the deliberate tourist

I am writing in haste this morning, as we are preparing to get on a plane for Sri Lanka, the small island country south of India, once called Ceylon. I am going to Sri Lanka at the invitation of my husband, who was there a decade ago and has always wanted me to see it.

Usually, when I make a trip like this, I have done a great deal of research, and have an idea of the culture and history, with someone else’s guidance about what is worth seeing there. This time I have done very little research (have not even looked at the site in the link above). I am actually happy about that.

What I do know is that there are things there I have never seen: baby elephants, tea plantations, spotted leopards, lemur monkeys, Buddhist temples, and ritual dances, to name a few. I look forward to experiencing all these things, and to discovering all the things I do not know there. I like surprises when I travel. In truth, I like surprises in life.

I grew up in a culture where it was very important to know… important to be right… important to have the answers. Somehow it often feels safer to rest within the boundaries of what we know and understand. But this safety is an illusion, and will eventually be shattered when what we don’t know pierces our safety net. It always does. That day usually comes as a shock… and a blessing.

When I travel, I often think of Lawrence Kasdan’s film, “The Accidental Tourist,” in which travel writer Macon Leary always attempts to travel without leaving home, eating at McDonald’s and minimizing his contact with the unfamiliar. It seems ridiculous to us, but this is how many of us live. I did.

As we set off today on our 10-hour flight from Heathrow to Colombo, I have completed the basics. I have had shots for tetanus, typhoid and Hep-A. I have my daily pills for malaria and tropical zone mosquito lotion. We have booked our hotel and transport for a week. We know it is risky to travel north, for security reasons. We have taken precautions.

But today I am delighted to be leaving the world I know for a world I have never experienced, knowing there will be ecstasies and agonies along the way. I will see things, eat things, hear languages, meet people for the first time. There is so much diversity of life out there to discover and be enriched by, but only if we are willing to leave home.

The Wheel of Creativity describes the experience of life as a creative journey. The first step in that journey, from my experience and others’, is to listen to what you long for, to follow what attracts you, and then to let go. Getting on a plane is not required. The journey begins within your mind and heart. Whatever you’re doing today, this day can be an adventure or the same-ol’-same’ol’.  You can travel through your life accidentally or deliberately. Which would you prefer?

More from me in Sri Lanka in a week or so, whenever I can get online…