I believe in travel. I believe in loosely planned, open-minded travel to anywhere, at any time, that transcends mass tourism, that stimulates the imagination, and that challenges the assumptions and beliefs upon which we base our values.
I believe especially strongly in independent, freewheeling international travel that shakes my beliefs and perceptions to the core, that challenges my notion of the world and my place in it, and that forces me from my complacent shell to open my eyes, and think. The impressions and realizations gained usually cause me to not to abandon who I am and what I hold dear, but to evaluate my assumptions and ensure that my values are based on universal truths and not simply the parochial acceptance of that which I was taught as a child.
My preferred mode of travel is hitchhiking, and I have hitched rides on all the world’s continents. It offers a one to one connection with people who often do not come in contact with foreigners.
Digging below the surface of strange clothing, or food I would never put in my own mouth, I find that we are vastly more alike than different. Everyone, everywhere likes to laugh. Most people are curious about the world beyond their shores. Regrettably, we are all too easily swayed, vulnerable to media or politicians who exploit our worst natures. But the world is a glorious and beautiful place, and the more I experience of it, the more I want to preserve it.
Travel should also provide an internal, personal voyage as much as a change of scenery. I always learn something about myself, although not always something flattering.
I believe in the kind of travel that on occasion tempts me to question my sanity, like the night I hitchhiked with an Australian wild man along the Queensland coast. He careened his old station wagon down the narrow blacktop highway at about 85 miles an hour, then turned off the headlights to demonstrate, I suppose, that it could be done. Travel can be like that.
Travel should also be a pleasant experience that leaves little treasure chests of memories in my head, which I can open on occasion to be magically transported to another place and time. It could be a lush New Zealand meadow abutting the seaside cliffs, as the late afternoon sun nestles slowly down into ribbons of clouds. Or it could be waves of white beluga whales coursing along Hudson Bay near their calving grounds in the Churchill River. It could be a bumpy bus ride chatting with a pleasant pharmacist from Sierra Leone, or it could be a quiet park an hour’s drive away, with whispering spring flowers and a good book to fall into.
Travel is the greatest of all human endeavors, teaching us about the world and ourselves like nothing else can. It transports both my body and soul, and returns me a little better than when I left.
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