Friday, March 7, 2008

Solution: Travel

February 25-March 8:
"Sometimes it's a little better to travel than to arrive."*
It seems that I don´t have as much to report as I expected. The weeks following my advisor´s visit were filled with non-volcanological activities, but this is not to say that simply nothing has happened since.
  Summary: In-Service Training, 2 water committee meetings, 2 botched aqueduct-type visits, and a day helping my neighboring PCV throw a plancha for the final composting latrine in her community.
In-Service Training took up roughly 4 days: 4 days of charlas, presentations, extra Spanish lessons, regret for not taking extra Ngäbere lessons, planning a visit with a springbox technician, quick visit to the beach, and general regrouping with the Group 60 crew. The trip out to IST was fairly long but still, since Swear In, I´ve made several long bus trips back and forth across Panama and I´m not yet feeling the strain.

It´s no secret that I love to travel, but only recently I´m understanding why (even during the most stressful and maddening journeys) I get a deep satisfaction out of the process of travel. It is easy to say that I enjoy seeing new places and it´s fun to see so much terrain slip by without lifting a foot to walk across it. But when I´m traveling more economically (por ejemplo, por pie), it also won´t seem surprising or novel to admit that I prefer walking out my front door and across a hillside instead of staying rooted at home. But I only just realized that another aspect of travel has missed assessment: What responsibilities do you have as a traveler? Is there any other weighty obligation more important than completing the journey while executing the journey? No, my answer is no. So I am concluding that few endeavors offer such satisfying, single-minded, laziness: Traveling is wonderful!

While I haven´t crossed the equator, haven´t been to Africa, only got within 2,000 miles of Asia, lack experience in grizzly bear country, remain tantalized by the terraced islands within the Indian Ocean, have no concept of Down-Under, and desire first-hand knowledge of how east is East, luck has been with me to allow significant travels. So I've had some time to mull over why it is that I am compelled to not only relocate myself but also shell out the considerable funds (often rearranging plans to accommodate lofty travel goals).

Authors of all genres have many things to say about the virtues of travel: the romance, the mind-broadening process, as well as the uncomfortable and sometimes dangerous possibilities. I recently read an opinion of Sherlock Holmes: he referred to travel as a waste of energy that muddles the mind [my paraphrasing]. But a comment that fits my sentiment comes from Paul Theroux. He begins the Great Railway Bazaar with an odd explanation. There are some people who view the act of travel as a kind of solution. More than: "go take a hike" or "you need to get out more," travel can be therapeutic. Need some changes in life? Need a new perspective? Need to grow? Feel a cold coming on? Travel. Well, that was how Theroux presented the argument: I feel a stuffiness in my nose and there´s a rattle in my throat; I´d better book a train to cross Europe. [again, my paraphrasing - I don´t have his book handy]

Have I had a bothersome cold that needed several flight tickets to clear up? Well, yes, but a cold less like a sniffle and more like an infirmity of perspective. Enough sharp minds and well-learned writers have explained this particular theme: gaining worldliness.

So I´ll throw in my lot with Theroux but also suggest that a guilt-free sensation of irresponsibility can come from travel.
Sorry, I´m on the bus, I´ll get back to you in 6 hours.

*Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: Robert M. Pirsig

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