“On his eleventh revolution he switched off the air conditioning, opened up his window, and rested his elbow comfortable on the sill, driving with one hand.
There was nothing left to say.” - The Things They Carried
Life is full of strong emotions that we need to live with. As humans we have to find ways to process and deal with emotions and issues. These ways of dealing with emotion are as diverse as the human race itself. For me, travel is important. The Movement itself is what can make a difference.
We had left early in the morning when the sunlight was still asleep. We had hauled all our baggage down the long path leading back to our house with only one eye open. As the car pulled out of the driveway my head fell back onto the back cushion and back into sleep. I reawoke at a sain hour. There was already a sense of a change of emotion inside me. As I watched the trees fall on either side of me in a blur I feel released. I’m in a enclosed metal bubble with people I love moving a 60 miles per hour away from the places that are the root of my problems. I rested my head back against the grey suede seat.
I gazed out a slightly tinted window at a long sunrise in that distance. My source of negativity was falling rapidly behind the fast moving grey car. When an emotion or conflict is linked to a specific place there is, for me, a direct connection to moving farther away from it and feeling better. Throughout the long days of sitting, my sister singing in the backseat, early morning departures, late night arrivals, pit stops, fast food stops, and winding roads I’ve come to appreciate road trips as a release, a forced retreat. There’s not much you can do in a car so it's a given time for what you need. For me this combination of time with distance increasing from my problems makes it a healing time for reflection and growth. I look back at the sunrise and then back at my mother who is calmingly controlling the car then I look back out the window.
Travel is the root of calming and healing for me, but this can be expanded with the destination being healing as well. In this case the destination is a southern small town filled with love, good cooking, and family. In the heart of the south where time seems to move slower and people are good at showing something greater than the limited scope of your emotions. This destination was another layer of calming.
My mind is set to a framework of progress. Progress makes me happy. What is progress if not a kind of movement, like travel. These two differ because progress is in the end result while travel in the journey. Travel in necessary for progress because you must be in a different place than when you started. In contrast progress in not necessary for travel. I find healing in the travel that is too simple to be progress, but is enough to not be rest. To me travel in resting while doing something.
All travelers land somewhere. My family’s car rolled into the driveway at my grandparents house that night when the stars were shining through the clear night air like they never do in Philadelphia. We were at there in South Carolina. We stay with my grandparent when we are in South Carolina. My grandfather bought a good 30 acres of land and built a house on the edge of it. The rest of the land stretches out into forest. The next day and days that followed I wandered out in those areas.
The pines trees stretched out before me in long seemingly unending rows. The grounds was orange with pine needles and a mixture of dirt and sand. The air was warm with southern sunlight and a light breeze. It wrapped around me as I walked forward. My feet avoided the subtle dangers of thorn bushes and fire ant hills. The light bounced off leaves, bark, and the clouds themselves. Each time the light carried a piece of the color from where it had come. My feet drifted away from the “path” and in and out of the shadows, past trees and branches on the ground. I was surrounded by a changing environment, but also controlling the change in my own environment. This was the balance of progress. I was changing, generating new places as I moved. At the same time walking is second nature to us as humans so the mind can process as the body moves. Dozen of minutes passed as I wandered in these dense and beautiful forests.
Walking through the environment around me I felt like Norman Bowker in “The Things They Carried”. Slowly drifting around the lake telling himself the story that he wouldn’t tell anyone else. We both drifted for the sake of movement and nothing more that that. He would tell his story in his head and I would tell mine in mine. In his journey around the lake Norman noticed people, things, events happening in the environment around him. The travel in not a dream state where things in my immediate environment don’t affect me. I see the bark on tree. I still am aware of the beauty around me. Norman Bowker stopped for food and almost told the fast food attendant about his problem, but stopped short. As he drove around the lake he went over the stories and how they might play out in his head. I’m not a huge talker about how I’m doing. I won’t really run to anyone for unloading my problems. Instead I think I unload them to myself in travel. Or maybe my environment or maybe both.
I reached a clearing in the trees that was marked with a ring of sand and some dirt bike tracks. I breathed in and out slowly aware of all the cacophony life around me. I stood for a second still. In this second I felt my body woke from the hike and my mind wandering, but engaged. I was not anywhere, but I felt like I was somewhere. I can’t explain what happens in those moments. Epiphany, realization, cure, touch with divine. But the way I see it that doesn’t matter. What matters is the feeling of completion, wholeness and how it come about. The travel and movement. In this second I felt whole, but then turned around and started the journey back like Norman Bowker on his loops.