When the proponents of personal growth call on everyone to go travel, a big part of the notion – beside the idea that travel will make you worldly – is the creation of memories which feed your sense of a life story.
All too often nowadays, we don’t get much of any feeling of growth, not much satisfaction with life, because all we’ve ever seen was our own little part of the world, all we’ve ever experienced were just the people right around us and the lifestyles that are clear-cut and boring.
No wonder, then, if we ourselves end up boring and without a sense of anything much that ever broke up the monotony of life. No wonder, also, that travel looks like just the thing: In the worst case, it still brings experiences and the possibility of bragging of our having “been there, done that”; it’s said to be an eye-opener to how other people live, what other countries and cultures are like, what diversity there (still) is, and all that.
The obvious excitement of travel – coming to its peak in “location independent living” with its notion of being able to work (from) anywhere and choose to stay where you like it best, or pack up and leave at will- seems to hide the very lesson(s) it holds, though:
Better living is not bought, whether in the form of material purchases or in the consumption of experiences to brag about. Rather, better living comes from the being and doing, the engagement with the places and people in which we find ourselves, whether it is the places we commonly call “home” or an exotic, far-away “destination”.
“Own only what you can always carry with you: Know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag.” Alexander Solzhenitsin
Either place, what the problem may be at root is that we need to create memories – but in similar fashion to how we focus on the stuff that we put in our travel bags (and even the stuff they are made of) rather than the memory, the knowledge, we also focus on the outside and the superficial of experiences.
We rush into the most exciting of things to get a kick from them, hoping it will make them memorable.
We rush from one sight to another to not miss out on any of the “must-see” places, snap photos right and left, maybe pick up a souvenir here, another knick-knack there, all in the hope of building memories.
It’s not the adrenaline, let alone the number of places, people, and photos been to, met and made, however, that builds the knowledge and memories with which we can live well at home in this world, wherever we find ourselves, and narrate a story of our lives that makes sense.
Memories- just like the knowledge Solzhenitsin advises us to have as our travel bag – are built in the deeper engagement, in being in a place with all our senses, taking the time to truly experience it, live in it… and remembering to stop and live, savor the moment and all it is bringing, drink it all in, make ourselves able to see anew all the fascinating things that occur in all the places we are, whether we call them home or not, whether we are there for the first time or have been there for ages, in the sunrise and the sunset, in sunlight and storm, with the changing of the seasons and the shifting of our own moods and memory.