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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Traveling In Circles

This blog entry proved far more challenging to write than most others. It’s not that I lacked the words; no, it’s that I have too many. The subject is travel. My wanderlust is an ineradicable, essential impulse within me. My travels have shaped me, informed me and transformed me. There is simply too much to say…too much ground to cover, if you will. I tried to distill my thoughts to a pithy few.

I merely confused myself.

* * *

It all started with a poem. Strike that. It started during a number of late night conversations with friends, both old and new. Our conversations roamed far and wide; matters of the heart, mostly, and…invariably…talk turned to tales of travels.

I have a restless heart, as do my closest friends. We’ve all been known to range far from home, often alone. As a consequence of these twilight reminiscences, I began pondering my wanderlust. This particular poem immediately sprang to mind. It’s another one of my personal favorites. It’s accompanied me from monument to monument, museum to museum, cathedral to cathedral. It’s truth grows ever more luminous with age and experience.

By Kathleen Raine

They more than we are what we are:
Serenity and joy
We lost or never found,
The forms of heart’s desire,
We gave them what we could not keep;
We made them what we cannot be.

Their kingdom is our dream, but who can say
If they or we
Are dream or dreamer, signet or clay?
If the most perfect be most true,
These faces pure, these bodies posed in thought
Are substance of our form
And we the confused shadows cast.

Growing toward their prime they take our years away,
And from our deaths they rise
Immortal in the life we lose.
The gods consume us, but restore
More than we were:
We love, that they may be,
They are, that we may know.

* * *

As I wrote at the outset, I was prepared to riff at great length about what traveling means to me…what it has done to me. I then went searching for T.S. Elliot’s famous quote as the intended capstone to my “poetic eloquence” (I’m smiling…and, yes…it’s a self-deprecating smile) and discovered the wise words of many. Therefore, this indolent philosopher has decided to take a much-needed short cut.
I think these quotes cover the subject quite nicely. Consider them koans for the foot-weary:

"There is one voyage, the first, the last, the only one." Thomas Wolf

“All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.”
J. R. R. Tolkien

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” Susan Sontag

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
St. Augustine

“Don't tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.” Mohammed

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.” Frank Herbert

”Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

"Unusual travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God."
Kurt Vonnegut

“I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.” Bill Bryson

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
Mark Twain

“To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries.” Aldous Huxley

“A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from.” Lin Yutang

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see. The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country as a foreign land.”
Gilbert K. Chesterton

“A traveler. I love his title. A traveler is to be reverenced as such. His profession is the best symbol of our life. Going from - toward; it is the history of every one of us. It is a great art to saunter.”
Henry David Thoreau

"Traveling is almost like talking with those of other centuries."
René Descartes

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber

“ is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” Miriam Beard

“Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me.”
Sigmund Freud

"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not." Ralph Waldo Emerson

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” George Moore

“The wise man travels to discover himself.” James Russell Lowell

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

"He gave the impression that very many cities had rubbed him smooth." Graham Greene

"Through travel I first became aware of the outside world; it was through travel that I found my own introspective way into becoming a part of it." Eudora Welty

"We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." T.S. Elliot

"It is not down in any map; true places never are." Herman Melville

* * *

No doubt, you, the Astute Reader, noticed that the quotes funneled from the general to the specific, from the world at large to a single heart. And that’s how it is with travel, isn’t it? We sail off into the great unknown, learning about life via the “immersion method.” All our travels come full circle. All that we see, touch, taste, hear, experience and feel changes us.

I travel to be awed, humbled, educated, challenged, sated and awakened. This personal trek grows ever more rich and meaningful with the passing of the years. I journey to discover my self.

* * *


Blogger Snow Queen said...

How so very, very true. I am an Australian who has lived and worked in Poland and the UK. I have travelled to quite a number of places (not as many as I would like) as a tourist but it is not the same. I am constantly thinking about the places I have not explored and am determined to go to these places. In August I am off to live and work in Indonesia....and yes, that scares me like heck! But what scares me more is stagnating, so off I go...

Mon Apr 09, 02:08:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Oh, Your Highness, I bet you have some fascinating stories to tell!

Mon Apr 09, 08:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“A man travels the world over in search of what he needs, and returns home to find it.” George Moore

I like this quote. I love to travel. Sadly, due to circumstances, I'm not able to travel as much as I would like to. But what I like best about traveling, is how much better I like my life, when I come home to it.

You are a lucky man to have traveled so much. I want to go to Provence, Italy, Greece, India, anyplace really.

Mon Apr 09, 09:40:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I roamed the world in my mind...still do...long before I set foot on foreign shores. Traveling is a way of making dreams reality, no?

Mon Apr 09, 10:01:00 AM  
Blogger anna said...

That was a wonderful post and I share your views about and passion for travel. If I could or had the courage, it would be all I would do.

The quotes you selected are also wonderful. Some speak to me more than others, but all wonderful.

Mon Apr 09, 08:17:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I'm rather partial to Kurt Vonnegut's comment.

Why am I not surprised to find you all to be passionate travelers?

Mon Apr 09, 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger Fiona said...

I have been fortunate to travel far and wide but there are some special places I'll never forget:

Tibet - the intense blue of the sky, the molten gold of Everest at sunset, the hearts of the people

Bali - you can feel the energy tingle at the soles of your feet

Flossenbürg - the evil still permeates the air. I was shaking when I left there and it took me days to begin to recover, actually I don't think I ever will.

Tue Apr 10, 05:45:00 AM  
Blogger Twilight said...

I enjoyed this latest post a lot, Jonas. Thank you.

I'm a travel fan. I love the destination, but equally I love the feeling of movement, and the inbetween time of being neither here nor there. On a bus, train, plane, car or bicycle - it doesn't matter much - I still get that special feeling.

I'm English, I travelled in Europe and North Africa some, but now I live in the USA and have endless adventures before me. Not enough time to do it all !

Tue Apr 10, 10:41:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Ah, Fiona, I feel humbled in your presence.

Some places are meant to haunt. Some experiences offer lessons we should never forget.

Tue Apr 10, 06:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

No, there's never enough time to do it all, Ms. Twilight. Sigh.

Tue Apr 10, 06:55:00 PM  
Blogger Fiona said...

Ah, Jonas, nay nay :)

I think what troubled me the most was, I was living with my husband's family at the time, close by, and I learned then that his grandfather was in the SS and there was pride in their demeanour when they spoke of him. His mother also spoke of her childhood memories of watching the prisoners being marched past their home on the way to incarceration.

My husband strolled around that awful, evil place, I was almost crippled with terror at what I felt. The saying that one's blood runs cold - it certainly did that day.

I think that is when I realised how it could all have happened.

Tue Apr 10, 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

My visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam proved to be an unexpectedly emotional experience. It's not that my blood ran cold. Rather, I felt the cruelty and horror of war as an intensely personal experience. By the time I left the house, I was a complete mess.

Sadly, someone had spray-painted a swastika on the base of the statue of Anne Frank standing streetside.

Tue Apr 10, 07:47:00 PM  
Blogger Fiona said...

Just shaking my head Jonas....eeeks let's turn this started off in such a positive light!!!

I want to cruise the Nile and see the pyramids at Giza.

Tue Apr 10, 08:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

And I want to see the herds of wild horses on the Mongoliam Plain.

Tue Apr 10, 09:49:00 PM  
Blogger mist1 said...

Fabulous post with fabulous pictures.

I always have too many words for a single post and yet, at the end of a week, I find myself out of breath.

My heart is restless but still, does not want to be settled. I'm comfortable like this.

Wed Apr 11, 12:18:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Whatever state you're in, Mist1, it works for me.

Wed Apr 11, 01:47:00 AM  
Blogger Sally-Sal said...

Your posts are always beautiful, and I don't always know how to reply in a way that captures the eloquence with which you write.

Thank you for being you.

Wed Apr 11, 07:49:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Aw, shucks, Ms. made me blush!

Wed Apr 11, 08:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Roads said...

"It is not down in any map; true places never are." Herman Melville.

What a great quote, Jonas. And I thought of that when I found a new secret corner of my own city, yesterday evening.

Thu Apr 12, 04:09:00 AM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Ah, Roads. I hope you understand that I will try to secure your services as a tour guide in London...someday. I will ply you with victuals and wine!

Thu Apr 12, 03:32:00 PM  
Blogger Laurie Anne said...

Jonas, sometimes travel stimulates, satiates--this is true. However, I have felt that I have been outrunning something, myself maybe, and it is time to stay still...
Your thoughts?

Thu Apr 12, 06:00:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

I think being still, finding the quiet within yourself, is really important. I prefer to be quiet within myself at the garden at the Rodin Museum, or Vondel Park, while sitting on the black, jagged rocks at Acadia National Park, or watching the sun set whilst sipping a glass of wine in Venice.

The objective is the same...the location is negotiable.

Thu Apr 12, 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Cheesy said...

Dang I'm gonna miss Kurt.... Love to travel also.. I'm looking forward to June and Sept!!!

Sat Apr 14, 08:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jonas said...

Do tell, Ms. Cheese, what is on your agenda in June and September?

Sat Apr 14, 11:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traveling with Sharon Olds:

Resting on the crest of the mountains, one huge cloud with scalloped edges of blazing
evening light, we did not turn back, we stayed with it, even though we were far beyond what we knew, we rose into the grain of the cloud, even though we were
frightened, the air hollow, even though nothing grew there, even though it is a place from which no one has ever come back.

Fri Apr 17, 06:38:00 PM  

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