Monthly Archives: September 2015

Why do we travel?

 

May your hands show mercy, and may your feet care for the green earth.

May your hands show mercy, and may your feet care for the green earth.

I have been on an adventure. I’ve just returned from the amazing country, China, and I am still in the midst of jet lag, wonder and awe, and gratitude.

When I put out my 2015 intentions¬† explore, creativity and expansiveness in January, I had no inkling that I would be visiting China. (Seriously, I thought I’d just read a few books on creativity.)

I have now returned and realized that I haven’t blogged for three weeks or longer. So now I want to process (always in my head and then in my writing) the question: Why do we travel? Why does it feel so…fulfilling?

For me, I think we travel to connect:

To open our hearts, minds and our spirits to other experiences, new sights, and to other people. We are all connected; we are all one.

We travel so that we can understand we are not the centre of the Universe and that is always a good reminder for all of us. Most of us live in our heads (thoughts are endless) and when we travel, it is the recognition that there is a world out there, and not in here (my mind).

We travel so that we can recognize that all things have an inherent beauty – even on a seemingly chaotic street in Beijing where the traffic lights are ignored, the sounds of non-stop horns is a cacophony that assaults the senses, and where cars, motorbikes, pedicabs and bicycles merge into each other with no sense of order (to our eyes), life flows. This is China.

Grid lock

We travel so that we can see the differences: one day we are on a wild, traffic grid-lock street in Shanghai or Beijing, and the next, we are observing the old man in traditional baggy garb gardening in the countryside. His straw hat protects his head from the hot sun, and large baskets sit beside him. Later, we spot him toting his baskets on a wooden pole that is strategically placed across his shoulders. It is a scene that is the epitome of rural China. Later, we visit a hutong (alleyways where families reside in low grey buildings – many are being torn down to make way for the new and brighter China…their words, not mine) where we visit a family who teach us a quick lesson in calligraphy (as if one could learn an ancient form of printing in an hour) and I cannot help but compare the hutong to the beautiful hotel where we stay, amongst other tall and grand skyscrapers. Strangely enough, I remember when I visited the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, a few years ago to see an exhibit of black and white photographs of Chinese hutongs. At the time these photos haunted me, and I now have to pinch myself when I realize that I am actually sitting in a room of an actual hutong in Beijing, China.

Gardening in the countryside

I travel so that I can meet people and to recognize that in spite of many differences, that we are all one. I kneel over to catch a glimpse of a baby; her mother smiles and nods at me when I tell her that her baby is so beautiful. She doesn’t understand my English, but she recognizes the loving energy of my intention.

Later, I am moved to tears when I watch family members carry an aging parent or grandparent up the steep, irregular steps of the many temples and pagodas. The family’s devotion and care to their elders evokes my own memories of our family carrying my mother and her wheelchair up the steps to my house on so many holiday occasions when we brought her home from the long-term care facility where she lived the last two years of her life. I am full of emotion when I remember those times. My sons and my nephews struggled under the weight of her chair, but they never complained. They did it with love. I know that the Chinese care for their aging parents with love and once again, I am assured that love is Universal – and it connects us all.

We travel to capture the moments that completely overwhelm our senses – the first time we glimpse man-made structures that are thousands of years old – so much imagination, so much creativity, so much industriousness (yes, apparently there is such a word: attention, hard work, energy, effort). Once again, I recognize that human beings are amazing creatures and have achieved such inspiring feats.

P1050553

And I travel to capture the beauty of another part of the world because it is a reminder to me that the Universe is one awesome, beautiful place (no matter where we live). In the words of Walt Whitman, “every cubic inch of space is a miracle.”

And I travel for the laughter that we share whenever I travel…with old friends or with new friends that I meet on my journey. The tiny, wizened old woman who tugged at my sleeve when I was climbing one of the many temples with steep stairs – she gestured that she wanted to have a photo taken with me. Our arms wrapped around each other, our smiles from ear to ear, her son snaps a photo of the two of us and she is so happy and full of joy that soon my group is laughing with her and before you know it, we all are swarming this tiny woman for another photo. Oh, the joy on all of our faces. What a moment. Her beautiful face, so full of joy, will stay with me forever.

The memory I have of her joyful face is the reason why I travel. That, and the memories of taking part in a 5:45 am morning Tai Chi class; those unforgettable early mornings are moments that I will savour.

We travel to explore within ourselves. To experience new things that open us up even more…we expand then. And we tap into our creative being, also. I begin to notice what is pinging within me. The bright reds and yellows adorn every pagoda and temple that we see and I love the colours. Me, who is a tried and true “blue girl” – I love, love, love the colour blue (because I love water!). And yet I am picking up all things red and yellow. (Stuff that normally I would never be drawn to.) And the calligraphy. Oh, my! I buy brushes because I am definitely going to pursue that beautiful art when I return to the land of non jet-lag.¬† And don’t get me started on the exquisite art in the museums – oh, how I would love to take painting lessons in that art form. But I’m fairly certain the Ming Dynasty tomb painters haven’t left us a how-to draw figures on a tomb’s wall, so I am out of luck, I think. (Wait a minute…there are lessons probably on You Tube.) And vendors everywhere sell their art in stalls, crammed with their paintings and drawings. (I’m in heaven!) Many of the vendors are artists or calligraphers, themselves, so watching them paint at a table in the stall is common practice. Some of my favourites are works drawn with black ink. (The many shades of grey and black fascinate me.)

Painter - no brush necessaryPainter uses hands and palms only, dipped in inkCalligraphy

Calligraphy prints drying out

Calligraphy prints drying out

In short, travel gives us the opportunity to explore openness; to explore our own possibilities; to explore growth.

We become bigger each time that we travel. I like to think of my spirit urging me to go and grow!

Grow! I imagine my self as a big, white aura that just expands more and more, each time that I open myself to new possibilities.

This is why I travel.