In a truly wonderful letter, Kurt Vonnegut advised a group of students to “Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.”
I write to make my soul grow. It’s also why I travel.
When I move through the world with open eyes, I gain a few inches. I earn a little valuable perspective. The dullness of everyday life is swapped out with an intense curiosity that wipes clean my mind’s carefully constructed sensory adaptation. That to which I was once blind is temporarily laid bare in plain sight. Like a good night’s sleep restoring the well of willpower, travel rejuvenates my dwindling childlike wonder. Music, food, nature and people are furiously alive with rich detail and flavor.
When I travel, I am reminded of our fundamental goodness as I my see comfort zones, slide past them ungracefully and get by with the help of strangers and newfound friends. Because everything seems so different, the bonds between people get a fresh take and deep look as I see mothers caring for children, brothers jostling each other out of childhood, or friends soaking up the familiar rhythm of their rapport.
When it’s all over, travel remains with me. My self-imposed demands to be less blind and see more of what I call home. The new imperatives to be less passive and act more. The stories I relate to friends and family among the soft early mornings and the hazy late nights. The hopeful wanderlust and sense that adventure is just over the horizon.
Most of all, what remains from travel is the becoming and the growth of my soul. If nothing else, that’s why you’ll find me hunting the world for the unknown. To become. To grow my soul.