Upon receiving his Nobel prize for literature, Jose Saramago said:
“As I could not and did not aspire to venture beyond my little plot of cultivated land, all I had left was the possibility of digging down, underneath, towards the roots. My own but also the world’s, if I can be allowed such an immoderate ambition.”
For me, however, I travel to discover what it reveals about the human heart and what we have become in this world. To look beneath the surface of things (dig down) to the heart of each day. Is God alive? Does hope exist? Are people still falling in love? Is everyone buying death as if it were cheap socks at a smoke sale?” To look for clarity. To look for signs of courage…of strength of conviction rooted in heart…in an authentic identity, in myself as well as in others.
You don’t have to travel a lot to get fodder for this kind of introspection. I am still “peeling the onion” of that trip to Europe in 1965…only 20 years after the war where houses still had dirt floors in the French country-side. I couldn’t believe how much young people in the pubs knew about [lived and modern] history in Germany. I discovered I was ignorant. I went home disillusioned with the ostentatiousness and new material successes of Americans after the war and am still dealing with it today even as I benefit from it.
Europe was full of Amerian hitchhikers in those years…many of the guys avoiding the draft. Other young people went on through Iran to Nepal…the Hippie Trail. We all went home to help give birth to a new set of values…for all the good it did.
I think you have to go to a country where the culture and values are entirely different than your own…at least once. Tours will insulate you…protect you…from the very thing you need to experience. And go alone so you are forced to confront and adapt to that culture and discover there is another very valid way to live. That…to me…is exciting.
I needed to go to Viet Nam where we fought the American War and see the abandoned air fields and the acres and acres of headstones in the cemetaries. And to China that Nixon opened up to the world. And S Africa where I saw the 8×8 foot room where Mandela lived for 30 years and where I roamed the hostels where the Apartheid War was fought in the township of Soweto. And Egypt where I later saw the birth of the Arab Spring. Go to Burma and Cuba before they too change.
That is just me. Others may have other reasons for choosing where to travel…or not. Where does your heart tell you you need to go? If there is no strong desire maybe, like Saramago, you can just do all this in your corner of the world. Another valid way to live.