The journey is the reward, the reason, the lesson

My friends Valérie and Gérard recently posted a great quote in a comment on this blog:

A journey does not need reasons. Before long, it proves to be reason enough in itself. One thinks that one is going to make a journey, yet soon it is the journey that makes or unmakes you.

– Nicolas Bouvier (Translated from L’Usage du monde)

A moment for contemplation, near Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan
A moment for contemplation, near Charyn Canyon, Kazakhstan

I want to write more about environmental issues in the places I’m visiting. I want to have time to find local conservationists and interview them and share their stories with you. It would be fun to be your eyes around the world, showing you what the planet is like and what people are doing to protect our natural world. It’s not that easy.

Language is a far bigger barrier than I expected. There are times when we meet someone who speaks a few words of English and we realize, usually with surprise and relief, that they are the first person we’ve spoken to besides each other in over a week. Fatigue and the logistics of arranging six date-specific visas for consecutive countries are also more preoccupying than I would have thought.

Faced with a growing list of conservation questions for which I can find no one to answer, I  find myself turning inwards to the space where I am learning about myself and the psychology of journeys – geographical, physical, emotional and intellectual journeys.

Every time I’ve left my home bubble, half-thinking I will go out and learn something about the world, I actually learn more about myself and uncover more questions about our world.

Where we thought to travel outward we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with the world.

– John Cambell

A thousand roads, a thousand lives ahead

Thousand roads, thousand lives
Thousand roads, thousand lives

On the road in China

“Ain’t you thinkin’ what’s it gonna be like when we get there? Ain’t you scared it won’t be nice like we thought?”
“No,” she said quickly. “No, I ain’t. You can’t do that. I can’t do that. It’s too much–livin’ too many lives. Up ahead they’s a thousan’ lives we might live, but when it comes, it’ll on’y be one.”

– Rosasharn and Ma in The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

When you’re biking you have to choose a road and go with it. Bike-touring provides far too much time to wonder what lies ahead and what you are missing down each road you cannot take. We can’t do it all and that’s good because when a place starts to wear you down, it helps to leave some areas unexplored, to save some hope in another beautiful place around the corner — blank spots in your mental map to fill in another day.