Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Joe Omundson


I was curious about the origin of the word "travel". It comes from "travailen", an old English word which comes from the old French "travail" which means "work, labor, toil, suffering or painful effort, trouble; arduous journey". It can be traced farther back to Latin roots, including the word "tripaliare" which means "to torture" (!).

Somehow, the grim history of the word is not a surprise to me. I think the painful & tedious element of traveling is actually what makes it worthwhile. Spending time in an uncertain, unpredictable, constantly changing state.

A more modern definition of travel is "to move or go from one place to another".

I wonder if the reason so many people complain about traveling via airplane is that it's actually too *easy*. Walk onto a plane, sit down for several hours, and you're partway across the world. It's virtually instant. You experience your home and your destination, but it removes the entire context of what lies between that place and your home, and you're robbed of the experience of seeing the gradual changes that connect your journey's beginning and end.

If "traveling" is the act of being in motion between locations, taking a plane basically reduces that act to the most sterile, safe, fast, easy, and predictable method possible. We travel thousands of miles just by sitting in a seat -- flying hundreds of miles per hour, thousands of feet in the air -- and still we complain about the other passengers and the frequency of the drink service!

This isn't to say that air travel is bad, but personally I think there's more to be gained from slower journeys that involve time and effort. Imagine how much more is experienced by turning a cross-country flight into a 2-week road trip, or riding a boat across the ocean rather than flying above it?

Maybe we are too destination-driven and have forgotten that the best part is the journey, when traveling and also with the way we live our lives in general. Are we all just trying to get to “the good part” that's coming in the future, seeing the present day as a means to get there, something to be endured, numbing ourselves to the annoyance of it? Today is all we ever have and if we don't learn to fully enjoy today, we will never be happy.

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