Friday, June 4, 2010

The Hub of Aging with Grace: Travel

It’s a well-known fact that one of the perks to getting older is that you learn to stop wasting time on the things that don’t matter. In relationships – with friends and lovers alike – you start getting really clear on what it is you value, which is often not at all what you once thought. And then there are the “dealbreakers” – the indelicate term that speaks for itself – that tend to come with experience, and sometimes offer the most surprise of all.

I have two such “dealbreakers” that I’ve long operated by but only recently become aware of: a lack of curiosity in a person’s nature, and a lack of interest in travel.

Now, when I say travel, I mean it in more ways than one: travel to, or curiosity about, other countries and cultures; travel through different perspectives or ways of looking at life. We “travel” when we read a good book or immerse ourselves in a challenge that stretches us to see beyond our usual framework. And we “travel” when we smoke some really good, organic weed (forget about the stereotypical “stoner high” – I’m talking about weed the way it is meant to be used at its best, as a sacrament).

Whatever your fancy, it occurs to me that a commitment to travel, in some form, may just be the ticket we all need to aging with grace. Many of us know what it means to become “set in our ways”, and travel seems to offer a good antidote to that. But what I’m probing at here goes even deeper. If we accept how easy it can be to become embedded in our later years, we only have to ask ourselves how this might impede the growth and fruition of our character. Is this where we begin to shrivel? If we are dis-inclined to move, to “travel”, physically or otherwise, how does this ripple out into our experience of getting older?

Because it seems to me that as the years wear on, we have a depth of perception available to us that we never had before – entire new worlds open up, that when we’re young, we miss, because we’re too busy being a tourist.

Every time I look at myself in the mirror lately, I am aware of two opposing forces at work: a drive to fight the inevitable process I am bearing witness to, and a drive to connect; to dive headfirst into the life that beckons: a presence no longer concerned with mis-placed idealism. A place where the heart reigns, the soul compels and a hunger for substance prevails.

The way I see it, a commitment to travel, in the true sense of the word, means a commitment to exploring other ways of life unfamiliar to us; to be willing to abandon everything we know, and look at ourselves from an entirely different light.


Anonymous said...

Travel as a deal-breaker? Exactly. Having spent time in India, Mexico, Costa Rica, Cuba, France, Italy, Switzerland and a lot of time in China, I don't think I could "survive" without curiosity in others and the cultural worlds those others live in.

Jesse Mendes said...

Thanks, Robert -- obviously I couldn't agree more! Jesse