Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What we take with us, what we leave behind

It is more than exciting to go off to visit a new country for the first time, or to return to a country that one has come to know and love from years of experience. But why do we travel, and what do we hope to find when we get there? Sometimes we hope to "find ourselves" by changing our surroundings, that in a new place, freed from the constraints that define us at home, we can really emerge as our true selves. This is perhaps possible - it is true that by changing our external environment we can sometimes open up new possibilities for changing our internal one as well. On the other hand, "wherever you go, there you are" - wherever you might travel, no matter how the externals might change, you bring your baggage with you. So how to reflect on that baggage, to be fully aware of that baggage and experience it as the reality of the moment, and not just hope (to keep with the metaphor) that the airline loses it along the way?

When I travel, especially lately, I think about both what I might discover and what I am leaving behind. Usually and most significantly this means my family. This year, my older son, Ben (13) will be accompanying me to Bolivia, but my younger son, Eli (9), will be staying at home with mom and Ozzie (more on him later). The excitement of departure is tempered by the difficulty of the leaving. This is something that has gotten easier over time - it used to tear me apart, almost literally, to have to leave. But now I recognize that a necessary part of myself is in that other country, and I have to return, even if it is difficult. Not that my true self lies there, but an essential part of myself nonetheless.

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