Wednesday, February 19, 2014
An Old Traveler’s Ways (an essay)
These nights are a hundred years long for me, perhaps for any old travelers accustomed to being on the road, or in the sky. I lay awake and miserable till that hour every night arrives that I must be put to sleep; and grow older and more rickety waiting through the silent, stone-still hours of the night, forever and a day waiting and waiting, as the clock-strikes each hour, on the hour, to fall to sleep.
This is no life for old seasoned men like me of travel.
It was four years ago now, when I last traveled, when at last it was with something very like joy that I could afford to put the enemy to rest, and get on track again and travel, that year I went to Cape Horn (Chile), and Argentina, and then to Israel, with a new kind of birth of the old warrior spirit in me; it all sprang out of me like I was in the line of battle, back in Vietnam, back in ‘71.
This kind of thing sounds odd to many, and perhaps impossible to some, to travel at will, I have done it all my life, but there is no surprise in it for me when it comes around, at the time. On the contrary, it is a perfectly natural thing to do, for me.
I have traveled to fifty-six countries. It is—so I feel, quite within the probabilities of most people I know to do this, if indeed, they put heart and soul, and one third of their bank account money into it. And I figured it out early in life, it didn’t take a lot of money to travel, I was a modest-salaried person, professional later in my life, it takes some savings that is all, and the act of letting go of those savings, and planning.
I’m from Minnesota, a Midwestern boy. Often times when I travel, have traveled, as to India, or Egypt, or some far-off destination like Iceland, the first hours upon arrival, if not the first full day, my inners get a deep woodsy stillness, it nearly overcomes me: it is a kind of an excitement, strong enough to enable me to mark a destination and go directly to it, as in Egypt, I went right to the Pyramids when I got off the plane. As when I went to Lisbon in 1998 for the World’s Fair, within three hours off the plane I was walking the grounds of the Fair. The first time I was in Paris I hardly knew what I was doing, I spent $240-dollars on taxies in 24-hours, back in 1997. I was dazed with excitement, hardly audible the first hours, when directing the taxi to where I wanted to go. My first time in Rome, it was an uncanny kind of excitement; late night smells, dim lights cafes, restaurants; afternoon heat, all rising and pervading.
When you travel alone, everyone seemingly has a reproachful look, shadowy eyes, but it is not really so, people are just people and most folks never did me any harm. Even though a few tried in China, and Greece, and Germany, and Spain and Lisbon.
On another note, sometimes you get thinking, wondering who this or that person might be—or so I have—allowing the imagination to be magnified, but they are much like you and I: hospitable, kind, courteous, or so they were to me.