zen and the art of travel
“i travel not to go anywhere, but to go. i travel for travel’s sake. the great affair is to move.”
– robert louis stevenson
i don’t know much about traveling, or how to be zen about it, i’m not a world traveler and i’m terrible at packing. but i do know that traveling has been part of my life in one way or another since i learned what it was to say hello and goodbye. at first, i used to think my dad was a pilot. my school teachers thought he was a pilot too. i grew up in the newark airport and loved every minute of that smelly low ceiling’d environment where bags went around the carousel and people cried while hugging and thousands of people walked with intention, all on their way to or from somewhere. (my dad included). he came home with foreign coins jingling in his pockets. he came home with trinkets from other states, other countries, other time zones. he came home with icelandic sweaters, jade necklaces from tokyo, playing cards from florida, tshirts from hawaii. he came home jetlagged and grumpy. he came home to a family that went on without him and didn’t always understand his tactics when he was home. he was gone more than he was around. and in some ways, that worked for our family… simply because that was just how it was.
but typing it out now, as an adult and a parent and partner? it doesn’t sound very zen.
when i was my own adult, in a past life, i spent many many years on the road, traveling to different states for work. camping 200 days out of the year, meeting new faces, new crew, new job sites along the way. being welcomed into solar communities all across the US simply because we brought the power. (and because everyone loves a solar installer). but cold concrete basement floors don’t make for comfortable beds, and hotels don’t provide roots, even though off grid families are welcoming and sunshine makes everyone happy… we kept at it (sometimes most often always) even with our dogs in tow, and later with a toddler in tow as well.
but that wasn’t very zen either. because for as much as i was gone, i very much wanted to be home. to have roots. to settle and embrace a quieter life and to be able to provide that for my family as well.
the grass is always greener in a zen garden.
what i’m realizing now as i near forty… is that i can’t quite contain the crazy. it comes out sideways if i squelch it. the chaos comes whether i want it to or not. i just am who i am. and crazy isn’t “crazy” it’s just means that
and you know what? that’s ok. i’d be a mutant if i forced myself to be otherwise. so, instead of resisting, maybe every now and then i’ve got to give in to it. the more i tell myself i need to stay put and let these roots grow deep, the more something in the fiber of my body wants to argue with my brain. and it’s not because i don’t want what i have. it’s because traveling is something i just can’t shake. i don’t need to keep moving as i’ve done all my life! i can travel to satisfy that itch. it’s my aha! moment i guess.
so, to embrace this, what must i do? know this about myself and accept it as part of who i am? say outloud “hey guess what? sometimes i’m itchy and have to get away.” then what… do i allow myself this space? take my work and welcome opportunities when they arise? yes. and so it happens that i just got back from a pretty spontaneous weekend trip 2000 miles away to share some much needed time with a friend and shower her with love and friendship as she gets ready to welcome her new baby to the world. and you know what? it was exactly what i needed.
i guess what life all comes down to is the happy medium. the place that works best for everyone. balancing the scales so everyone gets what they need. with everything in moderation. a trip here and there. together. alone. a long drive to a city just for the visual stimulation. and an overall acceptance that the quirky habit of just getting in the car and ending up a few hours away doesn’t need explanation when those around you embrace you. a family that loves you regardless of your itchy ways… that sounds pretty zen to me.
right here right now… the grass is lush and green.
you know, there was that time in the middle of the night when i drove for an hour and didn’t see another living soul. i tucked you in, kissed your forehead, “hi mom” you whispered… and it was still a surprise to see me in the morning.
i do really love traveling. but i really love coming back home too.
“why do you go away? so that you can come back.
so that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors.
and the people there see you differently, too.
coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”
– terry pratchett