Open Roads, Open Minds

What’s so great about travel? There’s much about it that’s hard: strange people, strange food, strange customs. It’s wearying and makes you long for home. And that’s just traveling to the next town.

So I ask you – you, who are planning your upcoming vacation – what’s truly great about travel? It’s the same answer: strange people, strange food, strange customs. Everything turns on how you feel about the idea of strange. If it means “disturbing newness”, travel is not fun. If the idea of pickled foods for breakfast alarms you, cross a number of countries off your “must-see” list. But if strangeness connotes an exotic change-of-pace, then travel can be a constant widening of your personal landscape.

Pico Iyer, travel writer, sees the benefit of travel is that “it whirls you around and turns you upside-down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head”. It sounds a lot like a roller coaster, doesn’t it? Well, just as a roller coaster gives us the adrenaline rush of imminent danger without the real danger, travel gives us the unsettling sensation of change without the real change. It’s temporary, self-inflicted change. It forces us to shift our frames of reference, but just for a short time. We see life lived in a way quite unlike all our habits at home, then we return home to those habits. But we never come back the same person who left. We’re changed by the strangeness.

Good friends of ours leave this week for a cross-country ramble. They’re taking their three kids and a pop-up and going for as far and as long as their money will allow. They hope that will be months. That is serious wanderlust. My hankering for summer travel is taking me, along with my son Nathan (that’s Limerick Challenge Nate), to Guatemala. Though our trip is just for a week, we’re after some of the same things as our friends. We need to expand our horizons.

Life presses us into routines. It’s how we cope in our multi-tasking world. But we need to step out of those habits from time to time, just so they don’t own us. Or make us think that everyone is just like us. That’s why we need an open road.

I can hear it calling.

Bruce Van Patter

all material ©2005 Bruce Van Patter