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: From the Archives - Why I travel

A Wandering Traveler
Joe David

always know when it is time for me to travel. An exotic dinner, a foreign movie or just a familiar sound reminding me of faraway places will suddenly make me restless. No matter how hard I try to shake it, it lingers and grows, until it overwhelms me with its urgency, and I air-lift myself thousands of miles from home, where I can once again connect with another culture.

For me, there is only one explanation for my wanderlust.
It was once said that the road to fulfillment is difficult to travel; it can be “like the sharp edge of a razor.” For many of us, sliding over the edge of our comfort zone – into the unknown – requires considerable strength and courage. Yet, for those who achieve it, it can be the most satisfying experience on earth.
This road to self-fulfillment isn’t always easy. Many times I have sat alone in my hotel room in some remote part of the world with no air conditioning, no safe liquids to drink, strange insects and animals lurking outside, and I would ask myself, why was I there? But even more exactly, why was I there, knowing what awaited me?
During my years of traveling, I have dug through the ruins of history, journeyed by bus, donkey, camel, elephant and bicycle to remote hideaways. I have climbed the broken pieces of Borabadur, Göreme, Carthage and Chichén Itzá. I have been seduced by the night lights of Paris, Beirut and Bangkok and stripped of all inhibitions. Yet despite my experiences, which, I must admit, sometimes left me sad, I never became bitter. There were lessons to be learned, which have changed my life – my perception of life – forever.
Each journey I took always had a purpose. Sometimes it was to study the history, the food, or the customs of a particular culture; other times it was just to drift and absorb. But despite my ostensible reason, my real reason for the journey was always to connect with the world on the deepest possible level, and in the process understand existence more exactly.
Why do some people need the rush that comes from making a killing on Wall Street; others the joy that comes from traveling among unknown men?
Traveling has taught me many lessons. The one I value the most, the one that has saved me many times during crises, is alertness. Sorting through the confusing activities around me, trying to understand what I experienced have forced me to fine-tune observation. Details stand out. Cultural differences – new ways and sometimes even better ways of thinking or doing things – become significant. But even more important, I learn to notice similarities.
Years of studying history and human behavior have confirmed that in this huge tapestry called life, there is a familiar thread woven throughout the tapestry that holds it all together. This familiar thread, I have learned, provides form, purpose and even beauty to the design by its subtle presence.
Each of us is a little different – and at different stages of our personal growth – but we are all traveling along the same road to self-fulfillment. Some of us are moving quickly; others slowly; some are blocked by their culture or the pressures of their circumstances. Regardless, when the impediments are lifted, we all find ourselves grabbing for the very same thing.
I met two artists in Budapest, after the iron curtain crumbled. She and her husband had very little, just a talent that they had polished in their spare time during the Russian rule. Yet they were happy, infinitely happy, as happy as anyone could ever be. Why? Because now they were free to take their own journey.

© Joe David - December 2006

Joe David is the author of four books, including two novels, Teacher of the Year and The Fire Within. His writings have appeared in many publications, including U.S. Airways, Chile Pepper, Family, and Hemispheres magazines.

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