Travel as a Form of Love

In a recent post, I said that love is all that matters. My friend Art replied that travel is the most important thing that there is. That got me thinking.

Travel is actually love in action. It shows that you care about other cultures and other people. It demonstrates a desire to learn about history and geography and customs and religion and the environment, and most of all, other points of view.

A few times in my life I’ve met people who haven’t traveled more than 50 miles from the place of their birth. They seemed quite content, but I kind of felt sorry for them. I can’t imagine having such a narrow worldview.

Travel teaches you compassion for others. It makes you realize that your way of doing things isn’t the only way. It may not even be the best way. Travel broadens your mind at the same time it broadens your horizons.

I have long been of the belief that every student should go to at least one foreign country before they can graduate. If that were the case, I don’t think we’d be experiencing this rampant xenophobia. We also wouldn’t be so willing to drop bombs on innocent people. If you sit at someone’s table and break bread with them, you find it much harder to think of them as the bad guys.

Travel is truly one of the most loving things you can do for yourself and for the wider world. So get out there. Be an ambassador. Be a humble student. Explore!

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Epic Journey

If you read no other blog besides this one (I’m so freakin’ modest), you absolutely must check out that of Paul Salopek on the National Geographic website. He is the man who is taking the Out of Eden Walk, a seven year, 21,000 mile journey from the cradle of civilization in Ethiopia to the tip of South America. Currently he’s walking through Anatolia in Turkey, and his blog entry makes you feel as though you’re experiencing the tastes and sights firsthand.

A seven year commitment to anything in this era of twitter and divorce and all things instant is to be commended, but to do it on foot, all year round, in the harshest of weather… I can’t even be bothered to walk across the street to the mailbox when it’s raining out. I can’t imagine offering myself up for being footsore, tired, exposed, lonely, and vulnerable for seven weeks, let alone seven years. And this is a Pulitzer prize winning writer. It’s not as if he were desperate for work. Amazing. I want to meet this guy!

Following his journey will teach you much about culture, geography, hunger, climate change, politics, history, and war. It will cause you to think globally. I can’t imagine a more epic way to start the new year.

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[Image credit: NationalGeographic.com]

Running Away or Running Toward?

Man, oh man, but somebody pissed me off on Facebook the other day. She accused me of running away because I moved from Florida to Washington. I tried to remind myself that this was a late night comment from someone who was probably full of liquid stupidity, especially since the comment had absolutely nothing to do with the post it was attached to, but it still infuriated me.

First of all, this was a distant relative who probably wouldn’t even recognize me on the street and has not been the least bit supportive of me during even one minute of the 49 years I’ve been on this planet. She knows me not at all. And she has no idea about the life I’ve lived or the dreams I’ve dreamed.

Second, to be running away from something, you first have to have something, and I had nothing left in Florida. So what, pray tell, would I have been running away from? Nothing. Just because I haven’t stayed within the state in which I was born for my entire life does not mean I’m running.

I agree that geography is not going to solve your basic problems. They tend to travel with you. But why begrudge someone the chance to start over, start fresh, make a big change in the hopes that perhaps things will look slightly more like one’s aspirations? Maybe what I’m doing is running toward something. What’s wrong with that?

If I really were running away, I sure picked a stupid place to run. I don’t know a soul here, I have no support network, I left a job where I was considered one of the most reliable, competent and trustworthy people to a job where I’m struggling to prove myself, and to do all this I’ve racked up a $9,000.00 debt and my Indiegogo campaign appears to have come to a screeching halt. Sometimes I just wish there were someone here to give me a hug, to tell me everything is going to be okay, but there’s no one.

And yet I keep getting up in the morning and trying some more. There’s a good chance I won’t succeed. God knows it wouldn’t be the first time. But at least I’m trying. That takes guts. Sometimes I think it was the dumbest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but I keep trying. If I were the type to run, I’d be running right freaking now.

So call me a runner again. I dare you.

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[Image credit: tomgrimshaw.com]

Fantasy Island

I just got through reading an article on the NPR website entitled, “Pacific Island, Bigger Than Manhattan, Vanishes.” I assumed it was going to be about global warming, and that maybe it had sunk below the rising sea level, but no. Based upon studies of the sea floor, this island never existed in the first place. Apparently this “island” has been on maps and charts since around 1772. And now they’re looking at other questionable islands in other parts of the world in order to update maps.

fantasy_island_by_tessig-d4w7qz5 (Credit: Tessig.deviantart.com)

Can we just take a second to absorb this? In this day and age, with all our global whosawhatsis, how does this happen? It makes you realize how vast the world is, and how much we want to believe what we’re told. But I still find it vaguely unsettling. If we can’t count on our geography, what can we count on?

Here’s the thing. When my mother died when I was 26, I felt as though there was no longer any solid foundation beneath my feet, as though everything that I counted on had suddenly vanished and I was adrift. It took me a long time to get over that. A very long time. I will never forget that feeling.

Without getting into a debate about quantum physics, we count on things to be solid, to have substance. And we expect islands the size of Manhattan to stick around. This is why I could never live in an earthquake zone. To have something solid suddenly start rippling like water? I’d have a nervous breakdown.

There has to be some fundamental…thing that you can hang your hat on, and build from there. Without that, how do you know what’s real? It reminds me of a quote from the Spanish dramatist Pedro Calderón de la Barca, which translates as, “Life is a dream, and even the dreams are dreams.”