An Ode to Travel

5.23.2010



If departure screens like the one above always provide you a rush of excitement and possibility... if the rumbling clackety-clack of suitcase wheels over cobblestones is music to your ears... if the accent of a foreign flight attendant somehow makes the safety instructions sound riveting... if a particular smell, from a bar of hotel soap, that post-rain smell, or a pungent dish instantly transports you to that restaurant in Barcelona, that beach in the Bay of Islands, or that park in Paris...

Then you too might have an addiction to travel. You're not alone.

As Amsterdam continues to unravel its many layers, I am continually amazed at the happiness that traveling brings. There's so much to see, so much knowledge to be gained, so many personal connections to be made. Even the down times (long line-ups, flight cancellations, getting lost, getting ripped off) are perfect for self-reflection. Yes, those times that suck inevitably make us think - Why did I ever leave the couch?

More often that not, the answer comes unexpectedly and very simply - on a train ride to Berlin... an early hour on a beach in Malaga... a roast beef sandwich in Amsterdam's Cafe Festina Lente... a quiet moment in the shade at the Marie de Medici fountain at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris... a Sam Roberts concert at NYC's Gramercy Theater that was better than U2 the night before... a conversation with an 87-year old woman who was a war survivor and whose family hid a Jewish family in south Holland ... and a hundred more moments that I could (and some I couldn't) print here. Each one reminding me how fortunate I am.


Alain de Botton's awesome book "The Art of Travel" sums up the the joy (and occasional misery) of travel far more eloquently than I ever could, and reading it even gives you a sense that there's some joy within that misery. It is full of philosophical, historical and social perspectives as to why we travel.

Ultimately, I think traveling provides us the opportunity to create way more spots of time than we can if we decide to just stay home. A quote from The Art of Travel:

There are in our existence spots of time,
That with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue...
That penetrates, enables us to mount,
When high, more high, and lifts us up when fallen.
Wordsworth


4 comments:

melissa said...

Couldn't agree with you more Jeff.

Although lately (likely in an effort to dampen my wanderlust) I've been wondering if travel is as important as state of mind. One person's exotic locale is another person's home right? So can we satiate our yearning for travel and adventure by viewing our own backyard (and the people in it) in a novel way?

I'm not convinced but I'm going to give it my best try. Right now, it's all I've got.

But in the meantime...more stories and pics please!

Jeff Funnekotter said...

Hey Melissa - what you say is exactly what de Botton says in one of his chapters... not always necessary, and sometimes worse, to leave home when all you need is to change perspective and appreciate the little things in your own backyard. But then again, that's just one chapter...

Beatriz said...

Yes, I agree travelling is one of the things that offers the most satisfaction. You submerge yourself in other cultures, in other worlds! But why do we retain these pleasant images in our minds? I think all memories we capture are influenced by Time. ¨Time¨ defines our emotions within a context. Is it not time which causes us to perceive different emotions in similar situations? We can develop different feelings in the same place: it can be raining or snowing, it can be empty or crowded…all these random circumstances will have an influence on our experience. We will feel something else, won´t we? It is kind of magical how our lives depend on so many factors. Beyond the beautiful picture we experience while travelling (in our adventure), we develop feelings and emotions, we fall back towards small details and people which are what makes our image special.
Jeff, you should visit Granada. Look for "el mirador de San Nicolás" where you can sit down at sunset. Then stare at "La Alhambra", and for sure you will add this magical view to your list next time.)

Jeff Funnekotter said...

Hola Bea - I didn't make it to Granada. I had every intention to go this weekend, but Malaga's late nights caught up to me... next time, I will be there for sure. Gracias for your comments