Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a small, close-knit community, but something in me periodically needs to break free, sail away, explore the wider world. In the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Questions of Travel” she writes: “What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life/ in our bodies, we are determined to rush/to see the sun the other way around?/The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?”
Though Bishop never answers the question outright in the poem, she does make a case for the new and different by describing her trip to Brazil, a country she came to love deeply, in ravishing and persuasive detail.
I believe that a lot of my of love of travel — or wanderlust (what a lovely word!) — is simply the longing to see things “from the other way round.” Waking up early in the morning in Nice, say, and noticing the full moon, filmy as egg white, floating over the still sleeping town. La lune! La ville! La Mediterranae! In a different country, in another language, the moon takes on fresh meaning and beauty. Like Steve Job’s famous “Think different” tagline for the Mac, I think traveling allows you to “See different.”
Or, as I wrote in the opening of my novel Local Knowledge — when you’ve lived in one place all your life, “you stop seeing things after a while. Things and people. Even those you love. Maybe especially those you love.” Even if it’s just a weekend at the shore or drive in the county on a Sunday afternoon, there’s something about leaving the familiar and getting away from it all that forces you to reconsider your own place in the world. To see your life with new eyes. Where have you been lately?