Why Travel Matters
Travel has been at the heart of my life journey since I was old enough to “escape Wisconsin” (twist on an old tourism slogan). My first stop at age 17 was Germany, and the Wanderlust has never left me since.
Here’s the short list of why travel matters:
- Life is incredibly short. And precious. Like Socrates (see story below), I have no idea what happens to us after death, but I do know I want to make the most of my life. Travel helps me do this.
- Travel keeps our curiosity alive; it makes us vulnerable, keeps our hearts open, increases our compassion, and keeps us young. Or young-ish. At least not OLD. Not that old, anyway …
- I am fortunate to have lived through some rather difficult journeys in third world countries (e.g., being held hostage in the Western Sahara, escaping the 1989 Tienaman massacre in Beijing), and only later learned to relish the luxury of five-star resorts. Either way, travel keeps me grateful.
- One of my more emotionally difficult journeys was staying at the palatial Oberoi hotels in India and being accosted by hoards of emaciated people and animals every time we left the gilded gates. (We even saw people being maimed in traffic, with no one stopping to help.) The more I see of the world, the more I realize that life (this life, at least) is not equal, and certainly not fair. Travel humbles me.
- I don’t believe that suffering and loss necessarily make us stronger, but they do make us more compassionate human beings.
- What you first see and what is true are seldom the same thing. But if you dig deeply enough and long enough, the truth is always ready to be discovered.
- Even though I love physical travel, some of the greatest journeys in life occur at home. Right here, right now … wherever we might be.
The Timing of this Blog – Why Now?
It came down to this: either write this blog, or suffer my MIDLIFE CRISIS in silence.
Like any true travel junkie, I’ve lived and/or traveled on six continents thus far. And like any person reaching middle age, I cannot help but question, WHY? How do all these seemingly random travels add up to a life of purpose?
I guess I’m here because I’ve spent 44 years running around the planet trying to figure out why-the-heck I’m here, and it truly does feel like time is running out.
This blog was launched on June 21, 2012 — the Summer Solstice (usually), my mother-in-law’s birthday (always), and the longest day of year (always … not my dear M-I-L’s fault!).
June 21 is also the first day of the last six months of the world, which is forecast to end on December 21, 2012.
12/21/12 happens to be my 45th Birthday.
And even though I have my doubts about the Mayans and their predictions about the End-of-Time, this date will most certainly be the end-of-MY-world-as-I-know-it.
At the very least, it marks my official initiation into Cougardom.
This might not be so bad if I didn’t live in Orange County, where women ingest more Botox and silicone than calories, and where I feel practically bald with my shoulder length hair in lieu of those butt-length blonde extensions everyone else seems to wear. (OK, I used to have them too … sometimes being shallow can be fun!)
To make matters worse, I am childless (unless you count pets) and jobless (unless you count writing).
My Life Purpose remains frustratingly elusive. (More on that later.)
And yet … every time I travel, I remember how INCREDIBLY BLESSED I am.
I hope that by documenting some of these journeys here (and learning about YOURS), we will all make the most of what’s left of 2012.
The Story Behind this Blog’s Title (“No Wasted Journey”) *
You may recall that Socrates, the father of Western philosophy, was forced to poison himself by taking a fatal dose of hemlock at the end of his life. The reason? He was charged with heresy for not accepting the State Gods, and for “corrupting the young” (i.e., encouraging people to think for themselves).
Socrates did not fight his sentence. Yet as the poison was taking effect, he surprised even himself with his lack of fear about dying. He reasoned there are only two possibilities about death: It may be total extinction and loss of all sensation, or alternatively it might be a spiritual change, a migration of the soul to some other world.
He believed the first option would be like a deep, peaceful sleep. But if the second option were true, Socrates would get to discuss philosophy with all the great minds from other times in a spiritual afterlife: “No Wasted Journey, That!” he exclaimed when speculating what such a life after death might be like, even if it were in Hades.
“No Wasted Journey, That!”
The phrase resonates with me, as I hope it does with you. I believe every journey in life has a purpose**, whether we realize it at the time or not, and whether it involves travel or not.
* I am indebted to spiritual explorer and world traveler Huston Smith for directing me to this story (and also to my wise mother, who pointed me to his book). Huston considered, but ultimately rejected the title “No Wasted Journey” for his own memoir, Tales of Wonder: Adventures Chasing the Divine. Huston is now 94, and I hope that one day when he is enjoying heated debates with Socrates in the afterlife he will not mind my having used his rejected title.
** Note, I am NOT saying here that “Everthing happens for a reason.” (I HATE that phrase!) But I do believe that if we dig deeply enough, we can FIND a purpose in everything that happens. The distinction is subtle, but matters.
MORE ABOUT ME
“Wherever you go, there you are.” — Jon Kabat-Zinn
I can’t take credit for Zinn’s saying, but have done my best to prove it wrong(unsuccessfully!) by trying to run away from myself on six continents so far. The places I lingered longest include Germany, China, Japan, all over Africa, and Australia. (You can see a map of where I’ve been so far here.)
That’s me at 25 with Oscar the silverback in Zaire (Democratic Republic of the Congo now). The Aussie husband I acquired during the trip has been cropped out, even though he was admittedly better looking than either Oscar or I.
I’m sure the resulting eight-year detour in Australia was No Wasted Journey (but it’s taken me YEARS to accept this as true).
I soon gave up the camping adventures, and my darling current husband of the past seven years has managed to transform me into a somewhat higher maintenance traveler (albeit not by REAL Orange County standards — I still don’t travel in Louboutin stilettos, and actually really enjoy exotic cuisine beyond the typical Newport Beach slab of meat on a plate).
We’ve been traveling together for ten years now. Our all time favorite vacation spots include the wine country in Argentina, Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Macchu Picchu in Peru, St. Petersburg in Russia, and Bora Bora in Tahiti.
I think the beaches in Phukett would have made this list, but the Christmas tsunami of 2004 wiped out the resort we were planning to honeymoon at. We missed the storm by just a few hours … it seems I am blessed with uncanny good luck.
At least for now.
And if you’re alive and well enough to be reading this, SO ARE YOU.
Past Wasted Journeys?
My career path has been eclectic, to say the least. A few things I’ve tried so far: I am a former witch doctor (naturopath/herbalist) and a recovering attorney (BigLaw survivor and Harvard law escapee). I have written three movies and a novel — all of which I am hiding from public view until they get a decent polish. (Which sadly might take awhile … one of my more recent nicknames is Procrasti-Kate.)
I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
I’ve spent the past ten years “finding myself” in California. It’s the closest place to home I can imagine thus far (unless, of course, I really am “Star Seed” from another planet … but that’s a post for another day).
I have a complicated history with gurus.
I’m one of those
suckers seekers who studied the “Law of Attraction” and “The Secret” at least a decade before all those internet gurus popped up demanding thousands of dollars to show us all how to be “Wealthy, Wonderful and Wise” (not those exact words … hmmn, maybe I should trademark this? WW&W = my new brand??).
I slip into sarcasm pretty easily.
I’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to become WW&W. And I do feel all of those things — well, at least SOMETIMES.
At least on FakeBook.
My name, you ask?
Just call me Kate. (Katherine, in my passport.) Or maybe Kayte?? (I’ve heard that adding a “y” increases your vibration …) I’m really not sure what my guru name should be. (There’s that pesky sarcasm again …)
Kate Ladd if you need a last name. It really is my name. Not my complete, lawyer name. Not my alphabet-length maiden name. And not either of my married names either. But you can use it to find me on FB, if you’re so inclined.
One More Thing …
I’m hesitant to include this, but you should probably know that one of the reasons I have time to travel and blog is that I’m living with a chronic illness that effectively put an end to my legal career in 2009. I’ve had multiple sclerosis since I was 19, and for SO many years I wore my symptom free status as a badge of specialness: after all, I was strong enough to beat an “incurable” illness.
I believe that travel was one of the things that kept me well for so long. I didn’t crawl into a hole upon being diagnosed, but instead took a rigorous safari across Africa for several months and then studied natural medicine in Australia to find my own cure. To top it all, I finally went back to law school in my mid thirties — all with the MS safely hidden from the world’s view.
Don’t Wait for Life to Be Perfect Before You Take That Trip!
I no longer pretend to be special or brag that I’ve “overcome” MS. But I also no longer beat myself up when I do experience symptoms. If anything, these remind me to be incredibly grateful for everything I can still do. And even though some trips and itineraries are no longer practical, well planned travel continues to add to my life in so many ways.
I hope it will do the same for you.
So What am I Selling Here?
Nothing. Nada. (All those internet gurus would be so ashamed of me!)
But here is what I would like to achieve with this site: a community of fellow journeyors — whether you are a travel junkie like me, or whether your journeys are closer to home.
And that begins with your subscription and comments.
I hope you will join me in my travels for the next six months, and that we can have a really big party on December 21, 2012.
No matter where you’ll be, remember, NO JOURNEY IS WASTED …
June 21, 2012
Question: What journey(s) in your life have you once felt were “wasted” but you now realize helped shape you into exactly who you need to be today?