She Gets It.
Just stumbled upon Liz Gilbert's recent post about travel. I'm re-posting it here as a reminder to myself that even though I'm EXHAUSTED, poor and unsettled: it's WORTH IT.
Dear Ones -
This is what jet-lag looks like on me, at 3am.
This is what my poor innocent bathroom mirror had to look at this morning, in the cruel, cruel pre-dawn hours.
I just got home from a three-week trip to Greece and Turkey, and at 3:00 this morning, jet-lagged and ragged as all hell, I pondered once more (under the harsh bathroom lights) this old question: WHY DO WE TRAVEL?
Because let's be honest, you guys. Traveling is expensive, inconvenient, tiring, time-consuming and sometimes — like all interesting things (sex and creativity, for instance) — it's even boring. You don't speak the language, you don't recognize the food, the toilets are confusing, the crowds at the museum are ridiculous, and sometimes (as happened last week in Greece) political situations can get uncertain and scary. Airports can be a nightmare, taxi rides can be life-threatening. You come home from your travels jet-lagged, sunburned, bloated. You come home to 900 unanswered emails, to piles of laundry, to stacks of unpaid bills. And you always come home WAY behind on every single obligation in your life.
Well, here's why I bother:
Because if I hadn't gone through all this expense and effort over these last few weeks, I would never have gotten to watch my mother drink wine in an Athens cafe, while basking in the warm golden/pink haze of a Grecian summer twilight.
I would never have been able to watch my beloved husband (who swore that he would hate sailing!) fall asleep on the deck of a gently rocking sailboat, with a smile on his face.
I would never have gotten to leap off that sailboat into cold turquoise waters, in a solitary cove in the Dodecanese Islands.
I would never have seen that old monk dutifully taking out his garbage that evening outside the monastery.
I would never have fallen asleep to the sound of goats conversing across Greece's Zagorohoria mountains, and I would never have woken up to the call for prayer sounding across Turkey's Carian Coast.
I never would have tasted cold Macedonian wine or fresh Turkish apricots.
I would never have been able to read Tennyson's magnificent poem ULYSSES, in tears, while watching the sun go down over the Aegean Sea. ("Come my friends," Tennyson entreats. "It is not too late to seek a newer world...")
If I had stayed home these past three weeks, I would have accomplished absolutely everything that I need to be getting done right now. And I have a LOT that I need to be getting done right now. Staying home would have been perfectly fine, because I really enjoy my everyday life. But then — ten years from now — if you were to ask me, "What did you do in the summer of 2015?" I would draw a complete blank. I would remember nothing of those three weeks I'd spent at home, dutifully taking care of all my obligations. But now, if you someday ask me, "What did you do in the summer of 2015?" I will be able to say, "I was in Greece and Turkey, with my mother and my husband!" And a flood of memories (sights, sounds, smells, insights, love) will reignite my imagination.
There is nothing wrong with taking care of your obligations, mind you. I'm all about people meeting their responsibilities. I certainly try to meet mine. But if you spend too many years doing nothing but dutifully taking care of business, then there is the risk that all your days will meld together and become the same — an indistinguishable mass of responsibilities that you have met and obligations that you have handled. You will say, "Where did this summer go? Where did that decade go?"
If you are lucky enough or resourceful enough to find a way to break that chain of interchangeable days, try to do it. Try to ignite your years with something different, something that makes you jump the tracks of your daily life and pushes you to taste the new. Try to keep seeking out experiences that cannot be forgotten, even when it would be much easier and much more sensible at times to just stay home.
All of which is to say: I have just passed a memorable three weeks of adventure, shared with two people whom I love with all my heart — two people who will not live forever. I will not live forever either; that's the contract. But I have filled my mind with stories and encounters and pictures that I get carry around with me to the end of my life.
I have given myself something to remember me by, when I am old.
That's why I travel.
Come, my friends! It is not too late to seek a newer world!
(But first, that laundry...)