“You are that mystery which you are seeking to know.” ~ Joseph Campbell
“If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.” ~ Anonymous
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~Helen Keller
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain
AND… about Africa:
I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself. ~ Nelson Mandela
For Africa to me… is more than a glamorous fact. It is a historical truth. No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he arrived at his present place. ~ Maya Angelou