Monday, May 15, 2006

Wander lust

We owe to our first journeys the discovery that place is nothing. At home I dream that at Naples, at Rome, I can be intoxicated with beauty and lose my sadness. I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the stern Fact, the sad self, unrelenting, identical fact that I fled from.Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is essential to be in the moment when I travel; otherwise I lose the journey, I lose the immediacy of whatever is unfolding in front of me. Yesterday I ordered a new camera so that I can know how to use it before I go to Bhutan in the fall. But I can hide behind a camera too -- and lose the moment. I love to travel; my bags can be backed in ten minutes, my passport is always ready; but wherever I go, there I am. I have no expectations; I know very little about Bhutan other than its location. It is a small kingdom that has strict limitations on tourism, but it is building a new tourism infrastructure including luxury hotels. My guide is a lovely, cheerful Bhuddist who is a bird expert. I'll be there for a festival, a religious festival. My guide says that every week there are festivals, and then he laughs.

But I have forms to fill out, and that has to be done this week, so I'm thinking about the baggage I take with me that will keep me out of the moment.

Two years ago I was in South Africa with another person, who could only talk about the upcoming November election. We were both voting for Kerry, it was October, we were in South Africa, and all she could talk about was the election. We were so out of the moment, it was making me crazy. At one hotel, we were walking along a path, surrounded by zebra and monkeys, but she was talking about Bush. There was NOTHING we could do about the election at that moment. NOTHING. There were zebra so close I could have touched one (and risked being kicked, mind you. As gorgeous as they are, they have nasty dispositions. These were not tame, not pets, they were walking through the hotel grounds because the hotel was in their territory.) I haven't spoken to this person in two years, just exhausted by her inability to be where we were.

But I have to remember this when I travel to Bhutan. I can find other ways to take me out of the moment. Fear of the unknown is a big one. Of course, if I chew on this trip now, I can miss what's in front of me today. So the goal: To be in today.


The Fat Lady Sings said...

Oh I understand completely. I am always at home wherever I am. You can drop me down in the middle of Istanbul, and I'll be fine! I never mind traveling alone, and there is nowhere in the world I would not go (though considering the current political situation I would choose to avoid certain countries). I too have traveled extensively. I love to immerse myself in the host culture. My best friend thinks this is very brave. She has never traveled, so she doesn't understand. You do, I suspect; that sheer joy of discovery - someplace new and different - different society, different food, different customs. I love the adventure of discovery! I am considering getting a different passport, though. I am eligible for Irish citizenship – I just haven’t pursued it. I think it may be wise, however. Traveling as an American has its dangers these days. So you be careful in Bhutan. And take lots of pictures, my dear. We’d all love to see them on your site!

DivaJood said...

Bhutan is in November -- and I promise to take lots of pictures. Australia in September. And nothing until Australia -- will be at work, work work.

In some ways I think your friend is right, traveling alone is brave. Any time a person is on a journey, it requires courage, because we're entering into the unknown. And the sheer joy of that is incredible.

If you are eligiable for dual citizenship, I'd get the second passport. Not so much for the safety of it, but because passports are gorgeous in their own way.