Travel To Learn

Photo by Dominika Roseclay on Pexels.com

I’ve reached a point if life where indulging in too much of anything leaves me feeling subpar. My days of working for twelve hours in the hot sun in my yard are long gone. If I eat or drink excessively I feel sick for days. Spending too much money on frivolities leaves me feeling guilt ridden. Staying up late makes me listless and cranky. My days of overdoing are long gone, if I want to feel my best. I’ve turned into a stodgy version of my old unfettered self. I have learned the value of moderation in all things and the joys of a regular routine of healthy living. Still, there are some things of which I can’t seem to get enough, and traveling is one of them.

If I had no limits on my time or my income I think that I would spend half a year or more exploring the world around me. There are so many places that I have yet to see, and the clock is ticking on my shelf life and abilities to spend long days walking through unknown terrain. Covid-19 has made it more difficult than ever to enjoy the freedom and joy of journeying from one place to another. I sometimes worry that by the time that things return to normal, the window on traveling will have somehow closed or become more limited for me. 

For now, I’ve decided just to take a closer look at my own country because there is so much that I have yet to see. Sometimes moving slowly down the road pulling the trailer behind our truck provides the best possible view of the people and places that are within easy reach. Choosing a road less traveled is an eye opening experience. There is a world of interesting sites right in my own backyard, and I intend to indulge my longing to hit the open road by visiting as many of them as I am able. 

I’ve got my rolling hotel, a full larder of food, and I’m fully vaccinated which makes me ready to go. Besides, I travel more like a fly on the wall than a party girl. I most enjoy simply observing the flow of life rather than engaging in raucous entertainment. I am in my element in areas that feel far from the beaten path. Nature and the mountains and the wind are calling me. I long to view the birds and walk in the majesty of a forest. I want to spend time learning about the history and the many cultures of my country. 

If I somehow had the charisma to lead a movement, it would be to bring us all to a place of mutual respect. We would turn off our televisions, and the twenty four hour manipulation of our thinking. We would limit our exposure to social media that allowed us to keep in touch with friends and family, rather than creating political platforms and alliances. We would all take a deep breath and travel through the countryside to witness the goodness of humanity and the glory of nature. Then we might realize that our wants and our needs, our hopes and our dreams, are not really so different from one another. Perhaps then we might agree that our best hope for the future survival of our humanity and our planet lies in working together.

Travel is an eye opening experience if we really take the time to see and understand the people that we encounter along the way. We learn about cultures and histories, and realize that never in any time or place has warring with one another advanced us as people. Virtually every conflict has only caused pain and suffering that need not have ever occurred had people agreed to work things out, to see one another’s concerns and points of view. Selfishness and unwillingness to explore difficult truths is at the heart of so much of the conflict in the world. 

Travels reveal the heart and soul of people without the filters of politics or propaganda. We learn truths from taking the time to see and learn about places with our own eyes. When we take ourselves far from the madding crowd, and turn off the noise there is a change in how we view the world and all of its history. Suddenly we realize how vital it is that we find a way to embrace and celebrate our diversity, knowing that at the end of the day we all want to satisfy the most basic of human needs. 

Everyone, everywhere wants to be safe. We need to eat and protect ourselves from the cold, the heat, the rain. We enjoy having friends and celebrating after working hard. We are creative. I just wish that more of us might see beyond our own little bubbles to realize the hardships that far too many endure. Traveling, not only takes us to lovely places, but also has the power of showing us where there is want and need. It sometimes more clearly reveals the two sides of disagreements if we open our eyes and minds to the possibility that we do not yet know all of the answers.

I have seen the battlefields at Shilo and felt the absurdity of brother fighting against brother. I have visited a slave plantation and heard stories of the horrors of enslavement. I have stood on the green at Lexington and attempted to imagine the feelings of both the revolutionary colonists and the British soldiers in the moment when history changing shots were fired. I’ve seen the poverty and felt the sense of shame and hopelessness on a native American reservation where a tribe once roamed free. I’ve visited a replica of the Plymouth Plantation and wondered at the harshness of life that the people fleeing religious intolerance had to endure. I’ve stood in the room where men long ago signed the Declaration of Independence, and I considered how they might have done things differently if they had been able to see the future. I’ve sat in the dilapidated living room of a woman in Caddo Gap, Arkansas who seemed to have little of worth other than her own dignity and pride. I realized as I heard her talk that the only difference between her and me was a matter of money.

My travels have shown me that fighting with one another, as we seem so intent on doing now, is of little use. One side wins temporarily, but the other side seethes and plots for a way to find justice. Only when we are willing to admit to our need to compromise and change have we humans ever moved forward. It is when we take care of one another in a spirit of our shared humanity that we find the peace and security that we all desire. The proof is out there. Take the time to go witness it for yourself. Get in your car and travel the roads, learn about the people. Research the history. It will open your eyes.  

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