Monday, June 11, 2012

Thoughts on Traveling

My dad always says, "There's plenty of stuff to see in America!"

He doesn't really like traveling, or maybe it's just that he doesn't really like flying.  He especially doesn't like the idea of flying over the ocean.  So he never did it, until he was in his 50's, I think, and even then it was only to Hawaii.  He's been to Israel since, but given the option, I think he'd rather have gone to Hawaii again.  Or Alaska.  Or even to his beloved Idaho.

Here's the thing:  I never really understood why my dad sang America's praises so loudly, when there were adventures to be had in the lands of my inheritance.  What are the flat lands of America's breadbasket to the green hills of Ireland or the castles of England?  Who cares about wide open spaces, when you can listen to bagpipes in Scotland or run through the Black Forest of Germany?  There is so much to be said for the objects of history in those countries.  Plus, I can imagine standing in an English countryside, breathing in the air of my forbears and perhaps letting their words of prose and poetry float up from the ground and into my soul.  Or maybe, I would walk through the streets of Bremervorde and see the order and exactitude of the Stellings in the buildings that stood when they were alive.

It occurred to me a few years ago, however, that things don't have gravitas, people do.  A street, a building, a city, and a country carry the weight you place on them.  And what are things to people?  When friends publish pictures online of themselves standing in front of an ancient temple or a famous landmark, I find that I don't look at the temple or the landmark.  I look at my friend.  I almost have to remind myself to notice what's in the background.

If that's the case -- if people are more important than things -- then I understand why my dad is content to stay in America.  I actually tend to feel the same.  Do roads and buildings and monuments signify the qualities of the people I come from?  Sure.  Would I take a trip around the world to catch a glimpse of those qualities?  Of course.  But would I be happy to visit only the cities that my living loved ones call home?  Definitely.  America is my country.  My home.  It's full of just as much wonder as any other spot on this planet, and it's the place with the highest concentration of people I care about.

Perhaps I am writing this as a justification for the fact that I've never stepped foot on foreign soil, but I genuinely don't think so.  I think I just finally understand my dad.

Thing I'm thankful for: smoothies


Blogger Unknown said...

This is what I want my Masters dissertation to be about somehow. American identity and what exactly that means.

After all of my travels in Ireland and Scotland, the only time I felt connected with my ancestors was when we drove through the town that I knew one side of my family was from and I saw the ancient rocks and hills in the background. I thought, "Hey, they saw those same hills."

That said, I feel much more connected (more consistently) when I listen to Sacred Harp music, or drive through the countryside that my families have lived on with my windows down, or when learn the things that my grandmother can teach me like canning vegetables or making pickles.

7:16 PM  
Blogger Holly said...

I never really thought of traveling as a way to connect to my ancestors or do the building/ sights hoping. i travel to experience, to see how others live, and to expand my circle. The standing in front of temples is just a bonus. really though. traveling is a selfish pleasure of mine. i do it because it is part of who i am. i become restless and almost achy when i stay in one place too long. i need new places whether in america or elsewhere.

11:34 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

Having traveled the last couple weeks and experienced "foreign soil" I would have to say that traveling has many dimensions. Like you said, the best part is the human connections. New friends you meet on the road make the experience whole in a way that touring ancient temples cannot do. This can be true of traveling 10 miles down the street or traveling halfway around the world. Before I left for Europe I downloaded on my Kindle the book "An Introduction to the History of Western Europe" by James Harvey Robinson. I think that was one of my best ideas yet for the trip. It is so interesting to see the historical perspective of the countries I visit. It is a link from "old building" to "actual people" and gives my adventures more meaning. But in the end, it still comes back to who you enjoy the time with. I visited Lugano(southern Switzerland) by myself before meeting up with Brooke and it just wasn't that fun. The place was amazing and the views breathtaking, but without anyone to enjoy it with, it was just another city to check off a list of places I've been to.

7:49 AM  

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