“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
“Not all those who wander are lost.” J. R. Tolkien
I love wandering, whether it is out my back door or across the world. And, I enjoy sharing my adventures; it is one of the reasons I write this blog. But there’s another: I believe travel enriches our lives. I hope in some small way to encourage those who read my blogs to “explore, dream and discover…”
- Wandering can take many forms. Two summers ago Peggy and I, along with Peggy’s sister Jane and husband Jim, spent a week maneuvering a 60 foot long Narrow Boat through the Trent and Mersey Canal in England. It was challenging at first, but we quickly adjusted to the beauty and peace of the trip, not to mention the great English pubs.
Here are my top five reasons for travel:
1. Life is an adventure. There is a big world out there to explore. Seeing it on TV or in the movies is one thing. Getting out and experiencing it is totally different. You can watch a TV special about a person walking down a jungle trail and seeing a python in a tree, or, you can walk down a jungle trail and see the python yourself. The first experience you will forget tomorrow; the second you will remember for a lifetime.
“Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Helen Keller
“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” Jawaharlal Nehru
“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Pat Conroy
2. We all need to escape on occasion. Life can be hectic. We get lost in our day-to-day existence. Traveling breaks the chain. It recharges our batteries. Even planning a trip eases the tedium by giving us something to dream about.
“One of the gladdest moments of human life is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feels once more happy.” Richard Burton
3. Travel challenges and changes our understanding of the world. Not only do we learn about other places and other cultures, we learn more about our own. When I returned from serving for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, I realized that even my father had a slightly different culture than mine. He had been raised in a different time, had different experiences, and even had different beliefs. There was much I could learn from him, just as I did from the Kpelle people of Liberia.
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” St. Augustine
“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” G.K. Chesterton
4. Travel can also change how we view ourselves and how we perceive the world around us. For 20 years of my life, I took people on hundred mile backpack trips. Few of these people had ever backpacked 100 miles and some had never backpacked at all. The sheer physical challenge of hiking up and over mountains for nine days while dealing with weather, insects and wildlife created an adventure they would never forget. For many, it was a life-altering event. It changed their perspective of who they were and what they could accomplish. Any journey can change how you view yourself and the world… but you have to be open to learn from the experience.
“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” Bill Bryson
5. Great beauty exists in the world. Whether it is a towering redwood on the northern coast of California or a towering cathedral in Florence, beauty is found wherever you wander. It can be as small as a raindrop on a flower, or as large as a waterfall cascading into Milford Sound, New Zealand. One doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to find this beauty, however. It waits outside your door. Be like Bilbo Baggins: grab your pack and go charging after Gandalf. Treasures beyond your imagination await you.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” Andre Gide
“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” Frank Herbert
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by.” Robert Frost
I have spent 70 years traveling the road “less travelled by.” And I shall continue. No regrets.
“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” Jack Kerouac