Coming from a family that worked for Eastern Airlines and kept maps around the house, Trips with family and friends have been some of the best experiences in my life. But what about traveling on my own? Am I’m missing out by going places without others around? No, not really.
I picked up a love of travel by nature AND nurture. I tell people I come from a family of traveling Irishmen: my great grandfather worked on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad; my grandfather was a milkman; my father worked in the airline business; and I’m working in the space business, carrying the family tradition to the next, most logical place.
I’m at my happiest traveling to new places. Seeing new environments, people, buildings, etc., is as much as (or more) an aesthetic experience for me than actual art, and beautiful art moves me as it imprints itself on my experience. On travel, my senses are more attuned to the world around me as I try to comprehend and integrate the new.
Left to myself, I can be quieter and more observant; however, being on my own, I’m more willing to ask the locals questions about things I don’t understand. And being in unfamiliar places on my own reduces a tension I don’t realize I have until I’m away from it: I’m not required to put up whatever facade I typically wear around people who know me. The habits of family, friendship, or work relations inevitably cause me to fall into particular modes of thought or speech. Meeting new people allows me to form new relationships and new habits. Left to myself, I’m more comfortable being myself. I can be more genuine about being nice (or whatever mood strikes me) because there are no expectations attached to my behavior. I can also withdraw into myself without fear of giving offense. I’m not expected to hold up my end of a long-running, familiar conversation. I can scribble in the journal, take notes, or hang back from the crowd without feeling unsocial or judged.
Paradoxically enough, I’m closer to my ideal self around strangers than with people who know me well. On travel, I’m listening, learning, and experiencing for myself, not putting on a performance for others. I guess travel is my idea of heaven. I can spend, wander, inquire, read, meditate, explore, savor, write, or shut down (or not) as I see fit and not worry that about being questioned or criticized for it.
I wonder why I feel I can’t be this way at home. That’s a blog of a different day.