Traveling to other places will take a lot of things from you. It will take your money, your sense of time, your familiarity, your self-assuredness. It will take your heart from you, if you let it. It doesn’t matter if you do it when you’re young and can barely afford to stay in infested hostels or if you’re old and bring back souvenirs for your friends from the Champs-Elysees. It will take a lot out of you, and you need to be prepared for that.
Traveling will give you things, too. It will give you new perspectives and new stories. It will give you gastrointestinal distress. It will give you postcards and coins you’ll never be able to use again but won’t be able to bear throwing away. It will give you jet lag, stamps in your passport, and the blues for about a week when you return home. It will give you gratefulness and humility. It will give you an added appreciation for the place you call ‘home’.
When you’re preparing to travel, you’ll read a lot about what you should pack, what sort of contraption you should buy in order to avoid being pick-pocketed. You’ll read a lot about how not to offend your hosts, about cultural norms, about what foods you should and shouldn’t eat.
You won’t hear a lot about the presence you should bring with you. The quiet, inner steadiness that’s you, that you leave behind once you’ve moved on to another place or come home…
You probably won’t hear about it, because the general understanding of traveling is that you should consume as much as possible before you leave. What this often accomplishes, instead of giving you any lasting memories, is to make you feel harried, hurried, and scattered.
So instead…Take a moment to be quiet before something that strikes you as beautiful, even if it’s just a tiny old fountain or a child or a tree growing out of the ruins of an ancient building. Stand still and breathe deeply. Touch when you can. Tarry a little bit at the table, even though you may have six museums packed into your afternoon schedule. If you let yourself be overwhelmed with wonder, you will remember your journey with much more clarity in months and years to come.