Sunday, July 15, 2012

Back To My Reality... As I Choose It For Now...

Sunset at San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” — Lao Tzu

As much as I hate to admit it... travel adventures as I know it are now over. Gone is the freedom of solo travel and the allure of meeting new friends to explore new adventures. At least, for now.  Not because I choose it to be over, but because the reality of life has come to the forefront. As much as I would love to globetrot as if I were Lewis and Clark, my last name is neither, and the Johnson's of my family tree has not endowed me a trust fund in which to subsidize my hearts desires.  And yes, although I can pay bills by internet and keep in touch with family members via Skype, I do not possess the team of people that I trust to give full autonomy to my financial state of affairs to renew car registration, car tags and drivers license. My guess is that to assemble a team as such would probably take millions... millions I do not have. At least not yet anyway.  And so my reality is... to return to life as I knew it.

But the truth is, life will never really be as it was.  The reality is... experiences make us grow. Learning new lessons, and implementing them into our lives changes everything about who we once were. Mr. Albert Einstein I know would agree.  To take a page from his book...

 “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”

Albert was a smart man.  Every time I step foot in a new city, a new country, a new continent... I am in awe.  There is something hypnotic about experiencing the world that you've only been able to read about on paper, come to life before your very eyes. The world, if you've never seen it, is the mysterious.  And it is out there, sitting, waiting for all who are willing to take privilege in it.

Sadly, when I joined the ranks of Americans who actually held passports in 1998, I was devastated to learn that I was part of a small but elite group just over 6.5 million or 15% of the international traveling minority in this country.   It wasn't until 2007, that the travesty of 9/11 made it mandatory for Americans traveling to Canada and Mexico be required to acquire passports when traveling on land or sea.  But even then, the number only jumped to 18.3 million or 22% of the American public. Even as of this writing, only 30% of Americans possess a passport in 2012, according to a recent CNN travel article.

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” 
– Frank Herbert

But the truth is, travel can be a reality for all of us who deem it a priority.  I often hear people affirm ... "you sure travel a lot!", as if it were a privilege only afforded to the wealthy. Just yesterday, I heard those very words while chatting to an old high school acquaintance.  I suppose that is because, I do see it as my reality. And for things which we ourselves deem as important... these things then take precedence.

I suppose I obtained the spirit of exploration from my father.  A truck driver by trade, he was determined to see..."as much of GOD'S green Earth as HE would allow." Despite the fact he understood it required a bit more time to travel with me, because I "couldn't just pee in a cup" like my brother... he still deemed it significant for me to experience the long trek along the Canadian pipeline to the heights of Alaska... TWICE.  As a little girl, I often resented not being able to travel with my Dad as much as my brother, and so I in turn felt the urgency to direct my aim so that I could perfect the talent of being able to "pee in a cup." Little good that did me...

But back to the point at hand... there is never a good time for change, but it is important to understand is what the cost would be if we don't.  What do we stand to loose if we don't create travel opportunities for ourselves.  By not executing a curiosity for the unknown, what message does this send to our children, nieces, nephews and youth of tomorrow...  Americans are comfortable in their own environment, and do not find it important enough to venture out into unfamiliar territory. Why on Earth is that??? In many countries, but particularly Israeli, it is considered a rite of passage to travel abroad. They do this in the year following army service, as a way to unwind from the stress of serving two to three years.  I was able to experience this first hand during my travels throughout Central America. Young Israelis were everywhere, as were other nationalities. Sadly, few Americans were to be found.

Foremost on the reasons to travel is that you discover a lot about yourself. Now I'm not talking about taking a family trip to Disney World. When I speak of a special vacation, I envision someone backpacking across Europe or driving along the coast of Australia... that is, a trip with cultural significance. Not many things in the world can inspire you like seeing the Colosseum in Rome or the Pyramids in Egypt.  Whether you're a lover of history, architecture or nature, only travel will satisfy your passion. No words can describe the rush you feel when gazing upon the Mona Lisa or admiring the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Experiences can range from the legendary (watching the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain) to the relaxing (enjoying a hot spring while snow swirls around you in Iceland), but they share one common link: they are all memorable. In every corner of the world, there is excitement waiting for you. It is simply a matter of sticking your head out and going for it.

Time puts everything in perspective for us. Can you recall those stressful milestones that once invaded your life – your first exam, your first date, your first real job?  Many of these you barely remember because in the grand scheme they’re not the significant events they once were.  Leaving your current situation may seem daunting, but in the future it may only seem like a minor event in your life, and perhaps even an obvious choice.  If you don’t make the travel change now, will you regret it years later?

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what
 inspires me to travel it.” — Rosalia de Castro

Amen Ms. Rosalia! Amen to that!

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