|The Idea: When we re-form the world in which we live to one of terrible sameness, it is no wonder we always ache to travel somewhere else.
When I was young, there was nothing I wanted to do more than travel around the world. I didn’t want to see cities, though. I wanted to visit wilderness, and especially places where man lived in peace with wilderness.
Since then, I’ve done a lot of traveling, and I have a lot of open invitations to visit and stay with people — many from people who only know me from my blog. I’ve always enjoyed traveling — the sheer movement, the discovery of someplace new, learning new things and meeting new people. But a strange thing has happened recently — I’ve lost my wanderlust. I still enjoy traveling, but if I couldn’t I wouldn’t miss it, and if I had so much wealth I could travel anywhere (or wouldn’t have to travel at all, ever), I would travel rarely, and then only to see people I love or think I would love if I met them. I guess that means I’m home, that I’ve found my place.
I’m still trying to understand this. A big part of it is this blog. Once you’ve found your audience as a blogger it’s pretty hard to feel lonely — this remarkable technology has allowed me to ‘meet’ and converse with thousands of people I wouldn’t have met otherwise — kindred spirits, people with diverse lives and passions and ways of thinking. Although I don’t pretend the experience is as rich as making a new friend in person, the fact that online communities are self-selecting means you get past mere acquaintanceship faster, and don’t have to put up with people who are only there because they have to be, or because they want something from you, the way you do in ‘real’ life.
When I talk to someone who’s spent their whole life in some exotic place I’ve never visited I learn much more from their deep knowledge of that place and what happens there, than I could ever hope to learn from a quick visit there, what I described in my recent poem as ‘merely skimming across the surface’ of that place, not really a part of it at all, not really there.
Two recent travelogues have really brought this home to me. The first was one about bicycling vacations in the Alps. These, I was told, are brilliantly organized for you: Your itinerary is scheduled so the distance you must cover is exhilarating without being exhausting. Reservations are made at both your lunch restaurant and dinner/overnight stop locations, and you can even have your bags sent ahead so they will be waiting for you. Huge elevators inside mountains spare you the most onerous uphill cycling. The scenery, of course, is ever-changing and astonishing. And your vacation is almost entirely outdoors, in fresh air, getting exercise. A vacation that’s good for you.
If I were to have to go on a vacation, this is what I would choose. But the reason has almost nothing to do with what I’ve just described. What attracts me to it most is the camaraderie of others, the chance to meet and talk in the evenings over a beer with others who just happen to have chosen this same destination. And why do I need to fly to Switzerland to do that when I can have a Skype conversation (and a virtual Klosterbru) with someone in Switzerland anytime, someone who, by reading his/her blog, I know would probably be more interesting to talk to than the people I meet serendipitously in the Gasthaus?
The other travelogue was Michael Palin’s PBS journal from his trip to Chile — unbelievably rugged scenery, featuring a train ride across the Atacama desert (which has never seen rain) and the Altiplano (so high that you can faint from lack of oxygen, which unfortunately the train operators can no longer afford to provide), where altitude sickness is still treated the traditional way — with coca leaf tea. Fascinating and stunning to watch, but why would you want to go there, unless you could actually speak the language and stay with the locals?
But perhaps the real reason I no longer have the itch to travel is that my home, my place is always changing, always mysterious. The wildlife on the pond and by the bird-feeder is always in flux. The night sounds change, from the spring peepers to the duck-mimicking wood frogs to the bullfrogs and owls and coyotes. Every square foot of wildland is its own ecosystem, with a hundred plants and creatures you can’t see until you get close, each changing with the seasons. Especially at this time of year, there is new life everywhere, from the purple wildflowers growing where the nocturnal skunks have dug up the grass to rid the soil of the non-native Japanese beetle grubs, to the just-hatched fuzzy yellow goslings. And if I could ever exhaust my learning and discoveries about this myriad of life, I could simply buy a microscope and, zooming in still closer, discover yet another, even stranger wilderness hidden below the threshold of our feeble human vision.
I wonder whether the hunger of so many people to travel stems from the lack of biodiversity where they live — the terrible sameness of life and terrain, the absence of mystery. I suspect that even for many as lucky as I to live in a place with a profusion of undiscovered life, their sensibilities and imaginations have been so stunted that they cannot see it.
We are just like the mad scientists and philosophers with their space probes and SETI projects desperately seeking intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, when all along it is all around us, offering us important lessons we can no longer hear. Showing us, in vain, the way home.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 80 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
Community-Based Resilience Framework (Poster)
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
What Happened When the Oil Ran Out
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
If We Had a Better Story
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Systems Thinking & Complexity 101
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
The Other Extinction (Short Story)
Disruption (Short Story)
A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
The Wild Man (Short Story)
Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
Distracted (Short Story)
Worse, Still (Poem)
A Conversation (Short Story)
Farewell to Albion (Poem)
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