We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
Today, we know that time travel need not be confined to myths, science fiction, Hollywood movies, or even speculation by theoretical physicists. Time travel is possible. For example, an object traveling at high speeds ages more slowly than a stationary object. This means that if you were to travel into outer space and return, moving close to light speed, you could travel thousands of years into the Earth's future.
I know it's not strictly sex that accounts for my straying the motive usually attributed to men. I think it's just too tempting to have two lives rather than one. Some people think that too much travel begets infidelity: Separation and opportunity test the bonds of love. I think it's more likely that people who hate to make choices to settle on one thing or another are attracted to travel. Travel doesn't beget a double life. The appeal of the double life begets travel.
I don't keep a travel diary. I did keep a travel diary once and it was a big mistake. All I remember of that trip is what I bothered to write down. Everything else slipped away, as though my mind felt jilted by my reliance on pen and paper. For exactly the same reason I don't travel with a camera. My holiday becomes the snapshots and anything I forget to record is lost.
Prague is not, strictly speaking, travel writing but it is, among other things, an excellent example of what travel writing is becoming, if indeed it hasn't already done so. . . . People are no longer so easily satisfied by the mere travel impressions of some outsider much like themselves. Instead they gravitate towards writers who actually have lived not simply in, but inside, a location for an extended period, as one lives inside one's clothes.
Wanderlust is not a passion for travel exactly, it's something more animal and more fickle- more like lust. We don't lust after very many things in life. We don't need words like 'worklust' or 'homemakinglust.' But travel? The essayist Anatole Broyard put it perfectly: 'Travel is like adultery: one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one's own country. To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live... in our wanderlust, we are lovers looking for consummation.'
I'm no longer a child and I still want to be, to live with the pirates. Because I want to live forever in wonder. The difference between me as a child and me as an adult is this and only this: when I was a child, I longed to travel into, to live in wonder. Now, I know, as much as I can know anything, that to travel into wonder is to be wonder. So it matters little whether I travel by plane, by rowboat, or by book. Or, by dream. I do not see, for there is no I to see. That is what the pirates know. There is only seeing and, in order to go to see, one must be a pirate.
I believe that space travel will one day become as common as airline travel is today. I'm convinced, however, that the true future of space travel does not lie with government agencies -- NASA is still obsessed with the idea that the primary purpose of the space program is science -- but real progress will come from private companies competing to provide the ultimate adventure ride, and NASA will receive the trickle-down benefits.
At home we have lost the capacity to see what is before us. Travel shakes us out of our apathy, and we regain an attentiveness that heightens every experience. The exhilaration of travel has many sources, but surely one of them is that we recapture in some measure the unspoiled awareness of children.
<< previousnext >>