I received this poetic message today and since it goes back to the Nako days, I'd like to put it up here for a little meditation. It captures the spirit of traveling - in a wider sense of meaning. No wonder, as it comes from a real writer.
Deep down in my luggage, I just found the business card on which you had scribbled your website. (...) I'm looking forward to the Kinnauri part. If life's a river, what are the people you meet upstream and downstream?
Fellow-stowaways? Simply drowning men? I particularly like and am surprised by the nude section. But for myself, I'm more interested in the mental nude. Only, that doesn't produce interesting pics. Or could that be a new challenge?
Flowing with the river or bumping around on a Himalayan bus - looking at the shore, looking out of the dusty window, you are being connected to other humans for just a split second, for an evening or a day, doesn't matter after all. What matters is, any eye you look into offers a moment from which a life-long companionship can evolve, even if you never see each other again. When traveling, the healing power of motion puts our senses into a higher state of alertness, so that we can grasp the moments which are lost on us at home when our life is routine. A woman we see while waiting for a travel permit can become the benchmark for all future beauty, casual words by a fellow-traveler over booze can echo in our mind until we die, and a two-minute piss-stop at sunrise can present us with the most memorable moment of our life*. We are not lost on each other. Driftwood is traveling stuff, and all driftwood is related because only trees close enough to the river can become driftwood. The rest of the forest we never see.
We're all mental nudes on the trip. Sometimes it is tempting to abuse our being a complete stranger for a little masquerading and put on the clothes of somebody we want others believe we are, but nothing is as good as being free and ourselves. No conventions, no expectations, no role-playing. Probably that's the most refreshing about traveling - just being the way we are.
(And receiving such an email gives a blissful and elevating feeling - because it means I actually did remember my homepage address after two bottles of Kinnauri booze. And knowing that I even managed to write it down correctly and legibly- this is more than bliss, this is a miracle.)
*Happened to me in August 1993 in Beluchistan. The bus stopped, we got out, the sun rose and everything was red, red with millions of shades of red and I felt out of the planet on another plane of existence. The next closest moment to zen was on a cold winter morning in Brussels, when I was looking at the frozen lake nearby and found my place in the universe - I realised, there is a frozen lake with ducks on the ice and I Am The Human Looking At The Lake. (If you read anything about zen, you'll know I'm not crazy.) With my mind on the razor's edge towards satori, I went to the office where the coffee machine swallowed my 1 euro coin and didn't produce espresso and I got pissed off and thus lost my chance to attain enlightment. Still waiting for the next chance.