After I posted my recurring dream motif of “packing to go home,” I had a dream in which I was about to check-in to a hotel. My first response is that I’m seeing something in my life as at the beginning of the journey now, rather than the end. But it makes me wonder about the metaphor of traveling and life as a journey. I remember a headstone I saw once with a beautiful sailing ship carved on it and the words “Life is a Journey—Homeward Bound.” This idea that our time incarnate on this earth is a journey we’re taking away from home is not by any means a new one. The metaphor tends to resonate across cultures and time.
Being away from home for just a few days often feels like a pocket of time pulled out of my life. The house looks and feels the same, and I haven’t changed much, though maybe I got a few moments to relax. But when I’ve gone away for long periods, such as when my husband’s work took us to a different town for a couple of months, returning home had a much different feel. Everything looked familiar, but I had changed enough that I saw it from a different perspective.
It’s one of the luxuries of modern life that we can get on a plane and arrive a thousand miles away in just a few hours. Unlike the experience of walking or riding a horse or even driving a car, when we fly the landscape and weather, perhaps even the language spoken, can change abruptly. Seen as a metaphor, our perspectives can shift more rapidly than at any other time in history. We live in a time where many people change careers frequently, as opposed to centuries ago when a family business or an apprenticeship usually led to a life in one career. I have no way to prove it, but my hunch is that habits of thought were more rigid in past cultures than they are now, simply because we are so mobile.
It makes me wonder if we have a different sense of the life journey now as well. Certainly modern travel has led to interesting interpretations in movies, TV, and literature of purgatory as an endless wait for transportation to arrive, or a hell (or heaven) of watching someone else’s travel slides. But I wonder if we fundamentally see life differently. Do we conceive of life as a faster ride, even as our life expectancies extend? Are we more aware of the signposts along the way that show us how we’ve grown and learned? Or are we so numbed by the speed of modern life that the whole journey metaphor feels as outdated as the thought of loading up a wagon and walking across hundreds of miles to get to a new place?
I don’t have the answers, but as I’ve been traveling this weekend, I’ve been pondering the questions.

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1 thought on “Traveling”

  1. I wonder, too, if cultures have been incorporated to seem so much the same everywhere (with some exceptions, of course) and with everyone just looking at their various screens anyway, if most folks register that they are somewhere else. You see Starbucks and McDonalds signs in Toledo, Spain. Yes, it’s a journey, but whereas we travel more now, we also might be less perceptive about our environments. I don’t know, but it is thought-provoking.

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