What’s the difference between traveling by train/airplane compared to traveling a trip by car/bicycle? Psychologically there’s an extreme differnce; and that’s what I’m thinking about this morning.
“A good traveler has no fixed plans,
and is not intent on arriving.”
– Lao Tzu
For just a moment, allow me a little hyperbolic generalization.
- If you purchase airline tickets or a train ticket you commit to a specific route and schedule. You pre-determine before leaving the house what you shall see and make it difficult to see anything en route in detail. The thrust of your trip is on the destination. Clearly, Lao Tzu wasn’t made for airline schedules or cruise ships! And I think you realize that what we’re talking about is the difference between the “traveler” and the “tourist.”
- Auto or RV travel are altogether different experiences. A route plan doesn’t necessarily determine anything. It can change at any time. In fact, a route plan can be nothing more than a suggestion than a limitation — depending on your state of mind. Come to think of it, maybe state-of-mind is the travelers biggest asset.
Why are you traveling? Or, are you traveling at all. Perhaps you’re a tourist and not a traveler.
This trip you are taking, is it all about the destination? Do you want to see something along the way? Do you want to see what’s there? Do you want to meet new people and learn new ways of living? Or do you want to see what you already know about? Do you want to refresh acquaintance with characters who are familiar? There is a difference between being a traveler and a tourist.
We are here for at least 4 months but we are still traveling. I dare say that when we turned the nose of Journey westward on Ramsey Avenue some 5+ years ago we set off on a Lao Tsu odyssey with no fixed plans and no intended destination.
Living 2600 years ago Lao Tzu didn’t have the choice of traveling by airplane. People living then didn’t move from place to place the way they do today. In feudal China I don’t think very many people were allowed to moved around very much at all.
The basics of human behavior haven’t changed in 2600 years – or a lot longer than that. We have the same mammalian brain that Lao had, it’s just that we think we’re a lot more sophisticated today than they were then. (but then don’t people always think that they are better than those who went before them?) What has changed is not us; it’s the opportunity to travel, the potentiality of being different than we were born to be. Along with opportunity we’ve all been exposed to massive amounts of conditioning: all that advertising on TV you know. There are all these things we’ve been told we need; and all these fictional characters we think we know from TV; and all the destinations that the rich travel to that we’ve learned to lust after. The subliminal result is that we convince ourselves that there are all these places we need to go, and things we need to do while there. The result: a lot of us are tourists who don’t travel. Destination — fulfilling those promises we’ve made to ourselves about all the things we need to see and do — destination has become all important.
One of the great joys the RV lifestyle brings to me in particular — I’m saying this after a lifetime of goal orientation — has been breaking out of the destination mold. It’s possible to travel — in Lao Tsu’s sense — for the purpose of meeting people & experiencing the journey, and who cares whether there is a destination at all. All of which sounds weird from a guy who has issues being around too many people for too long, but that doesn’t make it any the less true.
What we get out of RV’ing isn’t Yet, it’s true. Our personal enjoyment in RV’ing is not going to tourist destinations, nor amusement parks; we don’t visit many museums or historic sites. In most cases the ones we care about we saw decades ago. And the ones we don’t care about… well, why bother? Most of the time we’re quite happy finding ourselves in a new place and getting to know people we’d never have met otherwise. It’s all about people. It’s all about the way they live; what they value; how they intereact — how being where they are has made them into who they became!
“The traveler was active;
he went strenuously in search of people,
of adventure, of experience.
The tourist is passive;
he expects interesting things to happen to him.
He goes “sight-seeing.”
– Daniel J. Boorstin
I’ve been thinking about this aversion I have to large groups of people. One factor has risen to the fore, and I suspect it has a lot to do with why we do what we do. After all, in our early years I think I was a lot more sociable than I have become.
As we motor around the country I’m often struck by how many huge churches we see; specially in the South — otherwise known as the Bible Belt. I know I’m a maverick but one of the lessons I learned during 25 years as a bi-vocational pastor is that when you look at the New Testament record of Jesus life you find a few occasions where Jesus taught large groups of people, but more of the specific interactions recorded about Jesus concern him teaching one-on-one or in small groups. It’s almost as if the message the unspoken message about how to live your life is : “more time with fewer people” And perhaps that’s why I am the way I am. I embraced mentors and mentoring in my youth. I focussed on exerting greater influence on a few folks rather than minimal influence upon many. There were times that I’d speak in front of hundreds, but those were not the times I lived for: I lived for one-on-one interactions.
Now as an RV’er I find that is how I continue living. We have a few friends and a lot of acquaintances. We don’t get involved with a lot of things, but the ones we do get involved in we usually get involved passionately. And we pay attention to what’s going on around us. How do people live? What do they do? What do they value? None of these things involve train schedules. Boarding times don’t enter into my awareness. When we’re ready we move, when we aren’t we stay in one place. Sometimes we commit to a departure time and almost inevitably we find that the date becomes an annoyance. We’ve either planned too long a stay or too short; either we have learned what we want and are ready to move on, or we discovered more to learn and we wish we’d planned a longer visit. Intention on destination always seems to get in the way.
I wonder how you plan your travels? Or whether you travel at all. Perhaps at your point in time in life you’re still a tourist, and there are things you need to see/do. Whichever it might be — safe journey!