Saturday, April 3, 2021

A MILE IN MY OWN SHOES – The Ways of Wanderlust

It’s silly I know, but one of the ways my Latin American travel/adventure trips move from crazy notion to harebrained scheme to actual occurrence is that I envision one of my favorite pairs of shoes stepping down the streets or trails of that distant place. Oh…and I’m in the shoes.

For Puebla, Mexico, it was my then-brand-new Keen ultra-lite sandals. In Buenos Aires, it was the Merrell Encore clogs. Havana saw me mostly in my Ecco Yucatan sandals. And now, for my upcoming fall trip to Oaxaca, it will be my new, buttery-soft Birchbury leather sneakers.

Why does it take footwear to lead me to such places? I suppose it’s like any other serious intention in life; to make room for adventure in a future that may not be ready for it, or thinks it’s already scripted for something else, it helps to imagine oneself there. The rest of the plan then starts falling into place around that image.

The shoes get me to that place of my imagining in a way that simply Googling the place cannot. More than just reading someone’s description or looking at photos, they seem to put me there physically. I can actually feel it, my connection with the ground.

I remember reading Thomas Mann’s novella, Tonio Kröger, when I was in high school. Mann used the distant sound of the Posthorn to represent the siren song of Tonio’s wanderlust.

There’s nothing as powerful as a dream. For some, like Tonio, it’s just a hazy, unsettling yearning; for others it’s more like a prayer. I see it as simply committing my wishes to the wise ways of the Universe. And, since my Higher Power wants me to be happy, it makes space in the future for the fulfillment of those wishes and then enlists my own intentions, planning and a bit of elbow grease to make them happen.

You see, I have this hunger to keep expanding the realm of my being. To learn new things, meet new people, behold ever-more-stirring expressions of Nature’s beauty, get out of my egocentric, way-too-busy self and closer to the ideal of oneness with everything.

Nothing better satisfies that yearning than travel. (And travel, specifically to Hispanophone places, also lets me pursue my late-in-life quest to get reasonably fluent in Spanish.)

            My wanderlust exerts the same pull
            that being a homebody does, but in
            a different direction.

I realize that, for many, life’s less about opening new realms than deepening the ones they already occupy. That’s fine. I actually envy you homebodies, for your ability to happily grow where you’re planted. And for the strength of your commitments to a beloved place and the people you make sure frequent it.

I suppose I could say my wanderlust exerts the same kind of pull that being a homebody does, but in a different direction. To be honest, though, I feel a bit guilty about how selfish it is. I try to salve the guilt by recalling how many other worthy endeavors demand a choice between familiarity and exploration.

Wanderluster. Full-nester. Aren’t they really like introvert and extrovert, where one is better than the other only for certain purposes. Shouldn’t it be possible to be some of both, to balance the two?

How does one do that? As my mother used to say, when you’re torn between two valid paths, sometimes you just have to follow your nose…

…and, I would add, your shoes.

"To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted."