[M2] On Travel
Moved, a meditation on American railroading
The road has been my home for years now, the education of a lifetime. And in its course, I’ve learned that to travel is not one-dimensional—it has layers of meaning.
First, there is the vacation: A long weekend away from work and the city, a family jaunt to a tropical locale, itineraries, box checking, the limits of time and information, where reality and expectations coalesce.
Then there is travel: The spontaneous road-trip, the solo camping, the fortnight European circuit—a sense that with only a few more curious steps the spirit will order you to leave behind what remains of familiar ground. And yet, real life loiters at the bookends, and now hums wrong in some elemental way.
Beyond, there is Travel: A long-term forfeiture of the predictable known—a surrender to time, place, persons, plans, instincts, and ideas the world over. Roused by unrelenting new and untold miracles, the infrastructure of the psyche loosens and your worldview swells into the world’s view, and collapses the false walls of the heart. When ‘Yes’ becomes a reflex that opens the door to another door to another door and you run through them to the Bavarian countryside to train Husky puppies as dogsled hounds.
Be that as it may, Travelers also exist at the edge of death and society, where a kinship is shared with the homeless, the ascetics, the lonely, the insane. We can reliably moor travel and vacation to privilege, but Travel has shades of gray. Some of the wisest souls whose paths crossed mine made long and motivated journeys from developing nations or those of strife, carting harrowing pasts, fleeing dysfunctional constraints. With a few loose bills to get out and get started, Traveling was a fail-safe and spiritual protest for healing—what Khrishnamurti spoke of so powerfully drove them by force: It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a sick society.
Nevertheless, to Travel is to, paradoxically, return home—home to True you, liberated from all that is not. Real life can’t help but kneel at Travel’s honorable feet in the face of its own unreality.
To be sure, in its most basic form, Travel is a universal intuition. It’s an intention, an attitude. In a prison it paces hopefully, locked away by the habitual rituals. Provided one’s life is fortunate enough to approximate first world concerns, one can breathe this mentality into vacations, travel, and real-life itself. But only a Travel experience can operationalize it.
For me? That moment was six years ago on my first train across America.