Five years ago when about to begin on a three month adventure travel journey through Southeast Asia I was in a plane reading the Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The book itself is a travel story although through time instead of the more traditional trip I was about to commence. The author masterfully inputted a poem at the beginning of the book called “Love after Love” by Derek Walcott. The first two stanzas were especially poignant.
The Time will come
When, with elation,
You will greet yourself arriving
At your own door, in your own mirror,
And each will smile at the other’s welcome,
And say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
To itself, to the stranger who has loved you
This was a very fitting poem for a person who was leaving for a three month adventure trip across the world by himself and for any traveler out to embark on a journey. I felt a little melancholic at the thought that it would be three months till I greeted myself in my own mirror again, which in the poem symbolizes all that is familiar like family and friends. I wondered what would I see when I looked at myself in that mirror again. Would this trip change me? Would I be a stranger when I looked in that mirror? What if something horrible happened and never did get a chance to look at that mirror?
There is always a little bit of sadness mixed with fear when one sets out on the great unknown. At the same time, I was tremendously excited at the prospect of visiting five new countries. This is a paradox of traveling. Travelers always miss the coziness of friends and family while at the same time they savor the new experiences of a new place that they have never been to.
This may help explain why only 20% of the US population owns a passport. The pull of familiarity and home in our country outweighs the call to adventure. “Home is where the heart is” as the saying goes.
It was not always this way in our country. The frontier spirit moved our country from its initial thirteen colonies to form a nation from Atlantic to Pacific. Now that our country has fulfilled its “manifest destiny” we seem content to stay at home, and if we do travel, keep it within our borders.
This is understandable as our country has many amazing places to visit, but if one stays within our fifty states they miss another state which is one of enlightenment that can only be attained by visiting foreign lands. It is unfortunate that there are not more people in the U.S. greeting themselves in their own mirror and coming home different after a trip of a lifetime.
The last line of the poem implores us to “Sit. Feast on your life.” The feast is more delicious after an adventure travel trip overseas.
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