An acquaintance asked me the other day – “Why do you travel so much? Why do you travel at all?” My first reaction was “I don’t travel that much these days” which on one level is true because my wife and I have jobs and our daughter is in school…but then when I thought about it for a minute more, I realized, I travel all the time. Last year we traveled in our VW Vanagon to the largest Vanagon campout in the world at hole in the ground. We drove down the California Coast and spent Christmas in Santa Cruz. We took trips to Portland, trips to Eugene, trips to other towns. We moved to Hawaii!, before that I took a trip to the Big Island , then after we moved here, I spent a week on Mauna Kea for work. We travel in our off time – we go to the North Shore, we go to Waikiki, we go to the West Side. I mean, seriously, I travel all the time. My family travels all the time. Sure, we aren’t doing the huge international trips we used to do – Europe, Africa, Turkey, South Korea, Indonesia but yes, we travel. We love to travel whether it’s near or far.
And so, now, I suppose I have to answer that question. Why do I travel? I travel because the sand is always a little different – even on the next beach over. The water always is a little warmer or cooler and the salt content varies greatly. The beds give you a different night’s sleep. The sunset is easy to miss when you are home and the sunrise has magic but who has time to watch it when they are not in that magic liminal space. I travel so I can ask directions and have the excuse to make complete strangers into friends. I travel so I can hear music out of context and use it as a the soundtrack of my life. I travel so my brain can rest and stop thinking about rent and bills and doctors and missiles that might or might not fly today or tomorrow or the next day. I travel because the movement itself feels wonderful…the pressure of gravity upon takeoff, the swaying of the train, the bouncing of the bus, the smell of the thousands of passengers who rode in the taxi before me, the lurch of a streetcar, and the pounding of my feet on cobblestones, pavements, tile, grass or sand. I travel because I am human and as an anthropologist and an archaeologist – I’m pretty certain that humans were not made to stay in one place. Yes, we like to have homes but we are made to take journeys, we are made to take bold steps, we are made to interact with other humans, animals, our environment, and the great other – call it God, totality, the big is, or what have you. I travel because it is what I was made to do. I know this because it is when I travel that I truly know who and what I am.
I didn’t tell him all of that. I just said “You should give it a try..” You, too, should give it a try.