Thursday, January 7, 2010

Walking The Earth

I like to travel.

Every year from when I was 5 to when I was 21, I went somewhere with my parents. The Bahamas for my 13th birthday, Disney for my 8th, Tennessee because we got a deal, Maine because we had the time, and Washington D.C. because the cherry blossoms are beautiful. We've been to China twice, Costa Rica, Toronto, Hawaii.

On my own, I've been to Virginia, Chicago, St. Louis, Canada, Taiwan and Peru off the top of my head. And now I find myself browsing through the Gap Adventures and Lonely Planet websites. I've got the travel bug again. I imagine myself walking through Cambodia eating the fried spiders that they sell on the street for a buck. I'd like to walk through Aokigahara and feel the eery chills creep up my spine as I catch a glimpse of a skull or a femur poking through the bushes. Or maybe swimming in a New Zealand fjord. The Ganges. The Nile. I already did the Hudson. The bazaars in Cairo. The forests of Romania. The ruins of Carthage. The camino de Santiago. The streets of Merrekesh. The trees of New England.

Over a year ago, I created a list of a 100 things I wanted to do before I die -- a bucket list. From my estimates, about a third were travel related. I've accomplished a few of them. I've seen the sunset over the Pacific ocean. It was beautiful. More so because I had a beautiful girl by my side as I saw it.

I wrote a private blog elsewhere about how it was a sin to be bored. I stand by that. Boredom is a testament that the world God made isn't sufficiently good. It's worse than bad, it's just plain mediocre. And I think that's the reason I like to travel.

As many unorthodox things I've eaten, most types of offal across 3 cultures and live shrimp being the headliners, giant fried spiders are still incredibly alien for me. And yet, they're a part of everyday life for others. I want to see life from their eyes. I know I won't -- that's the limitation of being a tourist, but I'd like to at least taste it. The world is endlessly interesting, rich and full. How can someone be bored in this world?

And more than that, I like making friends.

I think back to my Andean adventure last year, truly an unforgettable experience, and I have this simultaneous sensation of babbling in the failed attempt to express the grandeur of lofty, snow-capped mountains, the noisy tranquility of the cloud-forests and the remarkable beauty a cloud has when it gently rolls over the mountain you're standing on. Yet, as I babble, I feel that I'm not even speaking at all. Somehow, despite the contradiction, I feel as if I'm sitting in a knowing and reverent silence, honoring the majesty I've had the privilege to witness. But more than just the things I saw (and thinking ahead to the things I wish to see), I think about the friends I made on the trip. Yeah, I was friendly with many of the people that I met on the trip, but I feel really privileged to have been able to talk to and communicate, in Spanish, with the guides and porters that came with us on our pampered, Western tramp through history.

As privileged as I felt to be able to witness the accomplishments of the ancient Incans, I feel equally privileged to have been tapped to deliver a speech to the staff that had served us so well throughout the trip. As I stood there fumbling over my words, cursing the fact that my r's always roll even when they're not supposed to, I realized that the greatest thing about traveling was the new insight you gained about yourself. No, it was more than just insight. It was the fact, that every new location demands a reinvention of the self. The greater the distance, the further from familiarity, the more reinvention that is acquired, the more it will demand of you as a member of the human species.

And so I travel. And I become reborn with each stamp of the passport.

If this is rebirth, then should I seek to end the samsara cycle like a Buddhist? The journey trope always began at the doorstep and ended in front of the church door in Medieval European literature -- a symbol of death and finality. But I suppose that implied question is for another time.

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