Our human mind seems to seek an illusion of “normal” so it won’t have to exert itself to navigate life. It gets itself into a groove and stays there if it can. Travel upsets that illusion because it presents you with so many questions as to how and why this place you are visiting is arranged the way it is. Your mind is obliged to wake up and pay attention just to avoid danger. It’s forced into a state of aliveness, and in that process it can more readily see meaning, beauty and the human condition.
That’s how it works for me, at least.
At this point in my life, I feel like I’m always traveling. Every place is in some sense foreign, in some sense a place I don’t quite understand.
It’s interesting how certain places carry a spirit that appeals or repels. Some places are more vibrant, depending how they have been lived in, how people thought, felt and related to each other. And some places on earth are like nerve centers in the body, power centers. The ancients seemed to recognize these lines, and built sacred sites on them.
Our rational age is ignorant of these invisible forces, it’s not interested in something invisible and unquantifiable, especially if it’s in the spiritual realm.
I haven’t been able to settle down in one place, except for a quick twenty-five years in a French village, and only then because it was a project that couldn’t be finished in a mere five or ten years. In any case, I was still learning how to be there when we left.
I became less and less attached to my place of birth throughout my years of travel and living abroad, so that now everything looks more or less foreign to me. But I like that. I haven’t found a place where I can feel everything is normal. My languages are mixed up in my thinking and sometimes I may know the exact term in a foreign language but not English.
Keeping myself a little on the back foot is a spiritual strategy for me. It keeps me from going to sleep because the world around me is always unusual, never quite normal, never to be taken for granted.
I’m anchored in the few people I love and in what I can create.
Someday we may find the perfect shangri-la. Until then, my project is to create some beauty and meaning every day, and stay awake.