Thursday, December 27, 2012

Travel Sabbatical Insights, A Poem

The Holstee Manifesto.
As our transition back into "real life" approaches, it's natural for any extended traveler to begin having a personal philosophical debate about their experiences, trying to somehow articulate it into some deep meaningful expression before it all gets drowned out by the rat race of life all over again.   After all, doesn't it seem somewhat shallow if we didn't at least entertain the idea that we learned some life lessons from our travels rather than treating it as just one big vacation?

The following is an interesting excerpt from Notebooks by Albert Camus, a French writer and philosopher that spent his life addressing this conundrum between human need to seek inherent value and meaning in everything and the reality that we sometimes don't.  His philosophy of absurdism (no joke, look it up), may have made him cynical, but I appreciate this less romanticized explanation of the value of travel.
"What gives value to travel is fear.  It is a fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country...we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits.  This is the most obvious benefit of travel...This is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure.  There is no pleasure in traveling, and I look upon it more as an occasion for spiritual testing.  Pleasure takes us away from ourselves in the same way as distraction...Travel, brings us back to ourselves."
However, towards the end of our trip, my mind - under pressure - did begin racing with the inevitable (and usually unanswerable) heavy-hitting questions: what does this all mean, did I learn anything, did it change my life, etc.  Ironically, writing down any thoughts in complete sentences and paragraphs didn't always capture the correct sentiment without losing the simple meaning in all of the rambling.  I really didn't intend for a poem to develop (especially since I'm ignorant of any guidelines on how to write a proper one), but it seemed the most organic way to jot down my Travel Sabbatical insights. 

Certainly, I will cringe at my own sentimentality when I re-read this in the future.  Oh well, it's how I saw it at the moment.

Happy New Year everyone.

Travel Sabbatical Insights, A Poem

I want time to stand still,
To stay in perpetual freedom.
I want time to pass quickly,
To escape from this vagabond life. 

Routine, I can't recall.
Discipline, I left it all behind.

How ignorant I am.
How naive I've been.
In my world view.
My cocoon.

Ecuador.  You surprised me.
Jerusalem.  You enlightened me.
Buenos Aires.  You nourished me.
Chiang Mai.  You cast a spell on me.
Cambodia.  Your resilience inspired me.
Vietnam. Your beauty stunned me.
Istanbul.  Your grandeur seduced me.
Tangier. Your impenetrable facade mystified me.
The Balkans.  Your ongoing struggles challenged me.

Witness to history unfolding.
Sometimes repeating.
"Those who cannot remember the past
are condemned to repeat it."

Personal Freedoms.
Due Process.
No longer just words to me.

I've seen a lot.
Not seen enough.
Done a lot.
More to do. 
Met many.
But only a few.
Learned daily.
Experienced much.
Took less for granted.
Left with more appreciation.

How alive I feel.
For my mom who couldn't.
For my friend who didn't.

This was no vacation.
A career break.
A gap year.
A trip around the world.

Was it a life changer?  
Or a life staller? 
Only time will tell, but right now, 

I want time to stand still,
To feed my curiosity.
I want time to pass quickly,
To acknowledge that new perspective.

Only time will tell.
The insights from our
Travel Sabbatical.

-Akiko Kubo