Do you like to travel? Some journeys are functional, work-related or simply moving from point A to point B. Once travelers were equipped with better paths and roads, options for travel improved. As small watercraft were advanced to blue water sailing and then steam ships, travelers were no longer limited to the island or continent where they lived.
Advances in travel options continued with the harnessing of horses, the inventions of the automobile, the airplane, and the cruise ship. People expected, and they planned to take leisure trips and adventure trips. Americans call that time a vacation. Europeans call it “going on holiday.” Whatever you call it, do you get lost in the moment or do you detach yourself from your traveling adventure to capture details by taking photographs, videos, to record sound, or do you purchase or simply pick up some memento at your vacation spot, so that you can relive the special time later in your life?
I rarely take the photographs. I might snap a few, but mostly I want to experience the moments. Commercial aspects of a travel location appeal somewhat to me, but I clearly hear and respond to the historical features. Likewise, I appreciate the habits of local people, their unique and finer food, drink, music, plus whatever it is that they believe defines them as a people. I do capture the details. My favorite way to do that is to carry and use a pocket recorder. As a writer, I want those details, should I wish to feature the vacation spot and its culture in a novel. The photographs, however, are not worth missing the moments to take. Usually, I can find better images online, the pictures that some other traveler captured and shared, at the cost of their participation.
Yet, I do bring something back with me, a trace of the experience. It might be a bottle of local wine, an engraved plate, a special tee-shirt or a hat, but the more meaningful trinkets are the ones that I find. I have a small piece of red rock from Sedona, Arizona, a fragment of ocean sand-scoured green glass from Jacksonville, Florida, a tiny vial of black sand whisked away from a Hawaiian beach, a tuft of grizzly bear hair found high on tree branch in Alaska, a fire-imaged beer stein from Rothenburg, Germany. I kept a piece of metal that was used in my first catapult launch from an aircraft carrier. I own a NASA Christmas ornament with the image of the U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger, my souvenir from when I stood on the gantry and could almost touch it, three weeks before it launched and exploded, to the world’s sorrow. All of these things mean something to me.
I find it sad that likely, generations of my family and strangers will pitch all of these traces of my life well-traveled. The things that we value during out lives are the junk that no one wants when it is left to them. It is easy to explain this phenomenon as “life is a journey.” When our lives end, so do the traces of our journeys. There is but one good way to break that fate. Share your traces and transfer your memories to another person. Light a spark of desire to travel in someone else. Listen, and say “wow” to their stories as you marvel at their keepsakes from places that you have seen. Then, perhaps your life was more than a journey. You were the scout, the pathfinder, the way seeker, the bard, the story-teller, the helmsman, the pilot, the one who has been there and done that. You and your life well-traveled matter because you matter to someone else.