When I travel, I imagine that I am talking to strangers from a different culture and that I witness different lives to learn about those same lives, but in reality I always reach hidden treasures; insights into my own reality and dreams. Sometimes the action of travel teaches me about myself: I learn to locate my destinations via public transportation in Beijing at night, I determine how to proceed while visiting Taipei, or perhaps that I really might eat fried cricket in Chiang Mai.
I can be bold, courageous and full of adventure. I know because I have succeeded in these endeavors. In The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Lost Rachel Friedman states, “…sometimes travel and being adventurous do not fit with the model I hold of myself, …but it does not coexist with how I picture myselfâ€”a sheltered, scared, predictable kind of girl, definitely not a girl who has adventures. I come from rooted people; people who prefer chlorinated bodies of water and career paths.”
Travel allows us all to step out of â€œnormalâ€ life, to see other cultures, meet people, learn languagesâ€”learn about others while learning about ourselves.
This same opportunity is available to us through our daily calendar: we can question if our current routines are what we actually want to follow. Again, as Ms. Friedman says: â€œWhat’s the right way to go about â€¦ our lives? Should you do what you love, what’s outrageous and unpredictable, and worry about the future later? Or plug away at a steady job first and go off and have your fun when you retire?â€
Elisabeth Eaves, in Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents, tells tales of love, misadventure and wringing every second of life out of every moment. She says:
My life wouldn’t be so easy to fix. I’d woken up at the age of thirty-four to realize that I wanted to go home, only to discover that I had no idea where that was. Wanderlust, the very strong or irresistible impulse to travel, is adopted untouched from the German, presumably because it couldn’t be improved upon.
Her challenges seem much greater while living in varied locales like Cairo, Karachi, a boat shed, or surviving on the Kokoda Trail, compared to those I surmounted on my year trip in South East Asia with my husband, George. But her comments do remind me of our journey; â€œIt was the place that had showed me, for the first time, that when you were somewhere else, you could be someone else.â€
Her questions about life are important to me this time of year as I reflect on Rosh Hashannah (the Jewish New Year) and what will I do with the year ahead? What are my goals and what should they be?
Are we obligated to know the important events of our time? Or is the whole project of knowing, of being part of a society, neither moral nor immoral, but just away to pass the time? Is it enough to do no harm to the world, or do you have to contribute too? I wanted to go toward the man-made heat and light, the cultural center, the heart of civilization. At the same time, I didn’t want to get off the boat. (Wanderlust)
So take a moment to hug the ones you love and fill your days with meaning. Maybe this year you’ll decide to wear white for Yom Kippur; a white ribbon, pin, bracelet or shirt may remind you to stop and smell the roses and fill your soul with moments that take your breath away.