For reasons that are lost in the mists of time, perhaps impenetrable even then, a boy felt the pull of discovering the world around him and knowing the far off places. That boy read and fell in love with Tolkien’s work at the age of 10, inspired in part by his admiration for his older cousin. Our motivations may come from uninspired beginnings but can nevertheless result in life-changing consequences. Bilbo’s adventures, in which he lost and found himself, have never left. Even decades later the vision painted in the boy’s mind remains a strong pull.
Thus the journey has always found a home in my soul. Travel is perhaps merely the most obvious example of a journey and from a fairly early age, perhaps even genetically, that has been present. My mom’s grandparents moved 38 times before my grandfather passed away in 2001. It was their copy of the Hobbit that I read and my own life has had a bit of vagrancy to it having lived in twenty different places thus far . . .
A couple of those places have been far off – China for six months and Malta for about a year. But travel is more transitory and I have enjoyed wandering around the world to some extent, always feeling called to wander further. My parents put me on a plane alone when I was just two: something about that imprinted itself on me and I have felt the thrill of flying for as long as I can remember. My dad’s grandparents furthered this, taking my sister and I on trips to Hawaii, down the Mississippi in a paddle-wheel riverboat and the inevitable American right of youth passage: the hyperreality of Disney World.
The call for a different kind of journey became apparent and the once and future traveler did not board a plane for nearly a decade. A journey of the mind was in order and I now embarked on this journey to understand the world and people in it. Study in history, politics, economics and philosophy ensued for the better part of that decade and then well beyond.
Travel was not far away, and once formal study took a hiatus and a professorship beckoned, I found a way to incorporate both in resuscitating the study abroad program where I designed and ran trips annually for 15 years. But the balance on that journey fell decidedly upon the intellectual journey and while travel was part of it, learning more about the world and the people occupied most of my time and mental space.
Now the balance has shifted again and the journey, which always continues for all of us even if we are not aware that the scenery is passing us by, is now oriented towards travel and the intellectual journey occupies less space than it once did. Yet one must have both, for only in both do we find that the journey informs the most central part of us, our soul. It is the core of who we are; whether permanent or not it is where both the physical and intellectual journeys coalesce and allow us to discover and construct our authentic selves. It is the journey of an educated wanderer . . .