It occurs to me, having spent the greater part of my Sunday immersed in Paul Tillich’s The Courage to Be, trying to finesse a poem that simply won’t come, and making heavy notations on Maslow’s thinking about the marriage of “higher living” and our instinctual lives (including his concept of “aggridants”), that it might be best for me to switch gears today. And pour my energies into crafting a simple post. A post about stuff I like. It also occurred to me that while I’ve discussed a number of my interests, hobbies, and passions here within the context of creative and/or sensual living, one very important one has, to date, remained neglected: my love of travel.
To be sure, there are few activities that ignite my spirit the way travel does. It’s the incomparable exhilaration of experiencing new places and meeting new people that I love. It’s the physicality. The movement. The confluence of the senses. The freshness of perception. The need for reorientation and the temporary burnishing of an identity. Together, an aesthetics of possibility. Of wildness. It is, of course, this feeling—or amalgam of feelings, which constitute the inner experience of travel—that intrigues me most. Indeed, I view myself, in some ways, as having the soul of a wanderer. I am capable of being—and at times in my life have been—a full-time traveler. A nomad. A professional vagabond. (I used to work in the transportation industry in a position that dictated 100% travel.) It wasn’t until I began thinking of myself as “a traveler” (as opposed to someone who simply enjoys travel), until I began to understand that wanderlust is an integral part of my being, that I saw travel as a near-spiritual practice. An inner art, if you will, not only for its profound effects on my internal states, but on the quality of my perception, as well. Here are some thoughts:
Travel restores balance.
Some of us, by nature, it would seem, do not do well in a highly routinized existence. I am one of those people. While I do enjoy a certain degree of stability–and very much enjoy implementing and adhering to routines of my own design–I don’t function well when too many of my daily activities are dictated by someone else’s clock. I feel as if my vital energies are being siphoned, curtailed, as if I am suffering, over time, a kind of discreet premature death.
Some of us, I think (and it seems to me, creative individuals, in particular), require the freedom to move. Perhaps, we cannot not only tolerate, but need more chaos, more unpredictability, more of the unknown in our daily lives in order to function optimally. In order to sustain our intellects, our creative impulses, to feed our curiosity, and to remain vital, productive, and happy. (I would, of course, be remiss if I didn’t note the parallels between this description and that of the personality trait, openness to experience.)
Whenever I feel too stable, too still, too much a slave to routine, I must interrupt myself. I travel to revitalize, refresh, and restore to my world a necessary sense of wildness. That is how I balance myself. How I keep present the thrill of being alive.
Novel environments stimulate creativity.
There is something magical, enlivening, even intoxicating about being in a novel environment. For me (as I know is true for at least some other creatives), plunging oneself into the aesthetics of a novel place stimulates creativity. I tend to write with greater ease and to generate ideas almost effortlessly when I am somewhere new. Whether it’s a new city, a new country, a different coffeehouse, or simply a room in my own home that I spend little time in. It is the element of novelty that matters most.
In addition, there are, related to travel, those venues I like to think of as places of flux. Where all is movement. All is suspended. All is now. Airports are the clearest, most poignant example of such a place. And while I’ve spent a great deal of time in airports over the last several years and frequently find myself annoyed by overcrowded security lines, horrendously overpriced food and drink, and other people’s generally bad manners, I still love a good airport. Because, while I inhabit that space, I am in flux. In a state of readiness, of not-yet-ness. I’ve left behind the old but have yet to discover the new. I am neither here nor there. I am dissolved. I am in motion. I often find myself in a state of both heightened creativity and heightened perception when I’m in such a place. A consequence, perhaps, of both novelty and an cavalcade of sensory stimulation.
Travel expands our identities.
When in a new place, I try to afford myself the freedom to experience the joys of daily living with an attitude of gentle curiosity, with a sense of wonder, with fresh eyes. In those moments–in those moments in which I find myself not only doing differently but imagining differently–I begin to get a glimpse of my own limits. Or of the possibility that exists beyond them. To see myself with fresh eyes. It is that awareness–the awareness of my own patterns of thinking and behavior, the ability to spot self-imposed limits (at least some of the time)–that I believe travel has helped me hone over the years. But, it is the possibility that exists beyond those moments of heightened awareness, in which I get a real glimpse of myself, that motivate me. The possibility that I can continue to see more, to do more, to be more, to somehow integrate all of the things, the places, the people, the experiences that I love into my being. Into a holistic view of the world. It is that possibility that keeps me moving.