Our relationship with travel is like our relationship with the soul. Mysterious. Magical. Hopeful.
When I first set out to travel three years ago, I had no clue what to expect of it. I thought it would last six months — a break at most. A break from something. To somewhere.
There was also the fraught hope that it would be a break from someone into someone else. I didn’t realize I would be wrong about everything, the most off of which — its length.
Chronologically, the travels lasted about six months. Mousy. But travel has no conception of regular time. With those six months, I didn’t realize I had set something in motion. A tireless heartbeat. Something unbreakable. A soul cycle.
I am still traveling.
You know how travel makes you appreciate all the things you took for granted? That’s not what struck me most when I got back. What hit me was the realization that I was never getting back. I would always be traveling.
I will sound like an idiot to you if you haven’t tasted this kind of travel. It’s what the commodification of travel – the freedom package filled with an itinerary of shit – has done.
It has become about the anticipation for getting out, and not the actual travel itself. It’s at best a forgetting and at worst a flood of everything you want to forget. And so – year after year – a new locale, one more exotic than the last, fills you with this forceful joy that, how much ever you deny it, only money can buy. It’s why your idea of travel is the number of countries you’ve visited. You even have a big list to get through. You will go from country to country, photograph to photograph, list to list, but, really, all you have (had) is the urge to go back home so you can talk about the experiences. A life lived backward. Your vacation is a farce. Your wanderlust, a sham.
To tell you what it means to travel is like explaining the meaning of light to the proverbial blind man. But that’s not enough to deter me from making the attempt.
Travel isn’t about being able, suddenly, to empathize with people. It’s not a crash course in cultures and self-edification. And, this one took me a long time to accept, it sure as heck is not a cult.
Travel is the most ancient form of experiencing what it means to be alone. It’s not a journey outward — or inward. It’s a journey toward everything invisible and quiet. No map can help you.
Travel is a remembrance of the earth’s past, what it felt like to have evolved. You don’t travel to a place. You travel to a sense. The sixth if you fancy. Where trust originates, faith flows, truth culminates. Where it rains confusion. The search is the finding. It’s why you can never get back, forget talk about it. My attempt is vain. I give up.
I thought my post-travel wonder was a hangover that would be sobered up by familiarity and routine. Yet, here I am, three years later, not having left home for three weeks, a wanderlust whose end came not because I can’t travel, but because I realized I never stopped.
I hope you get more and more drunk on your surroundings, at all the heavy human wonder that pervades the increasingly limited spaces you don’t occupy. And maybe somewhere in there you find the strength to process the pain for all the beauty, all the invisibility that may be lost, for now.
It’s the coping mechanism of the soul, of travel. That nothing is lost forever.