It seems that I’m becoming more comfortable with embracing challenges these days. With that in mind, I’m embracing the A-to-Z Blogging challenge, by writing about the things that I most closely associate with being alive, when I show up and engage with life as fully as possible.
And with that, I give you:
I know I have mentioned it before, but I am a military kid. Air Force. I made my first move before I turned one, my second shortly before my third birthday and my first international move just before I turned five.
By the time I turned eight, the pattern of in-processing, two weeks (sometimes more) in temporary quarters, moving into more permanent housing, followed by eighteen or twenty months (thirty if you were really fortunate, which I often was) of “normal” was already set. Then, new orders started the timer. Three months out, the hold baggage – everything that made up our life – was packed. One month out, the household goods – what we needed to get by – was packed up. Two weeks out, or so, we moved into temporary quarters. A new post awaited and the cycle started again.
You might think, having moved so often growing up, that I might not be such a fan of traveling. The truth is I am a gypsy at heart. My passport will never have enough entrance stamps to suit me. There will always be one more place I want to go visit, one more wonder I will want to see.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– St. Augustine
I read about places in the books that were my constant companions and I longed to see those places with my own eyes. I wanted to know if it were true that the Lipizzaner horses were walked across a busy street from their stables to the arena in the Hapsburg palace? Did the Coliseum really look like an American football stadium? What about the bull rings of Spain? What were they like? I wanted to see and hear and taste and smell for myself. The world was rife with adventure and I was curious about it all.
Even overnight school trips fed my wanderlust. A week in Speyer one year followed by a week in Switzerland, learning how to ski. Sampling foods that never would appear on a Yankee’s table (and I’m not so sure about a Limey’s either) and deciding that I would never, NEVER be able to stomach beef tongue. Spending Spring Break in the Loire Valley of France, marveling at rivers and castles, impressing myself with my ability to get by with my high school French.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.”
– Mark Twain
I love seeing familiar things in unexpected settings. Yes, that means I get a weird sort of charge seeing a Starbucks in downtown Moscow, McDonalds in Prague, Kentucky Fried Chicken in St. Petersburg, Pizza Hut in Budapest. I don’t want to eat there, mind you, but it makes me laugh to think that even halfway around the world I cannot escape “home.” As the great philosopher Buckaroo Banzai said: “No matter where you go, there you are.”
I was sitting in a plaza near Seville several years ago, listening to the sweet sounds of guitar strings being plucked near the walls of a cathedral. Suddenly, I heard the unmistakable swagger of twelve bar blues. I turned to watch a young boy, no more than perhaps 8 or 9, sitting on the edge of a chair that was far too big for him. A Spaniard had settled his own instrument on the lad’s lap and was gesturing, that universal finger-wiggle that says “Play!” It was the boy who was picking out a twelve bar delta blues-style boogie. The Spaniard clapped and laughed. Music. Universal. Magic.
“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson
The thing I like best about my motorcycle is being able to wander all along the Front Range of Colorado. I don’t care about a destination. I just pick a direction and ride. Sometimes I see something remarkable, like a young mule deer eating on the side of the road, or a moose lifting her head from a pond, grasses hanging from her ears. And sometimes all I see is the road unrolling before my tires. No matter. It’s the journey I love.
I am unmade and remade whenever I travel somewhere I have never been before. I want to take it all in, I want to absorb it into my pores until it becomes part of bone and blood and marrow. I want to remember the hot wind on the Andalusian plain lifting my hair off my neck. I want to remember the cool warmth of the Mediterranean as it caresses the shore at Torremolinos, watch impossibly small shells flip gently in the surf before settling against my foot, toes dug into the sand. I want to remember the sound of a chamber orchestra playing Mozart waltzes in summer. I want to remember eating lemon gelato while walking through Florence at night, an ex-pat American playing a didgeridoo.
“When we get out of the glass bottle of our ego and when we escape like the squirrels in the cage of our personality and get into the forest again, we shall shiver with cold and fright. But things will happen to us so that we don’t know ourselves. Cool, unlying life will rush in.”
– D.H. Lawrence.
I cannot leave the subject of travel without yielding the floor to my favourite quote on the subject.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
– JRR Tolkien
Indeed it is when I wander that I am the closest to finding myself home.