21 January 2010

Searching for Meaning

One of the most thoughtful reasons to travel is to find a deeper meaning to life. It is one of the reasons why I travel.  Even before I left school, I had a range of menial jobs to provide myself with at least the beginnings of economic independence.  I was a conscientious school student, too, and felt that my studies were the only route to happiness, and meaningfulness.

Without qualifications, where and what would a person be? What freedom would they have?  Would opportunities for a satisfying life exist at all without a few certificates to prove my worth? How else could I escape the bleak, damp confines of one of the most remote corners of Britain?

After a great deal of effort and uncertainty, I prevented myself from becoming yet another unemployment statistic in the early 1980s.  As I sit here today, thankful for the journey of my life and glad I am able to write this down, I no longer need to search for meaning.  My Quieter Living blog may explain why.

When I visited Athens in 1994, I knew very little about ancient philosophy. The Acropolis was swarming with tourists.  The marble below my feet was very slippery and the sun above me was very fierce. There was scaffolding and even a crane there and it felt more like a building site than the birthplace of the Western mindset.

Our tour guide had an accent that was difficult for me to understand, as were her probably very knowledgeable explanations. She had written books about Ancient Greece. I did not even know who Plato was. Whenever I saw the word Plato written down, I thought it was pronounced plarto, not play toe.

Now I have a teddy bear called Plato. My teddy bear seems more real to me than the philosopher Plato, though the philosopher may have thought otherwise during his lifetime.

Here are a few links you may find interesting:

A month or two earlier, I had been in Zimbabwe and Botswana. I enjoyed learning about the traditional beliefs and symbolism of the people, and about the different tribal groups. Many of the conflicts in Africa, Asia, Europe and elsewhere are due to cultural differences between people.

Here are some Wikipedia articles you may find interesting:

Mysteries are an enchanting aspect of travel. Here I am (above) in 1986 in Macchu Picchu, long after the Inca civilization was destroyed by the conquistadors. We are fortunate that the Spanish invaders never found Machu Picchu, although the diseases they carried quite likely wiped out the population. Destruction has often been a side effect of travel, especially by those seeking wealth.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, much of my monetary wealth is used up when I travel. Yet the wealth of my memories, knowledge and experience accumulates year by year. Do you search for meaning in mysteries, or do you prefer to find meaning in money?

Many people look for meaning through a religious group, though I am not one of them.  Above is a picture I took in the year 2000 in Paris. It is of a warm spring evening on one of the quieter bridges over the Seine.

Notre Dame de Paris can make us wonder about meaning, not just for ourselves but about the people who built the cathedrals of Europe. I have always found the dogma of religions quite oppressive though I do like to sit quietly to contemplate and meditate, as my peaceful, Quieter Living blog might suggest.

It can be difficult to contemplate anything while sitting or standing amongst crowds of tourists. How and where do you find meaning?

In 1990s, I visited Borobudur in Indonesia. I had some very interesting experiences there, interacting with the local people and Asian tourists.

My husband and I were on our belated honeymoon and had booked on a day tour to Borobudur from Yogyakarta. We were the only passengers on the minibus tour that day so we had the services of the guide and driver to ourselves. We had also bought some new clothes the previous day so we wore them for our trip. We probably looked rather more tidy than many other Western tourists.

For some reason, the people we met at Borobudur treated us like VIPs. We had already travelled through Bali and the eastern half of Java and had never been treated as we were that day. It is another of those mysteries I am yet to solve, though perhaps it was because we did not look like scruffy tourists.

Both Machu Picchu and Borobudur were hidden from human knowledge for many years. Both are on a similar latitude in the southern hemisphere. The traditional track up to Machu Picchu was one of the first climbs I did with the person who became my husband. We climbed Borobodur together on our honeymoon.

In 1994, while visiting Zimbabwe, we visited the ruins of Great Zimbabwe. There is something that those ruins, the ruins on the Acropolis, the ruins of Machu Picchu, the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, and the ruins of Borobudur all have in common. Do you know what it is?

The pyramids of Egypt have something in common with all of these places too. I have never been to Egypt but my paternal grandmother has been there and has seen the pyramids.

In our marriage, we continue to climb towards greater understanding as we try to interpret each other's meanings.

06 January 2010

Reflecting on the Past

It is summer here in the town of Dorothea. It is the time when I most like staying home.

A new year has begun and there is so much that I want to do in the weeks ahead. I am a warm weather person so my energy levels are higher when I don't need to wrap myself up in too many layers of clothing.

So far this year, I do not have a trip planned. I still have to write up most of my findings from the last one!

If you have a journey ahead of you, I hope these links to some of my Quieter Living blog posts may be useful:

So this is the beginning of another year of Continual Journeys...