My life on the road. Gloria Steinem and other reflections.

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Image by Moyan Brenn Road

Interesting conversations are often about nothing. During a drawn out breakfast one Sunday morning, my partner and I reminiscence about the past six years; specifically, on our travels and relocations. It went like this:

  • moved house six times (that’s once every year!)
  • moved city/town four times
  • moved states once
  • traveled overseas four times
  • a ceaseless number of road trips on days off to visit family and friends (8-12 hours drives).

I joked that we must have gypsy boots.

What is it about travel that is so appealing? An obvious answer may be “it’s holiday time!” A break from domestic servitude, work and the predictability offered by the average day. While this is true, I think we can dig a little deeper.

I recently read Gloria Steinem’s My life on the road. It was wonderful. Like most people, I knew Gloria as a prominent figure from the 60s and 70s; the second wave of the feminist movement. What I did not know, was that she is also a beautiful writer. Gloria spoke about her early days as an activist, but as the title hints, much of her memoir detailed Gloria’s love of travel and the open road. She confessed that at the height of her activism, the longest consecutive stretch at home in one year was eight days!

Her father had been a vagabond and traveling salesmen. A trait inherited by Gloria, she felt just as comfortable in hotel rooms, planes and buses as she did at home. She discloses that a certain restlessness is experienced if she is in one place to long.

Recently I was listening to an online podcast where the interviewer said, ‘I don’t think people are so much looking for the meaning of life, but to feel alive.’

Hammer hits nail.

For me, this sensation of being alive happens when traveling. Our senses ignite when we slip out of auto pilot and into manual. We look at what is around us, we listen with a keener ear and given the space, we are able to come up with new ideas.

After a six-month stint overseas, I returned home to the rental I had lived in the previous year. I remember walking into the living room and thinking, were the ceilings always this high? I strolled into the kitchen and dropped my bag on the retro lime counter top, was the bench always this green? I wondered around the house as though it were for the first time, taking in the details I had become numb too. We really do become blind towards our daily experiences.

Travel also reminds us that we are in control of our lives. While we don’t technically have to meet the daily responsibilities of work, bills and being kind to our mother; it is in our best interest to do so. When we disappear up the coast for a few days or board a plane for Japan, we become more aware of our power. We get to decide which café we would like to go to for breakfast or whether to skip it all together. We can wonder beaches and streets aimlessly or make the deliberate decision to attend a monastery or bungee jumping session. We have the power to decide.

Occasionally, I meet true homebodies. They don’t travel. Not even in their own country. Maybe they travel to a family Christmas a couple times each decade. I wonder how they fulfill their need for freedom – who doesn’t long for freedom? What do they do to feel alive? To remind themselves that they are in control of their life and not just a meat puppet paying bills?

I know there is only one way for me. And if Gloria Steinem is any example to go by, I doubt that will change anytime soon.

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