We all have our reasons for wanting to go home. I am rarely ready to go home. I love to travel,but eventually I want to go home, but it takes some time. Once I am ready—once I am on the way—then I wish I was home at the touch of a button. This is particularly true of air travel which has become increasingly brutal. It used to be much more enjoyable. Those days are long gone Sally.
The most interesting part of the trip home was the Heathrow airport in London. That sounds crazy. It is crazy. What made it interesting was Shoheha. I hope I spelled her name right. She was a crazy Iranian woman we met in the airport. Chris and I were sitting in the airport waiting for our flight to begin. This is not usually the most pleasant task, but a book always makes it bearable. Shoheha was sitting next to us. She had a broken arm and was carrying a large carryon bag with the good arm. She asked me where I had purchased my cup of coffee and after I pointed out the kiosk nearby, she ambled off carrying her massive bag. Chris, being much smarter (and better) than me, told me to go and help her buy coffee. It would be impossible for her to carry the bag and coffee with one good arm. Dutifully, I got up to help. I offered to carry her bag while she bought coffee. Chris said a real gentleman would have bought her coffee. Right again. When I carried her bag I was astonished at the weight. It was HERAVY! Shoheha explained that she had been visiting her family in Iran and was going back home to Ottawa. Her mother—like mothers everywhere—insisted on filling her bag with Iranian culinary treats that you can’t get anywhere except from moms. And like all moms, she brooked no objections from her daughter. It did not matter how heavy the load or inconvenient the huge bag, Shoheha had no choice but to take it back home to her family who would no doubt be overjoyed at the treat bag. Easy for them to say.
We were stuck in Heathrow for an extra hour and half, while what the airline called a simple electronic problem that would be fixed soon” was dealt with. Assurances that the delay would be brief vaporized into the ether like such assurances usually do. Thankfully, we have a pleasant conversation with our new friend from Iran.
Naturally we missed our connecting flight in Toronto and managed to text our friend Garry who was picking us up, that we would be delayed while we waited for the next flight. We were very happy there was a next flight that day. A couple of hours late was no biggie. Our friend disconcertingly advised us he would wait for us in the bar. He might be intoxicated, but he would be there he assured us.
Annoyingly the flight to Winnipeg from Toronto varied between stifling hot and bone-chilling cold. No one would call it a pleasant flight.
We did arrive in time completely exhausted ready for home where, to quote Simon and Garfunkel, all our words would come back to us like emptiness in harmony. But we were filled with joy. It is always great to travel; it is always great to come home.
I love to travel. I think I inherited this from my mother and father. They loved to travel. I am like that and my children are like that. Chris got infected with it the first trip we ever made with my parents to Grand Forks North Dakota .
I often try to figure out why we love to travel. What is so special about it? I think travel is learning. We learn about new places and new people that we would not encounter back home.
Mark Kingwell that great philosopher from Toronto (yes we have them there) got it right. He said travel was like a drug, not just because it is addictive, but also because it alters our consciousness. It affects the brain. It can challenge our routine way of thinking and, as a result, it can change us. One is not the same person after a trip as before.
Alfred Lord Tennyson on the other hand got it backwards I think when he said, “I am a part of everything I meet.” I rather think that everything I meet is now a part of me. I carry a small part of Luzerne Switzerland, Kőln Germany, Strasbourg France, Amsterdam, Paris and London with me. And I will carry them with me forever. I think that makes me a better person. I know others will say, not good enough. They are right. Never good enough.
The essential lesson is to heed the wise words of that children’s book many of read when we first learned to read: “Stop, look, and listen.” That is what it is all about. If we do that, we will enjoy the travel for we will experience something we cannot experience back home. It is not there no matter how much we love our homes. As Robertson Davies said, “People are very very hungry for some kind of contact with a greater world than the one they can immediately perceive.” This is true in more than one sense.
We do not travel to see new things, or new places, or even new people. Henry Miller was correct when he said, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing.” We want to see things, places, and people differently than we did before. We want to change. We want to become better.
Steinbach has this crazy motto: ‘It’s worth the trip.’ Every place is worth the trip. If we see nothing worth seeing that does not mean that we went to the wrong places. It means we were not worth the trip. We did not bring our minds to the trip and then the trip is worthless. Then it is not worth the trip, but we have no one to blame but ourselves. Henry David Thoreau that great American thinker said, “It is not what you look at that matters, but what you see.”
Thoreau’s friend, Ralph Waldo Emerson, also a great thinker, said, “If we meet no gods, it is because we harbor none. If there is grandeur in you, you will find grandeur in porters and sweeps. He only is rightly immortal, to whom all things are immortal.”
To do that we have to be open to new experiences. Sometimes that is difficult. But we will be rewarded if we do. One of my favorite philosophers, Albert Camus, who haunted one of the cafés we passed by on trip in Paris, understood this well. He said, “All of a man’s life consists of the search for those few special images in the presence of which his soul first opened.” We want to open up our souls. That’s why we travel.
And once our souls are opened then we can truly see. Then we are able to appreciate what we have back home. It is special too. It also is a place of wonder. If we have learned something on the trip then we can bring that new knowledge to our old home. As T.S. Eliot wisely said,
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time
Then we are able to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, which to my view is what great art is all about. Finding the miraculous in the common. I hope I found this on this trip. I think I did. It was truly worth the trip. I can hardly wait for the next trip.