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Why I Travel

I sometimes joke that the main reason I love having more than one speaker onboard is that I don’t learn a thing from my own talks.  I am fortunate that now I have a colleague and friend, Geoff DeVito, onboard Seabourn Odyssey, and even more fortunate that his talks are so thought provoking. 

Yesterday his subject was the future of travel. At one point he asked those of us in the audience to think about why we travel. My first thought was that I travel to experience for myself things that I had only seen or read about in books. Often setting foot in a place moves me to tears because I never thought I would find a way to get there.  Places I have cried include Red Square in Moscow, L’Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland, and in the presence of giant reclining Buddhas in Yangon and Bangkok. 

Anyone my age grew up with the threat of annihilation in a nuclear war.  Standing in Red Square, I was in the belly of the beast, the place where the military might of a sworn enemy was paraded. What I had seen in black and white—both literally and figuratively—was now before me in the dazzling full color of St. Basil’s cathedral.  I cried because the world had changed so much, and that it was better than I imagined on both a global and a personal scale.

L’Anse aux Meadows is the site where archeologists firmly established the Viking presence in North America centuries before Columbus. The history buff in me ached to see it, but when I looked on a map. I had little hope I would ever be able to travel to such a remote spot. I have now been there twice.  

Photographs of giant reclining Buddhas were part of textbooks I used in my World Religions classes, but realistically I was unlikely to have the resources to take a trip to that part of the world.  Speaking on cruise ships, the world opened before me, and I have seen and done so many things I never thought I would. I have set foot on every continent except Antarctica.  I have been at least briefly in well over a hundred countries. I have heard the call to prayer in numerous Muslim countries, smelled the incense in countless temples, dodged cars in dozens of cities, and worn the soles of many pairs of shoes on ancient stone roads and beautiful paths through breathtaking natural beauty. 

Geoff then went on to tie our reasons for traveling to what the future might hold for us in a changing world. As he spoke, I realized that a big reason I travel is to complete the past, to turn my dreams into reality. That’s been wonderful, and I hope to do more of it, but the big question for me now is how traveling can take me into a richer, more rewarding future. What do I do with what I have seen and learned?  I can continue to grow my collection of cities, historical sites and magnificent vistas, but the question now is how I will change, how I will move forward by doing so, and I don’t have an answer to that. 

I am in a very enjoyable holding pattern right now, but I know myself well enough to recognize when I am no longer on a growth trajectory, which is usually the precursor to a shakeup in my life. I can’t imagine stopping traveling.  It is one of my great joys. But maybe I will change how I travel.  Maybe I will start using the freedom I granted myself by uprooting my life to go live for longer periods in new places. Maybe I  need to make outward travel a source for deeper inward travel. Maybe that means staying put for a while once I return to Victoria. Maybe I am avoiding something by being always on the move. Maybe something else Is growing restless inside me and wants to be heard. 

My second immediate thought when Geoff asked why we travel was that I want to grow personally. I want to be the biggest person I can be, then I want to be bigger. Perhaps the next step in that path is to grow smaller, as oxymoronic as that may sound. But then again, I haven’t seen Istanbul yet, or Japan, or Easter Island, and so many other places that still call to me. For now, I will once again enjoy the experience of observing myself as I figure out where I am headed. 

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