I Guess That Means I’m Home

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 Klosterbr”u) 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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10 Responses to I Guess That Means I’m Home

  1. Richard says:

    Your mention of SETI reminded me of the SETI@home idea: since bloggers are so diverse and so distributed, they too almost remove the necessity for travel. Why go coolhunting when someone else will do it for you, for free?

  2. dave davison says:

    Credit Bucky Fuller with the Dymaxion map leading today’s blog. His vision of SpaceShip Earth has stimulated consideration of the whole planet as our home – reinforced by both microecological and GAIA macroecological visions of our “habitat”.

  3. Found my way here today via a blog from the Philippines. It’s truly a wonderful world,Mr Pollard. Now if only we are able to save the world from ourselves.

  4. Indigo says:

    The thing I still love about traveling is the way it helps me to see more clearly the very sorts of things I might over look at home. I pay attention more when nothing is where I expect it to be. Sometimes I can have that attentiveness at home, and that is wonderful, but my focus is sharpened by new environments. Also, the people around me, fellow travelers, are having that experience of heightened perception too so we get to share a deeper level of “presence” with each other than is normally available to me with the locals in my home environment. Most of the people around me are living on auto-pilot unless something truly horrific or magnificent occurs. The everyday miracles are not on the radar, and so I have no one to share them with even when I notice myself. The blog world is wonderful for connecting with a worldwide populace, but there is still a certain dull haze over it for me. It doesn’t give me the power of presence and soulful connection I get taking a train ride through India with someone from Britain I just met.

  5. Susan Hales says:

    Went to a physical place today that is in many ways the equivalent of what you describe your blog world to be — Seaside, Florida — while an ongoing experiment, it offers that camraderie, an intentional community that has become one of the most well known, perhaps, but like the blog world, you have to put yourself into it to experience and know what the difference is…I’d read about Seaside for years, but had never actually been there today — in 30 minutes I knew what all the talk was about. Now if I could figure out how to use my blog to recreate the Seaside concept in my own neighborhood, I’d (we’d)have something similar I suppose to what you have, and more.

  6. Lou says:

    The hunger to travel doesn’t necessarily stem from boredom with one’s surroundings… Last year, I left a city that I found fascinating and that I could have explored for many more years, simply because I needed to go to a totally different city to gain some perspective on the first one. That’s the greatest thing about traveling: you only really understand where you live when you go live somewhere else…

  7. Rob Paterson says:

    I am with you DaveHome is so fascinating – especially with the way that the seasons move everything. Like you though I have done a lot of travelling and I have lived for extended periods in may places that are different from my native culture – so maybe my appetite for travel has been filled.You and I are of an age. Maybe we should travel when we are young

  8. Trix says:

    Indeedy! Having travelled the world, Northern Ontario is my Petticoat Junction! I loved your link to your place; there is so much great information out there for anyone who wants to do their own little bit, and a good place for resources is ontarionature.org.

  9. Mike says:

    Wow. Although it makes sense in theory, I never imagined that wanderlust actually could cool. I’ve been driven by the urge to travel for so long that I don’t know if I’d feel content in its absence, or empty!

  10. Derek says:

    I used to go camping when I lived in the city. After years of apartment life, we finally built a house out in the woods. Now we live camping (and the kids don’t know any better, having grown up here their whole lives so far). It is funny to see other people drive out from town and park on the road to our house and wander around to “get back to nature”.

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