Wednesday, December 28, 2016

A new year of travel possibilities

     I’m hanging up a new wall calendar for 2017. There are blank squares waiting to be filled, and I am impatient to get on the trail.  
     You are either born with it, or not… that wanderlust of spirit for travel and adventure. Others get their kicks from the armchair variety along assorted, vicarious routes  - books, documentaries and storytelling. Neither way is right or wrong. It depends on your temperament. Physical ability. Pocketbook.

     However, money is secondary for those who have the urge to be off on an excursion. They figure it out. Take my two vagabond acquaintances. These young friends are not settled permanently anywhere and roam the world hopping from one continent to the next on an extremely limited budget making up for it with boundless energy. Sometimes they work for their keep, and stay in one spot for a season. They engage with locals in every possible way and have created an amazing set of pictures and writing to accompany their journey.
     Recently I caught up with my vagabonds via the Internet while they are in Southeast Asia, and their passion for exploration has not dimmed since I first met the wife several years ago in a local writers group when they were temporarily staying with relatives in our area. Their aim is to live on all seven continents – they are getting close - before they settle in to life somewhere. I didn’t want to tell them, but I expect that they won’t stop for long before the urge will take them off again seeing the world.

     For most wanderers, like those two vagabond rovers who brag on their minimalist lifestyle, it never ceases. Another good example from a different era is Jack Kerouac, who said,There was nowhere to go but everywhere, so just keep on rolling under the stars.”  Kerouac was an American writer best known for the novel On the Road, which became an American classic, pioneering the Beat Generation in the 1950s. His spontaneous prose is a method that allows one’s muse to bring the thoughts out on paper without interruption from the writer.  I confess that reading his work gets me lost, and I wonder if I will see my way clear to a road sign. There is no direct path but wandering according to Kerouac.
     A local storyteller friend uses Kerouac’s broader theme for her presentations. Actually, it is “keep the wonder rolling,” and that says a great deal about those who travel in their minds as well as by other methods of transportation. Her folktales are from around the world and she deftly points out the cultural nuances of each before she begins to engage her audience into the characters and specific location inviting them to use their imaginations. Personally, I relish putting my mind to work and creating images in my head to go with the stories. Storytelling does that so well, and has for centuries, before literacy and its advances.
     A Native American storyteller quietly spreads his tales about Great Mother Earth without as much as a raised voice, and his audience remain at rapt attention. There’s a harmony evident and a rhyme to his message. It reminds me of traveling in the Southwest of our country, one of my favorite regions, and the natural beauty of lavender New Mexico sunsets, the Red Rocks near Sedona and life on native reservations. While the storyteller speaks, folks are traveling in their chairs and envisioning a different, more fruitful earth where water abounds and co-existing in nature is foremost. The Great Peacekeeper taught the community of Native American Nations to respect each other and all living things.

     My vagabonds manage quite frugally, but that doesn’t fit with others like newfound friends in the San Francisco Bay area who are going all over the world like mad women – their term - on a quest to see every possible highlight. I toured with them in Morocco and I was exhausted trying to keep up with their plans for 2017, 2018 and beyond. They are happy, though, and who am I to question their motive?  Some people don’t need the home base as much as others, and off they go emptying their bucket list in double time.
     There’s the couple from New Jersey I met on one of my trips that have disconnected themselves purposefully from their town and its activities and are letting their grown children fly to wherever they are to connect periodically. They live the retirement life as they dreamed it would be after spending grueling hours on the highway commuting from the suburbs back and forth to New York City teaching jobs. Or the recently widowed man who had planned a trip around the world with his wife only to have her die of complications of cancer before they could start out. There’s that rush for some people of a certain age to beat the clock.
     My vagabonds think that they have all the time in the world and push certain realities to the back of their mind. They haven’t come to the stage of having children…and grandchildren, if they ever choose that direction. Dealing with aging parents and health issues of their own isn’t in play for them right now either. Steady jobs in one place…well, that may not be in their cards.  
     As for my travel plans for 2017, you will have to wait and see.
May all of us fill our days at home, or on the road, with what matters to us. “Think and wonder. Wonder and think” – Dr. Seuss.