I’ve finally (mostly) recovered from my recent bout of illness. Just this lingering cough that sends me into spasms two or three times a day. But the energy is back, and I want to do things–lots of things. Cook, paint, write, . . . and especially travel. The travel urge always hits me about this time of year. I long for some place warm and sunny. Sunrises over teal water. Fighting with froth to pick up a shell. Sand trapped in the bottom of my swimsuit.
How timely that I found Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. “If our lives are dominated by a search for happiness, then perhaps few activities reveal as much about the dynamics of this quest–in all its ardor and paradoxes–than our travels. They express, however inarticulately, an understanding of what life might be about, outside of the constraints of work and of the struggle for survival. Yet rarely are they considered to present philosophical problems–that is, issues requiring thought beyond the practical. We are inundated with advice on where to travel to, but we hear little of why or how we should go, even though the art of travel seems naturally to sustain a number of questions neither so simple nor so trivial, and whose study might in modest ways contribute to an understanding of what the Greek philosophers beautifully term eudaimonia, or ‘human flourishing.”
Why do we travel? Certainly if I could travel today, it would be to escape the cold, gray weather and the sameness of my life– the routine created by having children in the school system. My day is bookmarked by concrete, immovable time zones: the time that the school bell rings in the morning and the time that it releases in the afternoon. The regularity of this and its inflexibility feel hugely oppressive to me. I want–need–to escape. But I can’t escape because not only does school regulate my day schedule, it also regulates my seasonal schedule. I’ll receive a brief break in March and then will be force-marched through until June.
The alternative would be to home school. Then I could set my own day and seasonal schedule. We could escape to the beach today. Lessons could be learned as easily in sand as in a desk. And yet I know that home schooling is not really an option for me or my children. Quite frankly, if I don’t have enough endurance to bear the dailiness of the tardy bell, how would I ever withstand daily math or science lessons? I know with certainty that we would spend our days making art or visiting museums. Reading mysteries by Tey, Christie, and Sayers. And that only when I couldn’t manage to slip away for “me” time. You see I’m very jealous of my free time. I crave the solitude of long stretches of time to myself.
My ability to flourish is nourished by these solitary stretches. And so I’ll have to wait to travel for now, at least, moving only through books or photographs or the many awesome blogs I look at weekly.
Why do you travel? And what is keeping you at home? Does travel feed your soul?