It has been many years since I traveled to places unknown, but as the details of what I have seen and done in my many journeys begin to fade, it is the feelings I have experienced in those places which remain clear in my memory. As the Danish writer, Peter Hoeg says, “traveling tends to magnify all human emotions.”
I don’t remember the name of the castle I was looking at, but I remember the wonder that I felt – the enchantment of touching a wall that was standing in the eleventh century – the way my imagination soared at all the possibilities behind those walls. It was a child’s schizophrenic level of make-believe, long-since lost in maturation. And I don’t recall the meal, but the ache of loneliness as I sat in a pub on High Street in Edinburgh and sketched in my journal, a pane of stained glass on the church outside the pub window. It was crushing and palpable and somehow sweet and precious and mine alone; that beautiful melancholy that we lose after adolescence. Or the camaraderie I experienced when, having been awake the long night, I walked the splintered boards of La Rambla in Montevideo and watched the sun rise with the sixteen year old boy whose family had taken me in and his smiling, laughing friends as they taught me all the dirty words in Spanish that they could think of. And I can still feel the swirling drop in my stomach as I looked across a small campfire at a German blacksmith’s pouty, beautiful lips where we sat in a tiny grove of scrub oaks in a Colorado cow field and listened to coyotes howl on the hills to the East of us, and knew that he was looking at me too. We’d ridden our motorcycles ten hours that day, but that kind of lust brings a superhuman energy – who needs to sleep?
And love. Love when you travel is a dangerous and formidable kind. I’ve fallen in love twice when in a world away from my home and from the steady companionship of family and old friends. When you are in a place where nobody knows you, you can be almost anyone you want to be, and there is nobody to remind you who you were before, and perhaps that is when you are the truest version of yourself. It’s these times when you are alone to choose and to judge the value of the person for whom you’ve fallen. There is no one to influence your inclination; no other set of eyes to color your perception. This is a love that is yours and his and no one else’s.
If the stars align, and your worlds are compatible, it can be a lasting kind of love, and he becomes a living reminder of who you became when you were able to cast off the chains of familial expectations. I think it is tempting, sometimes, to crawl back into the mold given to us when we return home to the people who see us in a particular way. It is a very comfortable little bottle in which to reside, but as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, a mind that is stretched by new experiences can never go back to old dimensions. Having someone in your life who sees you in your new dimensions is very strengthening.
The tricky part, and the thing that makes life worthwhile (to me, anyhow) is to continue to stretch and evolve. I could quote you line after line the wise words of great people who knew the value of a well-travelled life, but there is a general theme to all these quotables. Summarily, they are that: travel shatters our preconceptions; travel permanently changes us; and travel is it’s own attainment – the destination means little, (in other words, travel for travel’s sake). With that in mind, whether you fell in love with your partner while on a journey, or fell in love right in your own backyard, you now have a wonderful new challenge, which is to stretch and evolve together. What better way to begin such a voyage than to take a voyage to unknown parts? And what better way to get to know someone, than to travel with them? And I’m not talking about taking a cruise to Jamaica or spending a week at a waspy resort in St. Lucia: I’m talking about backpacking through Patagonia, or finding your way across Mexico City, or getting lost in the alleyways of Paris looking for the Eiffel Tower, saying ‘maybe tomorrow’, and spending the day watching street performers and living the cafe life with the locals. I’m talking about escaping the all-inclusive and risking diarrhea by eating the local food at a local joint, buzzing flies and all. I’m talking travel – not tourism. You see, A tourist seeks a particular locale…a set plan and destination while a traveler allows for adventure to intervene. Life is short. Salmonella passes.
It is the same in love, is it not? Love is entirely about the journey, as there truly is no destination. Shouldn’t it be to simply love each other in the moment we find ourselves? And so I propose to travel and to love with abandon, and if possible, to do both at the same time.