Monday, July 13, 2009

Faraway Travel Is Your Story to Tell: A Challenge

Travel is used for many human purposes. On one hand, it provides psychic distraction, a romantic relief from our hum-drum, boring routines. Travel as distraction has a magical dimension. Travel can be used to escape, to transport oneself out of the drudgery of everyday life, work, and relationships. And this can be a good thing. But that’s not all there is to travel.

On the other hand, travel may be used for recreation. That is, it allows the traveler to re-create their own personhood. In this, the traveler departs from distraction and discovers something about him/her self.

Travel may be a spiritual trek, still fun, but different from the obligatory and routine escapes from dull routine. In fact, much travel literature reports a spiritual journey. Consider Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the pilgrimage of disparate seekers to the Saint’s grave, and the multitudinous stories they tell along the way. Or Dante’s travels through hell, purgatory and paradise. Or even Jonathan Swift’s fantastical Gulliver’s Travels.

When someone returns from a trip, that person becomes like a shaman or a priest, a bridge to another world which can heal or frighten. When it goes wrong, the report bores.

There are two ways to making an account of the journey. First, there is the report: a factual narrative of what happened, the facts of the trip accompanied by slide show or video showing the the person was actually there. That’s important. That they were actually there.

The other way, upon return, is to tell a story about the journey. A story, a tale, has enormous difference from a report. A story requires attention to the meaning of the journey and its transformative power. A report requires attendance upon facts. A report is the easier of the two. A story, in contrast, requires consciousness and an evolving spiritual life.

This blog is about story and travel. It is about journeying out to the “other” whether to some faraway land geographically or to some nether part of one’s own psyche. Actually, both fit together if one is to make up a story rather than merely to line up facts like dead rocks along the trail.

My intention is to tell stories every week. I hope they will delight, amuse, and instruct. I intend to do a few cliff hangers. That is, I will tell travel stories over time and say, “to be continued!”

And I want to make this blog an invitation to you: to share your comments about what I write. But also I ask you to contribute the blog’s lead story along with your photos or other artwork. Travel stories are a mutually encouraging dialogue, not a monologue. The stories are not, as in many reports, about ego. Stories transcend.

In closing this first attempt to define the content of this blog, I challenge its readers. Travel can be made easy by the commercial travel industry. Then no meaning is gained but only distraction. Real travel is tough, but rewarding. The root of the word, travel is “travail.” That doesn’t mean travel is not fun. But it does mean there is some self-work involved to get what’s the real story of the journey.

Look here for a travel story within a week. Let me know whether you are on board.

Russ Barnes

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