I’m a late convert to overseas travel.
In fact, it took me until actually arriving overseas last year to get excited about the destinations we’d planned to visit.
Partly this had to do with the knee-jerk hostility towards travel latent in some Christian circles I’ve been a part of (often with some justification — most people could cite stories of friends who’s overseas jaunts have been less than positive for their faith).
Mostly, however, it had to do with my disorganisation, which I tend to justify undercover of being invested in the joys and challenges of the moment.
I hadn’t prioritised getting my head around where we were going. I hadn’t educated my expectations about our destinations. And so I hadn’t stoked the fires of my excitement about what turned out to be a delightful, fun, eye-opening adventure.
Mine was a failure of anticipation — and thus of conscious and deliberate preparation.
So it would seem that I was an ideal candidate to suffer from one of the hazards of travel Alain De Botton identifies (The Art of Travel, p 124):
A danger of travel is that we see things at the wrong time, before we’ve had a chance to build up the necessary receptivity and when new information is therefore as useless and fugitive as necklace beads without a connecting chain.
And I did experience a certain lack of receptivity at least once in our travels.
The moment I speak of occurred as we stood in St Paul’s Cathedral in London — the public Protestant church of the city — and beheld a grand monument to Lord Nelson, who (the large lettering on the monument informed us) ‘died gloriously in battle’.
Actually, ‘lack of receptivity’ is too weak a phrase for what I experienced that moment.
It was more like vertigo. Sickening and disorienting in the moment. And leaving a still-gaping wound in my sense-making apparatus…
Now, the overseas adventure Natalie and I embarked on last year doesn’t have a monopoly on raw and unprocessed experiences. For example, I experienced something similar when I visited the National War Memorial in Canberra early in December.
There are more than enough opportunities to encounter useless and fugitive information when we aren’t travelling.
But perhaps travel presents these kinds of opportunities in an unusual concentration.
And that’s worth bearing in mind as you embark on your own adventures.