I recently took a travel writing class. Our first assignment was to write a short piece. “Tell us,” said our instructor, “why travel pulls on the soul.”
I thought about my homework and came up with one of the reasons this is true. In my short essay, I noted that Alfred Hitchcock once said that drama is life with the boring parts left out. Take Hitchcock’s remark, I continued, and substitute the word “travel” for “drama” and you’ve got the essence of travel’s attraction.
When we journey, we are larger than life. Everything is more intense, less commonplace. Life is vibrant, we are constantly learning. We are players on the great stage of the world and not just flotsam and jetsam buffeted by the endless list of daily chores back home. There is a glowing aliveness to our experiences while wandering — like being in a magic bubble and watching the iridescent sides of that confine shimmer before it implodes; that would be with our return home.
But there are other reasons to hit the road.
When we travel we become aware of Earth in a way not available to us in our everyday world. Amazing natural phenomena occur each day on this planet of ours. The sun comes up over the sparkling snows of Greenland. It goes down over New York City, then ascends in Madrid. As we gaze from the airplane window we suddenly see these things — things that go on all the time without our knowing them.
We fly through a kind of timelessness, where it is the middle of the night back home and nearly morning at our destination. The air through which the plane soars waits in a kind of suspense, dark night literally behind us, rosy dawn just ahead. We watch it, gray to the left, pink to the right. Amazing. We arrive at our destination early on a Sunday morning. The city is nearly empty, sleepy in its monumentality. This is really seeing. How seldom we do this.
And why else do we wander? While roaming we learn our place in the world cavalcade. We may not set out with this intention, but we come back with its results. Our culture makes more sense when we see its antecedents. Our problems take clearer shape as seen through the eyes of the foreign media. The focus is sharper now.
I wake up every day feeling pushed for time. So much to see, and time is fleeing. I live to travel. Never do I experience the globe more intensely, appreciate its beauty more, or see it more in context.
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