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Philosophy For Traveling

This is Jess's last day, and as such, we are sitting around, a little sad, maybe even moping a bit. Her three weeks has flown by, and even though I'm not leaving today, her departure forces me to consider the inevitable day that will almost certainly be here before I know it, the day I return to the States. It's this type of day that makes people consider the trip that they've had, the events of that trip, and event the philosophy that caused the trip in the first place.

I have a deep personal conviction for traveling, something that I have had for years now. I decided a long time ago that I wanted to live a life extraordinary, that I wanted to have a life that I dictated, that I controlled, that I lived and just didn't observe. Early in my college years, I made a goal of mine that I wanted to leave the shores of America at least once a year for the rest of my life, that I would visit a different country, a different culture, a different people on an annual basis. That was my goal; I have succeeded for more than six years now.

My favorite author is John Steinbeck. In his book, Travels With Charlie, he writes this:

When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as matrue, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship's whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet tapping....In other words, I don't improve; in further words, once a bum, always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.....When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reasons for going to choose from.....We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.

I find this passage to be fitting to my philosophy in many ways, that once you have tasted the world, really tasted it, you can't turn away from it. It requires all of the senses, as we found out walking through the busy center of Mombasa yesterday. It takes seeing all the people and places of a country, hearing the unique sounds there, tasting of all the foods, feeling the textures and temperatures, and even smelling the many various scents of a place, no matter how close that brings you vomiting. Smelling Mombasa yesterday really brought Africa a level closer to Jess's senses and memory.

As a final word, I'd like to quote Robert Frost's famous and familiar poem, A Road Not Taken, which at the danger of sounding generic, I'd have to say has inspired me since high school more than any other written words. I honestly can say that my life has been lived as closely to it as possible.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

That is my philosophy on travels. It's a bit wordy, but then again, travel is important to me, even essential to me. It's the idea of living a life extraordinary, and the realization that the only real limitation we have is the limitation we place on our own imaginations.


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