Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Why We Travel, Especially Now

The following is by Tom Cole, who produces the elegantly written Geographic Expeditions newsletter and catalog. In light of lay-offs, 401(k)'s that are more like 201(k)'s, and the lack of consumer confidence, this made me want to pack my bags.

"We hardly need tell you that the financial seas are a bit choppy. And if your boat has sprung a leak or two, the last thing you need is for us to tell you that spending a lot of dollars on a journey afar is necessarily a fine, what-the-heck thing to do. We have 401(k) plans, too. Yet we have some thoughts about travel in these times that you might find interesting.

"First, we figure that if we're going to spend money, we might as well enrich ourselves. And there's hardly a better path to enrichment than on the road. That's our theory, at least. Of course, we're merrily swimming in a sea of subjectivity. We're travelers. And if we couldn't visit places like the Galápagos, Tibet, Kenya, Patagonia, Mongolia, Costa Rica, etc., we'd get on a Greyhound and head for Nevada's Ruby Mountains, a little near-Arctic town in far northern Saskatchewan, New York City, or some such wondrous place. And since you're reading this newsletter, we assume you've got a more or less chronic hankering to hit the road, too.

"Second, we believe strongly that travel offers a magnificent return on investment. Big-screen plasma televisions are fine, and that gorgeous stainless-steel mega-refrigerator is dandy, but travel is an inexhaustible font of heartening memories. You know this well, from experience. We remember our first trip to Europe, our first sight of Mount Everest, that little guy in Cairo who led us around by the hand to meet his family, the Maasai tracker in Kenya whose gentle grace was so touching, the almost shockingly blue sky of Mongolia...Our memories are brilliantly textured and rich, and they will warm us on a cold, dreary night. (And the older we get, the warmer those memories become, as you may have noticed.)

"Third, travel is a nearly matchless way to bond with family and friends old and new. If we put a little effort into it, travel opens our hearts and minds, and draws us closer to our fellow humans. How many times have you heard a happy family remember "That time we went to..."?

"And fourth: travel, rain or shine, is the highest form of re-creation, as our guy Seamus O'Banion often says. As soon as you lock the door and get in the car to drive to the airport, you are who you want to be. And these days (not to be too facile about it), it's very re-creative and restorative to take a trip and create a person who is not (praise be) fixated on the 24-hour news cycle and the ups and downs of the Dow, but rather is open to the world and its immense ability to give joy to those who seek it."