On Travel

I've been bitten in the butt by the travel bug again.

I can tell because I've been spending inordinate amounts of time on Mapquest, mapping out hypothetical and random roads trips between here and various theres in the Western US.

I love maps and road trips and yes, just plain travel.

Our kids have inherited the road trip gene - they're positively Pavlovian when it comes to car excursions. They immediately begin packing, upon hearing of said impending trip - regardless of destination - and then a full hour prior to departure, they can invariably be found already ensconced in their seats in the vehicle amongst myriad pillows, snacks, electronic gear and stuffies. Repeat rituals on return journey. Suffice to say they are stellar travellers.

Speaking of stellar, our quick and dirty road trip this week took us to Vancouver, BC. In honour of this homecoming, I decided to crank Canadian tunes all the way, whilst deftly avoiding all the speed traps set up along the way. Listening to Klaatu was very retro - I was making wide-eyed nanu-nanu gestures at passing vehicles while singing 'calling occupants of interplanetary most extraordinary craft.' (The Klaatu thing throws people who assume this to be a Carpenters tune - wrong-o).

What can I say? I was on the stretch between Marysville and Bellingham, WA and I was bored.
But not only was I pretending to be a Heaven's Gate cult member on this drive, I was also channeling my inner cuckoo nester, when I switched to glide by grooving to The Kings. One of my favourite ways to frighten my children is to belt out lyrics at the upper limits of my vocal range to songs they don't know. This is a particularly gratifying activity when said lyrics necessarily entail yelling: 'lunatics anonymous, that's where I belong!'

Sigh. My thrills, they are cheap and infrequent, especially in the road trip department. Road trips are stupendous and wondrous, but they are sadly lacking in our life lately, given our collective if impossible schedule.

I recognize that these are the best of times and the worst of times for we are in both the best and worst kind of vagabondage right now; encumbered by our dharma and lot in life, which is that of householder (2nd of four Hindu stages of life). The operative words here being house and hold.

On that note, here are some excerpts from a piece by Pico Iyer that I love, entitled "Why We Travel: A Love Affair with the World."

"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again -- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.

We travel, then, in part just to shake up our complacencies by seeing all the moral and political urgencies, the life-and-death dilemmas, that we seldom have to face at home.

We travel, then, in search of both self and anonymity - and, of course, in finding the one we apprehend the other. Abroad, we are wonderfully free of caste and joy and standing; we are, as Hazlitt puts it, just the "gentlemen in the parlor," and people cannot put a name or tag to us.

And precisely because we are clarified in this way, and freed of unessential labels, we have the opportunity to come into contact with more essential parts of ourselves (which may begin to explain why we may feel most alive when far from home). Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse, and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love. We live without a past or future, for a moment at least, and are ourselves up for grabs and open to interpretation."

Some final thoughts on travel:

"We need sometimes to escape into open solitudes, into aimlessness, into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what."
George Santayana

"We carry within us the wonder we seek without us. There is Africa and her prodigies in us."
Sir Thomas Browne


Kathryn Magendie said...

Love this post...I missed your comment on my website until this morning *smiling* thank you....

I love to travel by car - seeing everything, experiencing...even if that last stretch has me going AUUUGHHHH I JUST WANT TO GET THERE!

Jeri said...

I love to travel, to road trip too. I always want to go new places, new routes... never retracing myself.

Great post!

manda said...

Ah, travel. Isn't it lovely to mess with people in the other cars? Someday I want to tape one of those gas-station-soda-cups with a lid & straw to the roof of the car and drive down the highway & watch people's reactions.

-s said...

I love to travel.
My kids, love to travel.
This has been crushed into their subconscious from an early age.

I would love nothing more than to just hop into something and take off.

Hoping one of these days, I can talk Miss N into a four corners tour. Utah, Co, AZ, and Northern NM...

Jungle Mama said...

Yes, the bug has hit here too! We're reserving a cottage in a peach and olive orchard just a half hour into the hills from Rome for a couple weeks in June! I can't wait!! If only I could afford to go to England, Ireland, and Scotland during the May vacation too . . . thinking hard!

Jorge said...

I LOVE to travel, so this post really sang to me. I hope you have many exciting journeys, and use your wonderful writing skills to take us along on your magic carpet. Be well,

Holy said...

Kathryn: I don't visit them thar hills of your blogland often enough anymore but when I do, I am always blown away by your words.

Jeri: I like that - 'never retracing myself' - travel often evokes the opposite for me. I start out with the intent not to retrace, only to discover, as TS Eliot's words immortalized: "We shall not cease from our exploration / And at the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time." So true.

Manda: Laugh out loud funny. I've never met you but I know know that that would be something you might do. It's the Jersey girl in you, isn't it? :)

S: A good part of my mapquesting has been down in your neck of the woods. I'd love to see the Grand Canyon and Tijuana and old SW US and a real, live (or is it dead?) tumbleweeds and Route 66 it along Mainstreet Americuh. That would be so cool. Well here's to you guys doing your own Swiss Family Robinson SW adventure sometime soon. Make it soon. Life is short.

JM: Go big in May - that's what credit cards are for! And it's Mother's Day that month so you have an excuse. Seriously, your Rome trip sounds divine - I can't wait to read about it. My only regrets in the places we've lived around the globe were not doing enough travel - in Halifax we vowed to see Newfoundland and PEI and the Eastern Seaboard of the US - never did. In Pakistan, we vowed we had so many unchartered places we had yet to see, although we did pretty darn good for the year we were there. And here in Seattle, we still haven't seen Mt. St. Helen's and Mt. Baker areas. So go, go: go explore African and her progenies!

Holy said...

Oops Jorge: I clicked send too soon. I know you love to travel, for your travelogues and amazing photos tell me so.

One day somehow, somewhere we will share spatzli, wine and goulash, and swap travel memories and wishes.