“Every man dies — Not every man really lives.” – William Ross Wallace
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman a few years ago gave new currency to the term “bucket list”, that collection of destinations, goals and dreams you want to experience prior to “kicking the bucket”. I personally have always preferred the term “life-list” – the places I want to go and the things I want to do in this lifetime. I understand the psychological shift in my preference is incredibly small and maybe not even measurable, but I am not even half-way through my own list, and the past year has not benefitted my progress.
Our recent travel shutdown has altered my understanding of the importance of travel. I only yesterday took my first airline trip in 18 months, a record hiatus in my adult life. TSA lines, security, moving between Atlanta terminals by train – everything old was new again, strangely familiar but somehow different, displaced like a dreamtime episode. But most importantly, it forced me to think through what I really want out of my travels, and what I want to seek out in my next few.
Firstly, I want to freshen up the list, to ensure a bit of clarity in my choices. I want to be certain my choices are really reflective of my personal wishes and not the result of the desire to just “check off” a destination from the list. The time distortion of the past year has set off a persistent awareness of its scarcity. Time well spent seems more important.
I want to slow down and savor each travel opportunity, to roll it around and fully appreciate the experience. The one lesson I feel most strongly impressed on me from my Covid-19 confinement is to never, ever, again take simple freedoms and experiences for granted. I want to eat new food with new friends, enjoy their company, taking more time to hold onto the memories I am making.
I also want to seek out novelty, not to repeat experiences I have already enjoyed. I have tended to repeat trips. I have been to London and Reykjavik many times in my work career. It’s time to get out of what seems easy and familiar and onto new experiences. That is how a hike on the Camino de Santiago is inching its way up the list.
I want to choose my traveling companions more carefully than in the past. The drama of drama holds far less interest for me now. I feel one of those companions is likely to be a new grandson. Passing on a love for travel to my family seems more important.
I understand some will argue travel wastes resources like vast amounts of fuel, is a privilege of the wealthy and exploits indigenous people and ecosystems. At times, travel and tourism does all of these things and perhaps even worse than we realize.
But travel also expands our understanding of other people and cultures. Travel reminds us of how alike we are. Travel reminds us of the fragility of the planet and seldom do we travel that we return unchanged.
I want to keep changing.
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