Inspired by and quotes from Alain de Botton, The Art of Travel, (2002)
Friends often ask why we want to travel independently and when they do, it sets off a flood of thoughts and images.
Being a wanderer, crossing different lands among people who speak languages strange to one’s ear…meditating dreamily to the rhythm of train wheels, allowing the sounds of the world to be one’s mantra, enables one to grow…to transcend one’s known life. The silence of being alone (much like being on retreat in a monastery) without the ease of familiarity allows one to stand outside oneself… large sublime views and new smells revealing new thoughts and emotions…thrilling or disappointing aspects of oneself…heretofor hidden from one’s awareness.
If we find poetry in tattered old men weaving home on bicycles, a grateful charm in smiling young country girls… and a shared intimacy in the look of recognition in the eyes of kindred travelers we have found “an alternative to the ease, habits and confinement of the ordinary rooted world.”
introspective reflections revealed by large sublime views and new places may reveal thrilling or disappointing aspects of ourselves heretofore hidden from our awareness. Another travel writer says “it is not necessarily [only] at home that we encounter our true selves. The furniture insists that we cannot change because it does not; the domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we [think] we are in ordinary life…who may not be who we essentially are.”
Traveling companions can keep us tethered to our predefined idea of ourselves. They may expect certain reactions from us that obligates us…underneath our awareness…forces us to accommodate in a way that feels unnatural. Or in our companion’s desire to have their own experiences, they may not have the patience to reciprocate and share. In traveling alone we are free to connect with what and whom comes our way, as a friend puts it…”chasing a new flicker in the water or diving under it just for the pleasure, not knowing why, but just responding” to the spirit that moves…like the koi in the pond at home.
If it is true that love is the pursuit in another of qualities we lack in ourselves, then in one’s attraction to people from another country, one’s underlying desire may be to acquire values missing from our own culture or in our own personalities. What we find exotic abroad may be what we hunger for in vain at home. For me, “home” is anywhere my heart feels connected to heaven and earth…sometimes a lot to ask for anywhere.