Saturday, October 8, 2011

Taking my travel self home

 Listen to this post:
What is it about travel that teaches you about yourself? Maybe it’s the interior journey outwardly manifested, making lessons more tangible and visible. Or that you become someone else when away from home. Or more of yourself.

It’s good to get out of one’s element and away from the regular routines, patterns and dysfuntions. Travel is exhilarating, scary, immediate, demanding, forgiving, gracious and a host of other adjectives. And, in my experience, it’s never boring.

It also breaks one’s rhythm, jettisoning soul and spirit too far too fast; confirmed by my massage therapist when I have returned, complaining that I don’t feel all here yet. It also takes me a few days to feel all here, wherever my destination; one or two to release where I have been and another one or so to begin to feel where I am presently.

Being present; that’s my goal in traveling … well, beyond the first day or so.

So when I shake off the sleep of travel, I begin to open to what is before me. New sights, a different tongue or dialect, unusual foods and a reticence to fully engage with language. I am always shy at first, but each time discover that if I can utter the first hello in whatever language, differences melt. Smiles are universal.

I have been trying to define my style of travel: not luxury, or tour group, not quite Rick Steves and not youth hostel. More internet, nearby market, stay with a local and in one place awhile to absorb it, only visit the places and museums that speak to me. Maybe it’s slow travel, like slow food. I like to savor the experience. On my last trip to Italy, I was on art overload. Too many museums and too much art too quickly. As I noticed the burnout, I chose to enter a room, gravitate to the ONE piece that moved me and study only it. There’s always one that calls. Just as there is always one menu choice that grabs me or local food specialty that seems to have my name stamped on it.

When I traveled alone, I wondered how meaningful an experience is if not shared. On solo trips, I especially use my journal and later it jogs memories, but there’s no one with whom to discuss it or help me remember. Having a travel partner also lets me be lazier: all of the decisions are not up to me, neither are the screw-ups. I don’t always have to be the one to ask. I don’t have to eat alone.

I am not certain what I am learning about myself this trip, except just to soak it all in and be present. That’s so much easier away than at home.

• How does travel change me?
• What have been the best experiences?
• What did I learn from the worst?
• What do I know about myself as the result of travel?
• What can I bring home from my away-self that will enrich me?

up for hours
on pure adrenalin, excitement
and anticipation

the truncated sleep and protracted
sitting numb my body
my mind races

to the next place

until I can settle into
where I am, who I am

and be myself
somewhere else

then take the new parts
of that person

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