Our location shapes our identities. Relating to geography is part of our psyche. I wonder how travelling fit into this. Is this the reason why we travel? Do we seek out locations to help define our sense of self?
These questions come to me while I’m driving. A lot of thoughts wrap themselves around the bends in my rural roads. All of them make me wonder why some people desire travel so much and other people completely don’t want to. Are we somehow less complete if we’re not rooted to our one, special spot? Or is it the other way around? Is wanderlust a true form of spiritual awakening?
I’m interested in both identity and travel. How we define ourselves in relation to the landscape around us. After all, being able to travel is always, one way or another, an eye-opening experience. Different cultures and landscapes help define our belief system, build tolerance and respect for our planet. It’s clear when you put yourself in unfamiliar environments, you make yourself vulnerable. We know it’s both the scariest thing and yet totally intoxicating. You survived it? Do it again. You made new friends? One more time.
As Esther Perel, therapist and satisfyingly sexy lady talking about sex, said in a podcast I can’t stop listening to, ‘We haven’t set up marriage for adventure. We’ve set up marriage for stability, family, for raising children, for building homes, for the security aspects of our life.’
But wait. What about eroticism? Mexican poet Octavio Paz defined eroticism as the ‘thirst for otherness’. ‘Many things the erotic thrives on,’ Perel says, ‘the mystery, the surprise, the imagination, the playfulness is what family life defends against.’
Working in couples’ therapy for over thirty years has given Perel this understanding. She says, ‘Family life needs consistency, routine, rituals, repetition. We know that’s what kids need in order to thrive. They need that solid base. They don’t need this unstructured free flow – they need boundaries. They need limits. And within that, they can begin to explore. It’s two forces. The force of stability, predictability and continuity battling the other equally strong force of exploration, discovery, adventure, risk-taking and all of that. And we find it difficult to do both in the same place.’
Yep. Esther Perel is my next hero find. Maybe the most clarifying and articulate hero I’ve come across yet. And I’m always looking. I’m like a hero whore. If I could remember all those Ted Talks, I’d never stop watching them. Unfortunately, most of them meld into an unintelligible mess in my brain. Now, I feel I have to guard against it in case I can’t do justice to the good ones.
Wait. What does Esther Perel and her work have to do with travel? With our deep-rooted connections to location? It seems to me that the duality between family and eroticism which she explores also mirrors the duality between the homebody and the traveller. Homebody being the safe and stable family narrative – and eroticism representing our travelling side. The physical search for otherness. Two equally powerful forces at work.
I just heard from my friend Silke (hey Silke!) on her family’s adventure crossing the Pacific Ocean from Costa Rica to the Galapagos. Fantastic news from their sailboat, S/V Sago. Keep going guys. The Pacific is yours.