Monday, July 26

Travel and Pico Iyer

Travel, according to Pico Iyer, does two things to us: It heightens our senses and sensitivity, “shows us the sights and values and issues that we might ordinarily ignore;” and it also “shows us all the parts of ourselves that might otherwise grow rusty.” We travel to both lose ourselves and find ourselves—self and anonymity.  We insist on becoming vagabonds, and this experience is heightened when we truly become strangers in a strange land:

Abroad, we are wonderfully free of caste and job and standing; we are, as Hazlitt puts it, just the "gentlemen in the parlour," and people cannot put a name or tag to us. And precisely because we are clarified in this way, and freed of inessential labels, we have the opportunity to come into contact with more essential parts of ourselves (which may begin to explain why we may feel most alive when far from home).

Abroad is the place where we stay up late, follow impulse and find ourselves as wide open as when we are in love. We live without a past or future, for a moment at least, and are ourselves up for grabs and open to interpretation. We even may become mysterious -- to others, at first, and sometimes to ourselves -- and, as no less a dignitary than Oliver Cromwell once noted, "A man never goes so far as when he doesn't know where he is going."
So there you go. Sailing forth is not just a quest or adventure into foreign lands, but also to our foreign selves. We become simplified and childlike, not bringing more than we need, shedding excess and inhibition. While the whirl of chants and smells surround us, we take it all in, in awe. I think more than anything else, I want to regain that part of me. I want to be awed. And more than anything else, I want to be enchanted again. 

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