Friday, February 3, 2017

A lifetime of travel reflections

The Matterhorn overlooks Zermatt in Switzerland  (wikipedia)
CHARLOTTE, NC Years ago, while traveling with a group of writers, a colleague said at dinner that "almost every story you read is a travel story, whether it's news or fiction or biography, it's still a travel story.” I never thought about travel in quite that way before, but from a certain perspective it does make sense. Life itself, is, by definition, a journey.  
Ovieto's Duomo (wikipedia)
 Pulitzer Prize winning author, Edith Wharton, expressed similar feelings when she observed, "The foreground is the property of the guidebook and of its product, the mechanical sightseer; the background, that of the dawdler, the dreamer and the serious student.  Dawdle…”

For me, travel is a continual process of personal metamorphosis.
Gateway to the Taj Mahal in Agra, India  (Taylor)
I want to see exotic places, to learn about other cultures, to discover perspectives about the world that aren’t always the most comfortable or convenient places to travel.  I’m not necessarily looking for out-of-the-way places or difficult-to-reach spots on the map, though they also appeal to me if there is something there that I want to discover.  It’s really more about trying to figure out how the world meshes together.  How others view this big blue marble spinning through space and from where they derive their perspectives.
Girls day out, India  (Taylor)

Over the decades, I have even come to understand how certain times of day affect my attitude.  I adore the serene, soothing freshness of a new day.  Barbara Grizzuti Harrison described an Italian dawn as arriving "with theatrical brush strokes."

So too has early morning in another country become, for me, a time of renewal.  I cherish those precious golden moments when the veil of night lifts to reveal the dewiness of daybreak.  When the world seems cleansed with coolness and moisture that beckons through a scrim of earth-clinging clouds; whispers in flowers and trees, gently nourishing them in clear, tiny droplets of life, caressing them in a misty shroud. 
Claude Monet's Japanese Bridge at Giverny  (wikipedia)
Istanbul's Hagia Sophia  (wikipedia)
That time of day when a peach-colored sun is little more than a formless shape in the sky, innocent and subdued, dispersing gradations of light across the horizon. 

When birds are hushed silhouettes with wings, made all the more distinct by the backlit palette of a delicate pastel sky; a sky that will swiftly yield to the frantic turmoil of commerce and enterprise. 
Lush tropical beauty of St Barths  (Taylor)
Dawn or early morning is that fleeting portion of the day when tranquility prevails with muffled sounds that introduce a sunrise, all unified into a single uplifting serenade.  Daybreak is a symphony for the soul.
Day's end, Belize  (Taylor)

Late afternoon, on the other hand, frequently has a sense of completion for me.  Cary Grant expressed it best in one of his films when he spoke the line, "Days die like people die, fighting for every ray of light before giving up to the darkness.” 

For whatever reason Grant's description a tired world beaten down by the hustle and bustle of humanity is an accurate summation of my own feelings about that time of the day.
Leopard waits patiently in a tree, South Africa  (Lasater)
Many times I wish I could find a way to share more of the people and places I have experienced.  In my own way, I have accomplished most of what I wanted to achieve and more from a travel perspective. At the same time, there is so much more I want to see and to experience because I know that, as Somerset Maugham once wrote, "the good traveler has the gift of surprise." 
The floating market outside Bangkok is always colorful
Traveling keeps you young, at least in spirit and in mind, if not body.  I never know if my most recent journey will be my last, or how many others may follow.  I have been blessed with years of blissful globe-trotting, and I have rationalized in my heart that if I never travel again, I can be thankful for the wishes that have been fulfilled to provide me with a treasure chest of memories.  I carry them permanently and deeply within my soul.  They are memories that can never be taken away.
Guess who's coming to dinner, Antarctica  (Sacundo)
Travel is  intoxicating.  It was, and is, my passion, and I can not escape it.  I frequently reflect upon another quote by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison who said, "My unconscious mind reached a deep intuitive understanding of the past (my past), only to see more levels, deeper levels, hidden pasts.  It meanders sinuously among artifacts lost and found, unknown but known.  It travels many ways to arrive in the same place."
And I also recall the words of Daniel Boorstin.  "A traveler goes in search of people, of adventure, of experience.  A tourist goes for sightseeing.  Just like the question is more interesting than a statement, and a road more intriguing than a map, I aspired to be a traveler.  Be brave.  Go through open gates.”
World's tallest waterfall, Angel Falls in Venezuela  (wikipedia)
Today, I pray for more open gates so that I can do as Edith Wharton once suggested and "Dawdle..."