RachelCushing's Travel Journals

RachelCushing

  • From Georgia, United States
  • Currently in Stellenbosch, South Africa

Chasing my lions

I have always wanted to be a traveler. Everything about the nomadic, exciting, adventurous, and unsure lifestyle just calls to me. Having only been out of the country once before that aspiration has thus far been, well, just that; an aspiration. But now I have been given the amazing opportunity to spend five months in Stellenbosch, South Africa and come one step closer to being that traveler. This journal is the catalogue of my various adventures in and around South Africa.

Pre-departure

United States Georgia, United States  |  Jul 02, 2012
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 Travel is, in equal parts, a quest and a surrender... 

"Travel is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with existence or the exotic. It is almost entirely an inner experience"

 -The Tao of Travel by Paul Theoroux

While I do not fully agree with its logic, I found this quote to be helpfully thought provoking. I was not sure how to begin this documentation of my time abroad so I decided to draw some inspiration from the pre-existing pool of brilliantly written literature on the subject of travel. In observing this literature, I came across the aforementioned quote in Paul Theoroux’s The Tao of Travel. While there were many passages I found to be interesting and meaningful throughout his work, this quote stood out to me with particular relevance to my most prevalent “pre-departure” thought: What do I want to take away from this experience?

As this quote suggests, travel is often the catalyst for some sort of inner experience or transformation. I would argue, however, that is it not completely detached from “existence or the exotic” and also not “almost entirely an inner experience”. For me, the thrill of travel does lie, at least in part, through the change of scenery; the physical difference of the place I know best to that which I still know nothing. In fact, the element of travel which intrigues me most is this witnessing of something completely new and unknown. It seems, in fact, that the “unknown”, upon becoming “known”, transforms into something much more magnificent. That is, a new stage on which we can live, breathe, laugh, cry, explore, make friends, make love, fight, argue, run, walk, and do the laundry. Moreover, it ceases being simply a possibility, and manifests as a new and present reality. A new and present “known”, if you will. It is for these reasons that I cannot fully concede to this quote.  

I do, however, find some agreeable elements in it as well. I fully agree that travel encourages, if not forces, some sort of inner experience. I have personally found it to be the vessel for much inner self-discovery already. Whether that discovery is that I do not, in fact, posses an ounce of patience or that I am capable of swallowing any fear, embarrassment, pride, or worry when faced with a situation that demands immediate action. Either way, I have discovered many important qualities about myself and those who I voyage with throughout my travels. Similarly, I would pose that this inner experience is so inherently tied to travel because (and please excuse my painfully new-age spirituality in moments like this) most of us are already on an internal journey. That is, a journey to find our metaphor. Our happiness. Our peace. Our God. Our truth. Our love. Our science. Call it what you will, but the point is that we are inherently seeking. It seems natural, then, that the physical seeking of new places and experiences would enhance this pre-existing internal jorney into one’s self.

Overall, I believe that the longing for both of these journeys lies in the truth that most humans seem to fundamentally know: there is more to life than what we see before us now. In the most literal sense this means that we know the world is larger than our bedroom. But in a more metaphorical sense, it is the belief that there is more to life than the day to day mundane of surviving on this earth. It is within this truth, in fact, that I find the answer to my previously stated question: What do I wish to take from this experience abroad?

The answer seems to be more obvious that I would have liked, but nonetheless true. I want to take away WHATEVER I am given. Whatever this trip brings; the good, the bad and the magnificent. This also requires, however, an acceptance of whatever is given and recognition that something positive can be taken from any situation. So I would now like to offer a quote of my own that I feel well exemplifies the mindset that I wish to have going into this trip:

Travel is, in equal parts, a quest and a surrender: a quest to reach a place that can facilitate change within, and a surrender to let that change happen.  

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