Thursday, March 1, 2018

Travel Philosophy with Bathtub

Fun with Photoshop: Silly Illustrations!
I was recently asked to share my travel philosophy. I couldn’t remember ever having articulated one. For years, the closest I came was a maxim I’d heard from a friend: “Take only photos, leave only footprints.”

I followed that advice as best I could, even though for many pre-smart phone years I traveled without a camera. Thankfully, I took notes. Then I started sketching and painting.  My souvenir rule for most of my 20s: whatever I brought home had to fit in the pages of my journal.

But that maxim only addresses the moments of being in a place, and I realized that if I have a philosophy of travel, it starts well before I leave home. So I decided to borrow another friend’s idea, one she passed on to me in the form of the John O’Donohue poem, “For the Traveler.” Here’s my favorite part:

Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life…

The whole poem is beautiful, but I found myself drawn to this section about preparing for the journey. As someone who loves to plan, I’m not surprised this resonated with me. And it’s good advice whether you’re heading to the new coffee shop around the corner or to the ancient medina of Fez.

There is no one way to travel—as evidenced by the diversity of our seatmates on an airplane or the camels carrying us across sand dunes. But the beauty of taking time to bless our journey before we go is that we’ll have grace to deal with those seatmates, whether they have bad breath or bump around a lot (which applies to both plane passengers and camels, come to think of it). Preparing our hearts opens us up to discoveries that can get lost when we haul the ballast of our hearts around with us, leaving no room for treasures.

I have several pre-departure rituals. One is to take a bath before a long journey, even if that means turning on the tap at 4 am. The bath helps me to do several things: to choose to make moments of stillness in the busiest times in my life. To metaphorically wash away any anxieties and limiting mindsets I don’t want to bring with me. To literally be as clean as I can before hours or days of airports and unreliable hot water. And to bless the journey so that when I return home and next sink into my claw-foot tub, I’ll be a kinder and wiser traveler than when I left. Ideally, I’ll have changed my own world to better love the wider world.

Many grand quotes turn into clich├ęs (what a wonderful problem for a truth to become familiar, right?). So I’ll end by borrowing yet another travel philosophy for daily living, this one from Proust. You’ve heard it before, but then you’ve also bathed before—some things are worth repeating on a regular basis!

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”

Bon voyage to all our comings & goings, near & far!