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The Elixir of Travel

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“Not all those who wander are lost.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

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As a kid I sought ways to escape the adversity I was born into. My efforts to deliver myself from harsh reality at times resulted in rich creative exploration. Other times it resulted in insidious core injuries and burnt brain cells. When I was 15 an opportunity presented itself to me to apply for a full scholarship to live in Israel for the summer. Despite my reluctance and fears I went for it. For two months I left behind the violence, the pain, the familiarity, the drugs, and my friends, to live abroad. From that point on my wanderlust was ignited.

The archetypal impulse to journey into the unknown is embodied by the archetype of the Wanderer. Dr. Carol Pierson wrote in the “Hero Within” that the wanderer’s task is to move beyond suffering and endurance to discovery and adventure. The calling of the Wanderer is to discard prescribed roles and the safety of conventionality so as to grow. S/he is compelled to find a new path. This can be a terrifying and painful feat, as it often entails parting from familiar people and circumstances so as to leap into the unknown.

The essence of my Wanderer seeks expression through spiritual, psychological and creative exploration, but as I discovered at 15, another tangible, life affirming vehicle for breaking free is travel. Joseph Campbell said, “When we travel we meet ourselves in many guises. …by exploring ourselves in many guises of humanity we travel lifetimes in the course of an instant.” Each place, each culture offers a mirror into oneself. Our perspective is expanded by the myriad experiences travel presents. Excitement and passion is awakened, and with that a sense of renewal.

The elevated traveling Wanderer may be seeking self-realization, but for the average Joe the over-riding initial motivation for planning a trip is to seek release from the daily grind of mundane reality and the minutiae of responsibility. When one’s ‘comfort zone’ becomes depleting and arduous, the urge to step outside one’s element into unfamiliar territory makes itself known. Perhaps depression has set in or generalized anxiety rooted in life’s demands crops up. Or maybe the simple yearning for pure enjoyment, for romance, for connection, is catalyzing the need to navigate another part of the world. Aspirations to develop language skills, culinary prowess, or art history cunning may be the driving force. Whatever inspires the trek, one thing is certain, exposing oneself to the vastness of God’s creation and exercising one’s ability to adapt to a different culture and rely on one’s resourcefulness is growth inducing, and for many even healing.

As I find myself at another challenging crossroads in my life, I relish the opportunity to immerse myself in the vibrant beauty of Galicia next month. Venturing forth I trust that the splendor of Northwest Spain will organically metabolize my ruminations into insights, affording me direction and guidance. My senses will be intoxicated with the pristine beaches and the rugged cliffs of costa de la muerte, historic port towns, ancient churches and monasteries, Ribeiro wine, and mouth-watering regional cuisine. Upon return photo memories will recollect the places I’ve been and the experiences created. The adjustment will be arduous at first, until time and habituation kick in and routines are renewed. Life will continue in its usual way. Still, mindfulness of the journey will linger causing subtle shifts and planting seeds which spark a desire for the next trip to come.

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