You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, kharma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path.
Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Address, 2005
Many people have said practically the same thing: “Everything in my life seemed to happen randomly at the time, but when I look back on it, somehow it all makes sense.”
I believe each person comes into the world with a unique purpose. We all have certain gifts, and in exchange for the supreme privilege of living we must use our gifts to bring something of value into the world before we pass on. We each discover our own purpose by listening to our own hearts, or as Joseph Campbell put it, “follow your bliss.”
I can’t say I have solved the ultimate mystery of my destiny, but I do know that long before I was able to think about it I was driven to travel. From the time I was a small child I was moved by an inborn drive to explore, to roam.
It must have been inborn, because the urge manifested when I was a child and I would often disappear for hours, leaving my mother wringing her hands in worry. When I returned I would be bewildered at why she was concerned. I had merely been following my nose wherever it would lead.
Tales of adventure, exploration and travel captured my imagination. Whether it was Treasure Island, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Goldfinger or Tarzan of the Apes, the adventure of travel always drew me in. I couldn’t wait to get out and see the world.
I used whatever mode of transportation was available to explore and expand my horizons. Where I went was secondary. It would just unfold, one place after the other. The important thing was not where to go, but just to keep moving.
Motion, the First Pleasure Principle
When the baby cries, you pick her up, bounce her around, maybe take her for a walk in the stroller or a drive in the car seat to calm her down. The human soul is restless.
For some reason, as long as I was traveling I felt an inner assurance that I was doing something of value. I don’t know why. But my heart was most at peace when my body was in motion.
I was in a state of incessant movement long before I realized that it was not necessarily a trait common to everyone. I didn’t ask why. I was preoccupied with the urge to keep moving, to go to the next place, make the next discovery.
At some point I discovered another inborn drive: the urge to write, to try to put what I was experiencing into words. It just bubbled up within me.
It started with sitting quietly and pondering, struggling to put my feelings into words. It evolved into scattered notes on pieces of paper and school notebooks. It developed into a series of journals, which became my constant companions. Writing became like a bodily function, an ongoing process.
I came to realize that the urge to write was also inborn. It seems that we are what we are long before we know it. I don’t know where those drives came from. I have to assume they were there when I came into the world, from wherever it is we are before we are here.
At some point the urges to travel and write solidified into an unmistakable pattern and I accepted that it is probably my role to travel and share my travel experiences through the written word.
I Believe in Travel
If it is to be my role to be a proselytizer of travel, a Johnny Appleseed spreading the spirit of travel, I am happy with that. I believe in travel. I believe it is good for people and the world.
Travel helps us to realize the uniqueness of each moment. When you are visiting an iconic place, such as the Great Pyramids, or you find yourself looking upon the blue icebergs of Antarctica, you know you may never see those things again for the rest of your life. You cannot help but appreciate the uniqueness of that moment. It will be a memory to treasure.
I often find that when I come home from a trip to a new place, my own neighborhood looks fresh and more luminous. Though it’s the same place, the experience of a new environment has opened me and helped me realize that every place is really new every day. There are no repeated days. It is only in our minds that it is old and routine.
Tourism has often been exploitative and destructive, but overall it seems to be a benign force. It helps people understand other people and cultures and helps us appreciate the gifts of nature.
I believe travel increases international understanding and promotes peace. It helps to protect natural resources, wildlife and the historical and cultural treasures in the places people travel.
The travel industry is one of the best ways to economically jumpstart developing nations and spread the benefit throughout society. When travel is practiced according to principles of sustainability, it is a highly positive force. And of course it is great fun, one of the highest forms of enjoyment, learning and enrichment.
So yes, I believe in travel. I am happy to promote it.
Maybe I’m a throwback to a time when virtually all people traveled as a way of life. But I believe the urge to travel is a universal human trait. For many people it is a suppressed drive, something they long to do but feel they can’t.
Until the innovation of agriculture some 12,000 years ago, humans were hunter-gatherers. Nomadism was the standard way of life. When you look at the history of humankind, you see a grand movement that has spread to practically every part of the globe.
Anthropologists tell us that human beings just like us have existed for some 140,000 years, and those before were similar going back to the primordial mists of human evolution. Agriculture domesticated plants, but it never completely domesticated people. The wanderlust in the soul of mankind has never been extinguished.
There may be some who have no desire to go anywhere. But it seems that most long to travel. What do people want to do when they retire? Travel.
What do people talk about at parties? Dentistry? The legal profession? Not usually. Discussions of these prestigious professions are usually foregone for talk about something nearly everyone is interested in: travel. Most people would travel more if they could.
So I have accepted that it is my job to travel and pass on whatever I can from that perspective. As the White House reporter passes on what he learns from his vantage point, I see it as my job to report what I can from my travels to those back home.
Nourishing the Soul
I believe travel nourishes the soul. What transfer of energy takes place when you see a playful child and it causes an explosion of laughter to erupt in you? What kind of energy do you receive from gazing at a great mountain with its peak shrouded in mist? What happens when you hear a band and it makes your body want to move, or you hear the voices of a choir and it stirs your connection to the divine?
Our impressions are vital. They feed and shape us. Many Americans’ worlds are dominated by mass media, streams of news reports heavily laden with negative energy and coldly mercenary commercial programming. To a degree those impressions poison us. Travel is a good antidote.
Contrast those kinds of impressions with the experience of traveling to wonderful places, seeing beautiful things and people and joining in the procession of life. Those kinds of impressions are vital to health and well being. You don’t have to go to a foreign country to avail yourself of such good energy. Nature provides it everywhere. But travel helps to dislodge your conditioning and open up to what is around you.
Travel removes us from the envelope of our cultural conditioning and allows us to see the world from a viewpoint outside our customary cultural barriers. Louis Ferdinand Celine said travel provides a “glimpse of existence as it is during those few lucid hours, so exceptional in the span of human time, when you are leaving the customs of the last country behind and the customs of the next one have not yet got their hold on you.”
This message will be reaching you just after Thanksgiving as we head into the winter holiday season, a time one song calls “the most wonderful time of the year.” I can’t argue with that. It’s the time of year to give thanks for one’s blessings and to promote peace on earth, good will toward people.
While we’re on the subject of gratitude, I am grateful to the Tauck organization for giving me this platform to share my travel observations and experiences with you. I invite you to join me here twice a month.
So I wish you the very best of the holidays, and I look forward to greeting you here again soon. Until then I remain:
Your humble reporter,
A. Colin Treadwell