Daily Prompt The Happy Wanderer What’s your travel style? Are you itinerary and schedule driven, needing to have every step mapped out in advance or are you content to arrive without a plan and let happenstance be your guide?
I just wrote this prompt a year ago, more or less. And what I wrote last year? I was about to go to Colorado Springs for a conference and to look at houses. And now I’m living in Colorado. I’ve done a lot of TRAVELING in the meantime, traveling that I didn’t anticipate back then.
There are no itineraries. People make them because there is something scary about being in a new place and an itineraries give a sense of control. But… It’s an illusion. A hotel reservation doesn’t tell you about the beds or the overheated room. A flight ticket doesn’t mean you won’t get bumped or that you’ll sit next to the great love of your life (only to watch him vanish into an unsympathetic flight connection). Still, it’s good to know you’ll have a bed when you get there, it’s good to have a reserved seat on a plane if it’s ultimately nothing more than a way to get your money back when the flight is canceled at the last minute.
While, for now? Forever? For the first time in my life, I don’t feel much wanderlust. Still, if I were to continue writing this, I’d probably just write what I wrote last year, so here it is —
“What is your quest?”
“I search for the Grail.”
I used to believe I was a wanderer, a traveler, never settling. My friends would say I’ve been out there more than most, but I wonder about that. It seems I’ve stayed at home a lot, making a living.
I just want exposure, Peter! Don’t you understand? I want to see the world!”
“You’ve already had more exposure than most people will have in their lives and you’ve never been anywhere.”
“You have so you know that! I haven’t. How can I know?”
“There’s nothing out there any different from here.”
This desperate longing for faraway places began in me when I was a little kid, reading Seven League Boots by Richard Halliburton. I sat on the back porch of a short train crossing Wyoming. When I got my chance years and years later to go somewhere, finally, it was China. My thesis adviser, by then my friend, said, “What dark night of the soul makes you want to live in Dickens’ China?”
“I want to see the world,” I told him.
“‘“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…’” he replied. “That’s John Milton, Martha.”
I’m up early this morning preparing for a trip. I awoke thinking of what it was like to go to Europe, just ten years ago. Pack a bag, hope for the best, arrive and? Well, you can plan yourself silly, but plans are like wishes; they don’t come true, and if you’re a true traveler you know that. Plans — beyond the necessary — just keep you at home, keep you from arriving in any new place. “It is necessary to travel. It is not necessary to live.”
“You can’t get there from here.” Always true. The “there” in your mind is never there. In the going, you change and what you imagined changes with you.
This journey? Ah…just as we wander through life, life wanders through us, and time. We manipulate the future by traveling. Jack Kerouac said (something like), “90 percent of Americans try to solve their problems by going on the road.” In medieval times, such journeys were to sacred places, pilgrimages, the intentional quest for forgiveness in an act of penance, transformation. Travel relieves us of ourselves. My journey this morning will not be that kind of journey. I’m going in the other direction, but still, as with all journeys, it is a journey into the future. I hope I learn what I need to know.