Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Some Thoughs on Traveling

Backpacker 2
Originally uploaded by Mark Austria

On Assignment in Williamstown MA
25 days until I return to Grenada
13 days to Florida
7 days to NYC

I have been reading an excellent book called "Many Miles to Go" by Brian Tracy. The book chronicles the author's travels as a young man, in his early twenties from Vancouver Canada to South Africa and back over a period of two years. With limited research about the man, I have gleaned that Mr. Tracy has achieved  above average success in business and life. The gist is the lessons he and his mates discovered the hard way while enduring endless inconvience and trials, set the stage for success down the road of life. It seems the lessons are truly timeless, equally true for Aristotle back in the day, and for Brian and crew in the early1960's. No matter what century one travels in, the process is usually fraught with problems. While social evolution has brought us high speed rail, space travel and more capable navigation gear; frustration still thrives. With each advancement comes a new set of challenges. I'm certain a pilot sitting on the tarmac in the 1950's with his turbo prop surging had to complain about his lack of thrust as he watched a new fangled jet aircraft rock down the runway.  
 Onward.  It's a book about "The Call of the Open Road" and it got me to thinking about sailing compared to the backpacker type wanderlust or even RV'ing. After some more thought, I've decided it is a complicated topic and a very personal one. Can it really be compared? What is true traveling? Can a "traveling nurse" really be considered a "traveler" for example? Is there an objective definition? And why do people love to tell people they are in fact traveling or have traveled? Well John Steinbeck described a true traveler as someone who has the "urge to be someplace else." Well I find this unsatisfying, sorry John. But Steinbeck does have a point. And it is, a true traveler is one who wakes more mornings than not with a desire to set eye's upon a different mountain range, explore another cities attractions, or as I have written about, test a new countries public transportation system. As one ages, the mode of transportation or travel style surely will evolve. The picture I attached was taken in Thailand of a typical twenty something skulking around SE Asia. During my time in Thailand with the Coast Guard, I noticed a huge number of low budget travelers just like the girl pictured. The younger have a much higher tolerance for the rigors of hostel living, or just plume pitching a tent along the side of the road after a long days trek. But I would submit that later on in life, when the tolerance for what was endured in youth has diminished, it (the tolerance) is surely higher than one who decides late in life to head out on the road, without first testing the waters in youth. In other words, if you traveled as a minimalist while young, as an older goat, you'll fair better than one who never did travel.

So the reason why, in my humble opinion, that to get the definition of what traveling is, is important, because the following quote which I hold as a truism. It struck me and here it is:

The traveling life, though costly, is so enriching emotionally and intellectually that it does not, and cannot, last for long periods. A period of traveling usually leaves the traveler spent and fulfilled, quite prepared to accept the regularity of a quiet life in exchange for the demanding and exhausting uncertainty of the road.

I find this statement to be absolutely true. Last July, after not being in the US for over a year, I was ready for the "regularity of a quiet life." So does this make me a true traveler or just homesick? Who knows, all I know is I needed a break. And the fact that when cruising on a sailboat, your technically always home, because "home is where the boat is" makes things a little confusing. I think if I traveled outside the country for a full year without the boat, constantly living out of a suitcase, cut off from my stuff, I would have fatigued quickly.

It has come as a bit of a surprise, my enthusiasm, dare I say exuberance, at the thought of returning to Christa to sail again. I simply miss the boat. I'm bolstered by the notion that my trek back to the States should be one of the classic trade wind broad reaching runs. I look forward to the clear blue waters rushing past the rail. So I'm persuaded Steinbeck's axiom holds, even though it still is unsatisfying.

Capt Chris