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Why Travel?

San Marino

“Why are you going to Arizona?” my classmate sneered.  “It’s not even warm there.”

A week-long break from the mean girls of high school would have been reason enough.

And while the desert air was certainly cool in the February mornings and evenings, the afternoons were comfortably warm for exploring the Grand Canyon, riding horses, or just walking around Phoenix and simply savoring the glorious openness of the American West.  I’d never been to Arizona before, and it was a wonderful break from Massachusetts, where it was most definitely not warm.

Travel is an escape from daily duties and mundane miseries.  But it is also an escape into something.  It is letting rest the part of yourself that has to fight its way through the world and finding the part that can let the world delight you.

There’s an ironic feeling of security that comes along with this escape.  In the minimalism of travel is everything you need.  You’ve packed the essentials.  Wherever you’re staying will have all the furnishings you need for a home base, whether it’s a luxury suite or a friend’s spare room.  And a good hotel or hostess will anticipate your needs and look for ways to keep you comfortable.  I’ve felt this sense of security as a child at the Acapulco Princess, the hotel that first formed my expectations of luxury travel, and I’ve felt it as a young adult in a family friend’s plumbing-free cabin in the mountaintops of Norway, which affirmed my feeling that camping isn’t for me.

Travel is about following the passions of the moment.  Whether it’s viewing Goya’s Las Majas or eating a dinner of all chocolate, both which I did in Madrid, travel is about the now.  And being fully focussed on the now means being able to be overwhelmed by whatever is right in front of you, from the intriguing differences in twin masterpieces to the rich buttery taste and feel of European chocolate.  And it’s those pure moments, not the ones spent battling mean girls or micro-managers, that truly shape your future, because they are the moments that stay with you all your life.  Side visits to the Keats-Shelley House in Rome and the Chateau de Chillon in Montreux brought Romantic poetry out of the abstract for me.  The Duomo de Santa Maria del Fiore left me intrigued not only about medieval architecture but also about the Florentine political system.  And Israel gave me three new culinary habits–shakshuka for breakfast, a couple of dates to satisfy my sweet tooth, and tea steeped with fresh mint as a non-alcoholic digestif.

Why was I going to Arizona?  Because I’ll go just about anywhere, at just about any time, to give myself to the moment, to the experience, to feel seized and secure and stimulated all at the same time, and to come home permanently enriched, never to have not been overwhelmed, even if only for a moment.

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