Born in Savannah, Georgia, and raised in South Carolina, I love the part of the world in which I have lived my entire life. Every spring I marvel at the glory of the magnificent azaleas, dogwoods and jasmine. Within a few miles of the house where I live now are enough activities and sites to keep me fascinated for a lifetime.
I cheer at Saturday afternoon football games with 80,000 other fans in a college football stadium. I watch the best golfers in the world as they play Amen Corner at the Augusta National. I have worshiped in the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Sunday morning, where a baby being dedicated was lifted up as Kunte Kinte was in Roots, with the pastor saying in a voice that sounded like God, “In this place, we know what a difference one child can make!” I have rafted down the Chatooga River which divides Georgia and South Carolina. I have watched the loggerhead hatchlings return to the Atlantic Ocean when I was walking early one morning on Folly Beach, on the coast of South Carolina. I have eaten mustard-based, ketchup-based and vinegar-based barbeque, all of them local. I love them all. I cherish my roots.
But the point of roots is to sustain a living thriving growing plant.
St. Augustine wrote, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
I was curious about those other pages, those other foods, those other flowers, other religions, even other sports. Was my brain or my soul so small that I wanted the rest of my life to be limited only to experiences identical to or similar to those I had already enjoyed? Intellectually, I knew this was a Big World, but how Big is it, really? How Big could I be?
About 25 years ago I set the goal of taking one good trip a year. I left the definition of “good trip” wide open, but somehow, since then, on a middle class salary and budget, I have kissed the Blarney Stone in Ireland, snorkeled off the coast of Puerto Rico, prayed at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, milked cows on a farm in Canada, walked through the rice fields of Bali, watched a bull fight in Spain, climbed Mayan and Incan ruins, witnessed a moon bow on the Isle of Iona (off the coast of Scotland), and celebrated my wife’s 40th birthday in Paris. I have crawled through deep caves in Kentucky and lived with Gypsies in Romania. I have been sprinkled reverently by my hosts in Thailand during their Songkran festival. I have wept at the remains of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp outside of Weimar, Germany. I have witnessed a pride of nine lions coming out of the bush at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Kenya. I have participated in a wedding in the Arab suburbs of Brussels, Belgium.
Mohammed said, “Don’t tell me how educated you are. Tell me how much you traveled.”
Travel has allowed me to spend time with my wife, with each of my two daughters, with my sons-in –law, with my grandson and with friends.
True traveling is not about frequent flyer miles. It is not even about tourism. Bill Bryson laments people who pay “large sums to be transported to some distant place and then shielded from it.”
“Serendipity” is a word first used by Horace Walpole in 1754. The concept comes from the tales of Three Princes of Serendip (published in 1557). These three princes set out on various quests, but engaged in unanticipated escapades along the way, adventures that were completely unexpected. Travelers encounter the unforeseen and are stretched, which is another word for growth. My physical body stopped getting taller when I was a young adult, but traveling has kept my mind and my spirit developing, expanding, and maturing.
I am a different person because I have traveled. I see differently. I listen more attentively. My taste buds and my sense of smell have developed. My mind is more elastic and my spirit has been nurtured.
I believe in travel.