“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

To understand this quote one needn’t have traveled much.  I remember thirty years ago a simple week at the beach was all it took to recharge my batteries.  But now I’m not just looking to recharge my batteries, I’m seeking nourishment for the soul.  Travel is not just about seeing new places; it’s about learning how small we are in a big world.  It’s learning we’re not the center of the universe, that everyone we meet is their own center.  It’s learning that talking heads on TVs and computers and iPhones give a small view of a big world. We have the opportunity to learn from people like ourselves in other lands.  It’s correcting what people in other countries think of us, ie. we are not our politicians.  It’s learning what true diversity is.  Wouldn’t you find it terrible if people in France or Italy or Poland or Slovakia think all Americans support war in Iraq and Afghanistan just because our politicians think it’s just?

2013Mar05_5690“He who does not travel does not know the value of men.” – Moorish proverb

We started traveling seriously about eight years ago.  By seriously I mean getting out of our comfort zone….foreign countries where we didn’t know the language or customs.  While scary to think how uncomfortable that may be, it’s also incredibly nourishing and liberating.  And the more one travels the more one desires to learn about other places.   As soon as I return from a trip my mind works overtime planning where to go next (I often start planning the next trip before completing the present trip).  I try to prioritize destinations I feel important to visit.  Once I recover from the rush of a journey I immerse myself in books about travel; guides, memoirs, travel stories.  The time between trips seems to drag on endlessly as we wait for the day of departure.  And once the day arrives we switch to journey mode and all our travel experience returns; navigating foreign airports and local transportation options, currency, which side of the road to drive on.  Your senses come to life, you’re not sleepwalking as we do in our everyday lives.

“The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience.  The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him.  He goes ‘sight-seeing.'”  Daniel J. Boorstin

Who is this ‘we’ I keep mentioning?  We is Margaret and myself.  How different we are with 042014_8060each other when ‘we’ travel.  Our friends and family know we have a healthy, open relationship.  We bicker little (never going to bed angry), respect one another…we get along well.  But when we travel we’re co-conspirators, plotters in our every move and decision throughout the day.  And it doesn’t get tiresome, we both love new adventures and experiences.  Travel is great for our relationship, not just while traveling but at home too.  We have shared experiences that link us to one another unlike we’re linked to others.

You lose sight of things… and when you travel, everything balances out”.    Daranna Gidel

So what changes in us when we travel? Is it physical? Psychological? Metaphysical?  Maybe all three.  My senses are heightened…tastes, sights, sounds and most acutely smells.  I wake refreshed, ready to go.  What’s mundane at home is an adventure in a foreign country; ordering breakfast, asking directions from those who may or may not speak your language,  where the heck is the water closet and why do I need to pay to use it?  But that’s where adventure lies.  And the interaction with travelers from around the globe….what’s better than taking inventory of people from other countries you’ve interacted with in a given day?  Would I ever do these things in my home town?  Doubtful.

“To travel is to live”. Hans Christian Andersen

At times I feel that time is running out, we’ll never have the chance to visit all the places on our ever expanding list.  Age, time, money all play a factor.  But I’d rather live with less in my everyday life, allowing more time and dollars to travel (not sure that’s M’s philosophy). Between trips I feed my adventure bug by learning how others travel.  Here are some of my favorite reads: anything in the Best American Travel Writing annual series, The Great Railroad Bazaar by Paul Theroux,  1000 Places to See Before You DieThe Longest Way Home by Andrew McCarthy (yes, the actor who is also an accomplished travel writer),  An Innocent Abroad: Life-Changing Trips From 35 Great Writers from Lonely Planet Travel Literature,  The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road by Paul Theroux,  The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europeans Can Teach Us by Francis Tapon.

Take the plunge and travel….if a tour is your thing by all means book it.  But planning your own trip is rewarding in so many ways, especially when things go wrong.  There’s so much information available to create your own adventure; Trip Advisor, Rick Steves’ Travel Guides (our bible when traveling), your friends and family….just go!

As Danny Kaye said “To travel is to take a journey into yourself“.







A Life Fulfilled

“Life had a different shape; it had new branches and some of the old branches were dead.  It had followed the constant pattern of discard and growth that all lives follow.  Things had passed, new things had come”.                                                                                                                                                         indexThis quote comes from the excellent book by Beryl Markham, West with the Night, a ‘classic, engrossing memoir—a triumph of the pioneer spirit and an adventure-charged chronicle of a life lived to the fullest’. 

West With The Night was brought to my attention years ago by our friend JoAnn.  It had been on my Kindle for several months before I felt it was time to read.  Written in 1936, it describes the life of this extraordinary woman, born and raised in Africa.  In her younger years she trained horses, thoroughbreds, and later was struck with the passion to fly planes.  She became a bush pilot in Africa and later took on aeronautic feats unrealized in the 1930’s, let alone by a woman.  And on top of these accomplishments she was an outstanding author of beautiful prose, possessing a writing style that allows the reader not only to visualize her stories, but to feel her passion.  In the movie Out of Africa (1985), Markham is represented as the outspoken, horse-riding tomboy named Felicity.

I find it appropriate to mention this book and author now, having just this week learned that one of my oldest childhood friends had passed away at the young age of 59.   When we’re kids and young adults we experience death first with grandparents, lucky if we knew all four from both sides of the family (I only knew my grandmothers).   Then we age into middle life and experience the passing of parents, at which time our own mortality awakens with greater clarity.  And now this childhood friend has died and we’re the next generation on the chopping block.  But I have always tried to live my life in the moment, to be present in the here and now, learning from the past but not projecting too much into the future 81FH9rfylgL(Be Here Now).  Reading West With The Night I think about these life issues, question if I’m living a life fulfilled.  I know I’m never going to fly a single engine airplane from Nairobi to London as Beryl Markham did, but am I challenging myself and living my life the way I want.  No one ever does one hundred percent of the time.

A life fulfilled is an individual pursuit; some of us do it through our children, some through work, some through philanthropy, some giving ourselves to worthwhile causes.  Sometimes it’s just living a good life, not taking advantage of others and being a giving person.  Some of us find fulfillment in a game of golf, a bike ride or reading a good book; something to make us feel worthwhile, not for others but for ones self.  My friend Victor died young, and from what I understand he had many unrealized dreams.  Don’t wait for those dreams to happen, make them a your reality.  I doubt many of us will say from our death bed “I did too much in life”.

Once again my prolific wife has been published, this time on the excellent Roger Ebert website.  Click HERE to read her post; it’s just below the photo of Roger with his hand on his chin.