The Real Voyage of Discovery

Duffle bag

On the road (photo credit: Floto)

I was in college before I took my first airplane ride – a trip from Nashville to Philadelphia for (no surprise here) the 1976 National Trust Preservation Conference.  It was probably another ten-to-fifteen years after that before I traveled outside the U.S.

Growing up in a large, middle-class family in Tennessee in the 1950s and 1960s, we didn’t just jump on an airplane when we felt the urge. My children find this difficult to comprehend, since they took their first flight at 6 months of age, and by the time they were in college the number of countries they had visited required both hands to count.  When I tell them that my grandparents probably stayed in Tennessee their entire lifetimes, they begin to recognize the dramatic changes that take place from one generation to the next.

I’ve been working to make up for lost time when it comes to travel.  Both personally and professionally, I have the opportunity and privilege to travel to many places both in the U.S. and around the world.  I was thinking about this recently while listening to the writer Pico Iyer talk about travel and change.  Like me, his grandparents “almost had their home in their community and their tribe and their religion handed to them at birth, whereas I felt that I could, in some ways, create my own.”  In describing what to take from the opportunity to see so many wonderful places, Iyer writes,

“…anybody who travels knows that you’re not really doing so in order to move around – you’re traveling in order to be moved.  And really what you’re seeing is not just the Grand Canyon or the Great Wall but some moods or intimations or places inside yourself that you never ordinarily see when you’re sleepwalking through your daily life….there’s this great undiscovered terrain that Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Merton and Emily Dickinson fearlessly investigated, and I want to follow in their footsteps.”

We really do sleepwalk through many phases of our life.  The trick is not to require travel to open up our inner places, but to live more of our lives as we do when we “travel to be moved.”  Or, as Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Have a great week.

More to come…

DJB

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