Stealing an idea from my good friend Jason, I will put up the names of the songs I have in my head while writing. This is done to the tune "Glitter in the Air" by Pink. One of the more beautiful songs I've heard in a long time. This one is a bit of a departure, but it seemed right.
Traveling. To travel. It means different things to different people. To some it may be a simple trip to the grandparents' house for holiday dinner; to others a trip to a foreign country, and for a select few, maybe even a trip off of the planet. No matter what it means to others, it is a way of breaking from the norm; a trip to somewhere one doesn't go all that often. It is often an overload of new experiences and the thoughts they inspire. It can be a dangerous event or a completely sublime one that does this, and what is exciting and dangerous to some may be normal and boring to others.
The first trip I took away from the United States -- Costa Rica, 1996 -- was everything I hoped it would be and more. I saw a new land and learned how similar and yet different a culture can be to our own. It was exciting and relaxing at the same time. I enjoyed every second of it, yet I enjoyed (and still do) telling others about the experience probably more than the trip itself. Subsequent trips were equally enthralling and gave me exponentially more points of view I could draw from in my every day life. There is not a single part of me that regrets the money I spent on these trips and thinks maybe I should have bought a car or house, instead... Every penny was worth it.
Then I came to Iraq. I stopped thinking travel was cool or fun. In fact, all I wanted to do was go home and go to college and never go anywhere but the bookstore and maybe out for a bite to eat and a movie. I wanted to be home, desperately. It robbed me of that traveling experience and told me I was wrong for thinking that way. Other countries aren't cool -- they suck. Everything is dirty, you can't get what you need all the time, and sometimes people don't like you at all. Sitting on my couch and watching Telemundo sounds infinitely cooler than doing this ever again.
Two things happened in the last month that reminded me how great traveling can be. One was a trip to Australia, and the other was watching Long Way Down and Long Way Round with Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman. Both of these brought me back to that first trip and the ones after by showing me that going to Iraq with the US Army does not equal "travel" or being a traveller. Shocker, I know. But there is more to it than the obvious. When I use the word "traveler," I am describing a person whose nature it is to seek out new experiences just for the sake of doing so. One who has the desire to break from the norm but for no other reason than just shaking things up and because "it" is....out there. Somewhere. And whatever "it" is does not matter. What matters is the search. The journey. The people you meet along the way in that journey are invaluable to the growth of your soul. I learned that years ago and had it taken away from me by the big machine. Cancel that, I let myself forget what was important. It wasn't taken away because it is always there. That desire and will to seek and learn; the ability to be mobile in every sense of the word and let that ability take you wherever it can. Sometimes that is a road trip to Mexico or Canada, sometimes it's a month-long stay in Thailand, and sometimes it is giving yourself to a really crappy organization for a year so that something bigger can be accomplished. At any rate, "it" lurks inside a traveler and it can't be satisfied. I learned that again recently, and I'm glad I did. Because it was always there, it just needed to be awakened from it's hibernation.
Now, yet again, I am a traveler. This land I am in, like those I have been to in the past, is one that will shape the person that I am. It will remind me of how small I am and how big this world is while letting me remember that I am chosen to walk this path as much as it chose to let me on it.
I am reminded constantly of how little of this world I have ever seen on a daily basis. My hat is off to those of you who search out the new places, because you and I will meet in some of those places and we will be forever changed because of our paths crossing. That is traveling. That is being a traveler. It is what we do. That thirst we have in our soul will not be quenched by this trip or the next, but our lives will be better for it because of who we have met and what we have seen.
Don't stand still. Walk, run, ride, drive, and fly. Go. See all that you can and let it see you. That is who we are. We are travelers.