“Maybe the genuine traveler is always positioned in the eye of the storm. The storm being the world, the eye that which he views it. Meteorologists tell us that within the eye all is silent, perhaps as silent as a monk’s cell. Whoever learns how to see with this eye might also learn how to distinguish between what is real and what is not, if only by observing the ways in which things and people differ, and the ways in which they are the same.
Baudelaire wrote that travelers leave in order to depart, and he also wrote about the spurious notion they take with them, and about the “bitter knowledge” their travels provide them with, about “the petty, monotonous world that allows us to glimpse ourselves, yesterday, today, and tomorrow: an oasis of horror in a desert of tedium.” Looked at from this point of view, perhaps it is he who stays at home among the the familiar anecdotage of daily life who is running scared, being unable to stomach this bitter knowledge. As far as I am concerned it is not about which of us is the hero here, but about which of us is doing his soul’s bidding at whatever cost.” – Cees Nooteboom’s Nomad’s Hotel
I am shamelessly borrowing this quote from my new friend Will over at Rajasthan to Kerala, who is embarking on an adventure race across India (in a rickshaw, no less) shortly before I leave for Peace Corps. I very much admire his tenacity to go somewhere unknown and try something that will undoubtedly leave him a changed man, for better or for worse (bets on the former). It is not a timid thing to step out of one’s door, knowing that the adventure that awaits you will never let you return quite the same person you were. As Tolkein said, “it is a dangerous business going out your front door.”
I’m on the East Coast this week visiting my dear friend Steph at Elon University in North Carolina, and a smattering of other folks around the D.C. area. It’s been a pleasure, and I love seeing the south again. My last visit to this coast was enjoyed from the backseat of a car betwixt not a few naps, card games, and other road trip diversions meant to give parents a respite from their children. Visiting now as an adult and with a less tenuous grasp on American history and culture, the south has become a fascinating place. Truly, my visit is based around this cultural tourism and I have great plans to tour the capitol again once I return north later this week.
Stepping out my door for this short trip, even in a familiar country, has left me with a whirlwind feeling of excitement. I dearly love my Alaskan home, but long for the greater adventure of Peace Corps and Zambia (Zambia!) in February. I’ve had the opportunity to meet a few fellow PCVs, some of which have my same assignment. It’s so rewarding to meet these people in person, hear their voices, soak up who they are and know that I will get to continue these important friendships over the next several years. What a gift this road has brought me.
In reading through this passage again, I am struck by the word “bitterness”. I have retched at the sour taste of tedium and monotony in life, and vowed with this post to always strive for the more flavorful bounties that life may offer. These last few months while I struggled with indecision, I think I began to choose the blander flavor for the comfort of the familiar taste. That bitterness of “running scared” of what awaits us on that harder road; I know better than that, and I thank people like Will for reminding me of it.
“The best days were the days that were full of work and people. The best nights were the nights when I went to bed sunburned and sore, with a light heart, a full stomach, and the knowledge that I had done a good thing well. I remember thinking: This is all I want. Let me not live a day past my ability to feel this way. Not an hour.” – Cary Tennis
Being here with Steph, seeing friends from my time at the RNC and meeting new friends that will share my life over the next few years – my stomach is full with the sweetness of a sun on an unknown horizon. This is all I want, and may I live not a day past my inborn desire to try the strange and exotic flavors of my life. Not an hour. The rich flavors of friends, the enticing aromas of the unknown, these are my nourishment. May that hunger never wane.