Five Reasons to Travel… Wandering Through Time and Place

A whole world waits for us outside our door... including this waterfall in Milford Sound, New Zealand.

A whole world waits for us outside our door… including this waterfall in Milford Sound, New Zealand.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  Mark Twain

“Not all those who wander are lost.”  J. R. Tolkien

I love wandering, whether it is out my back door or across the world. And, I enjoy sharing my adventures; it is one of the reasons I write this blog. But there’s another: I believe travel enriches our lives. I hope in some small way to encourage those who read my blogs to “explore, dream and discover…”

Maneuvering a 60 foot long Narrow Boat through the Trent and Mersey Canal in England two summers ago was a very different but equally rewarding experience.

Wandering can take many forms. Two summers ago Peggy and I along with Peggy’s sister Jane and husband Jim spent a week maneuvering a 60 foot long Narrow Boat through the Trent and Mersey Canal in England. It was challenging at first, but we quickly adjusted to the beauty and peace of the trip, not to mention the great English pubs.

Here are my top five reasons for travel:

1. Life is an adventure. There is a big world out there to explore. Seeing it on TV or in the movies is one thing. Getting out and experiencing it is totally different. You can watch a TV special about a person walking down a jungle trail and seeing a python in a tree, or, you can walk down a jungle trail and see the python yourself. The first experience you will forget tomorrow; the second you will remember for a lifetime.

 “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”  Helen Keller

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  Jawaharlal Nehru

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.” Pat Conroy

There are millions of beautiful photos of the Greek Island of Santorini, but none can match going there.

Travel can be to exotic locations like Santorini…

One doesn't have to travel far. We all have places nearby where we can escape to for a day or a week. This is on the Oregon Coast three hours away from my home.

Or close to home. We all have places nearby where we can escape to for a day or a week. This is on the Oregon Coast three hours away from where I live.

2. We all need to escape on occasion. Life can be hectic. We get lost in our day-to-day existence. Traveling breaks the chain. It recharges our batteries. Even planning a trip eases the tedium by giving us something to dream about.

“One of the gladdest moments of human life is the departure upon a distant journey into unknown lands. Shaking off with one mighty effort the fetters of habit, the leaden weight of routine, the cloak of many cares and the slavery of home, man feels once more happy.”  Richard Burton

As a 22-year old, I spent two years living in West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Living in and learning about another culture expands our view of the world.

As a 22-year old, I spent two years in West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer. The experience had a significant impact on my life and taught me to appreciate what other cultures have to offer. Here I am admiring a Kpelle bridge.

Learning about other cultures teaches us more about our own. The Peace Corps experience helped me understand that even my father had a slightly different culture than I did. He is in his 80s in this photo.

Learning about other cultures helped me understand my own better. It even provided me with new insights about my father, Herb Mekemson. This photo was taken of him in his 80s. (I believe it was taken by my niece, Marian Heintz, who now works as a master potter in Tennessee.)

3. Travel challenges and changes our understanding of the world. Not only do we learn about other places and other cultures, we learn more about our own. When I returned from serving for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa, I realized that even my father had a slightly different culture than mine. He had been raised in a different time, had different experiences, and even had different beliefs. There was much I could learn from him, just as I did from the Kpelle people of Liberia.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”  Mark Twain

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”  St. Augustine

 “The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.”  G.K. Chesterton

For my 60th Birthday, I chose to backpack 360 miles from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney in California. Whitney is behind me in the photo.

To celebrate my 60th Birthday, I chose to backpack 360 miles from Lake Tahoe to Mt. Whitney in California. Whitney is behind me in the photo. People who had been backpacking with me for over 30 years joined me along the route.

The perspective from the top of the 14,505 foot (4,421 meters) Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. Over the years I have taken many people to the top of this magnificent mountain including my son, Tony, and my nephew Jay, who was 16 at the time.

The perspective from the top of the 14,505 foot (4,421 meters) Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. I have taken many people to the top of this magnificent mountain including my wife, Peggy, son, Tony, and my nephew Jay, who was 16 at the time.

4. Travel can also change how we view ourselves and how we perceive the world around us. For 20 years of my life, I took people on hundred mile backpack trips. Few of these people had ever backpacked 100 miles and some had never backpacked at all. The sheer physical challenge of hiking up and over mountains for nine days while dealing with weather, insects and wildlife created an adventure they would never forget. For many, it was a life-altering event. It changed their perspective of who they were and what they could accomplish. Any journey can change how you view yourself and the world… but you have to be open to learn from the experience.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”  Henry Miller

“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.”  Bill Bryson

A towering Redwood on the north coast of California.

A towering Redwood on the north coast of California.

A towering cathedral in Florence Italy.

A towering cathedral in Florence, Italy.

5. Great beauty exists in the world. Whether it is a towering redwood on the northern coast of California or a towering cathedral in Florence, beauty is found wherever you wander. It can be as small as a raindrop on a flower, or as large as a waterfall cascading into Milford Sound, New Zealand. One doesn’t have to travel thousands of miles to find this beauty, however. It waits outside your door. Be like Bilbo Baggins: grab your pack and go charging after Gandalf. Treasures beyond your imagination await you.

“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”  Andre Gide

“Without new experiences, something inside of us sleeps. The sleeper must awaken.”  Frank Herbert

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I took the one less traveled by.” Robert Frost

There are always delightful surprises waiting for you when you wander. I took this photo of Four Q lakes in the Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe for its reflection. Only after the photo was processed did I see the mask.

There are always delightful surprises waiting for us when we wander. I took this photo of Four Q Lakes in the Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe for its reflection. Only after the photo was processed did I see the mask.

I have spent 70 years traveling the road “less travelled by.” And I shall continue. No regrets.

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.” Jack Kerouac

8 comments on “Five Reasons to Travel… Wandering Through Time and Place

  1. While I may not have done alot of traveling in the past 25 years you can best believe that is soon to change. From reading your blog I see how important it is we get out there and connect with others on this globe. So many beautiful and interesting things I am not quite sure where to start.. ok, first need to complete this new orleans move then Hmm, maybe Italy…

  2. Sir, you have enjoyed wonderful travels and I am happy for you and Peggy. Still, I am relatively sure the phrase “travels of a lifetime” would be foreign here as an end can never be attained for you. The photos here are also so impressive… it makes me appreciate the sights, sounds and smells you must have absorbed…

    • I come from a family of wanderers, Koji. It’s in my blood… or more likely DNA. I have been very fortunate to see the things I have seen and to have had the experiences that go along with traveling.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s