Travel: The Magic Carpet of Self-Discovery

Travel: The Magic Carpet of Self-Discovery

Here is the Magic Carpet.
photo by John Havey

Traveling is about discovery. But along with seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time or realizing that the glaciers are truly melting is the process of self-discovery. Travel takes a person out of routine and in many cases away from comfort. Travel can teach about humanity and open fascinating and different worlds for questioning. Travel can challenge a person’s beliefs and change their understanding of how life is lived. The sheer variety travel can provide is a kind of magic carpet.

Travel and Comfort

As an over-fifty person, travel for me works really well if sameness is attached to newness. What do I mean by that? I like traveling on cruise ships because my hotel room goes along with me—it becomes my home away from home and I feel comfort and a sense of belonging when I go back to it. But in the very same vein, I liked camping in my thirties with my family. We would establish that comfort zone in our tent and then go off to explore and hike and exhaust ourselves. Then the tent awaited.

I have friends that currently are traveling across the country in an RV after selling their home. I think that’s amazing considering weather, long trips between gas stations and the necessity of finding the right spot to hook up their traveling home for electricity and a hot shower.

Where Are You on the Adventure Scale?

Of course there are people on this planet that are totally adventurous. We could put them on an adventure scale that might look like this:

Risky, total adventuring    looking for a few thrills    no thrills, just simple viewing    watching travel videos at home!

I’m still looking for a few thrills. When we went whitewater rafting, some persuasion was needed after I read the release form. But the guy who ran the ride at the Kicking Horse River in Canada rode with me in the back of the raft and there’s only one word for the experience–AWESOME.

Travel takes you away from your familiar life and activities, but never from responsibility. As a member of humanity living on this planet, travel should open our hearts and minds to things we need to know, people we need to care about. Traveling is the portable classroom that teaches us about the world and OURSELVES. Examples–

  • I like meeting people and discovering what they do, how they live
  • I am willing to try new things–new foods, methods of transportation
  • I can hold back at times and be uncertain
  • I am always eager to purchase the art and crafts of different countries, but practice self-restraint
  • I like imaging what it would be like to live on the canals of Venice or in the rainy city of Juneau, Alaska

Place Is Memory

This last idea relates to the act of living. Because wherever you dwell, place becomes memory. I’ve lived in 3 U.S. cities and recently traveled back to Chicago, where I was born, where we raised our children. Wow. For me, that city has a memory on every block. It bears the weight of my history–it opens up my early life, once caught in the passage of time. Example: “Remember? On my 21st birthday, you and I sat in that corner of the pizzeria and you bought me my first alcoholic drink. But a 7 And 7. Ugh.”

Thoughts on Recent Travel

So on a recent visit to Chicago, it came down to not just reliving the old and familiar in that city, but to reveling in the new. Many changes have occured along the lakeshore. Walking through Chicago’s Museum Campus reveals restructuring of roads and gardens so that bikers and strollers can access the Planetarium, Field Museum and Aquarium with no car and parking stress needed. It’s wonderful.

And on Michigan Avenue we spent a purposeful period of time viewing a work of art, a  metaphor for the power of difference and possibly the shame of finding fault with the spectrum of those differences.

It is AGORA, the work of Magdalena Abakanawitz, the Polish sculptor who has explained her work saying: “They must be like one body that represents so many different meanings. It’s the self against the whole world.”

Travel: The Magic Carpet of Self-Discovery

The name Agora refers to the urban meeting places of the Ancient Greek city-states. The artist portrays these figures as  visibly hollow, suggesting that despite their strong physical presence, they might be shells of people who have become lost. They are genderless and ageless. They invoke humanity on a very affecting level. You walk through them and wonder about their connectedness and disconnectedness–they move as one yet they move apart. Isn’t that similar to how you feel walking down a busy metropolitan street? Isn’t that how you feel when watching the current news and seeing scores of displaced peoples moving down miles of road? Abakanowitz compares this work to nature, where herds of animals or leaves on trees are a metaphor for an overwhelming number of objects being the same and yet different. Like people.

The artist, who was a youth during World War II, has said that her art draws on her fear of crowds, which she once described as “brainless organisms acting on command, worshiping on command and hating on command.” Some critics have said that if you give the figures the right intent, and if you think of them as whole with brains and hearts, then maybe you are looking at an emblem of democracy instead of the emblem of her memories fraught with real fears.

Concluding Thoughts

But again, through video and the internet, through reading and awareness–we all are traveling every day. We all can become vessels of self-discovery. And I have one last powerful suggestion.  It comes from knowing that when many of us who constantly know comfort–when we discuss traveling, we are talking about vacations, suitcases and airplane tickets. We are not talking about what is happening at this very moment to millions of people on our planet. They are also traveling because they are escaping governments or environmental conditions that predict death or suffering for their families. They seek the comfort of sameness, of home. If each one of us could do something through donations, volunteering or CHANGING THE WAY WE THINK about those who have less than we have, we can make life more positive for the people of AGORA, the people of the communities and city states on our earth.

Travel: The Magic Carpet of Self-Discovery

A glacier near Juneau, Alaska      John Havey photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Travel: The Magic Carpet of Self-Discovery

 

Thanks to Google Images

4 thoughts on “Travel: The Magic Carpet of Self-Discovery

  1. Hi Beth! Nice thoughts on travel. I am an innately curious person so I’m always on the lookout for places and things to explore. But as you say, ultimately it is all about self-discovery. After all, as Jon Kabat Zinn says, ““Wherever you go, there you are.”

    • Yes, wherever you go, there you are and it would be wise to open your eyes and ears and read and learn. Thanks, Kathy. Experiencing the new fights off getting OLD! Beth

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