BACK TO OUR OWN FUTURE
Perhaps like you, Roma and I saw the Mona Lisa hanging there in its place of honor in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Our modest world travels had included a pilgrimage to what some accept as the world’s most perfect painting. We had been there and done that. So what did we have to show for it?
Truth to tell, our personal rendezvous with Leonardo’s masterpiece was a rather hurried moment, played out in a shoulder to shoulder crowd….all of whom were straining to capture a glimpse of the prize.
As I recall, in my artistically-illiterate eyes Mona was a bit smaller than I expected. True, she did seem to be smiling at me….though Roma was just as certain she was the target of the lady’s attention.
I suppose there were a few visitors in that tourist-laden crowd who had come to seriously study the subtle, yet apparently powerful elements of that masterpiece. Would they be able to do that in those circumstances? I don’t know.
I am, however, quite certain that most of us Mona Lisa gawkers were on hand because we had been told we ought to be there. After all, it was so famous….something we would probably never see again. Then, having seen it, we could check that box and move on to the next “big thing.”
Bear with me for a moment as I revisit that time, a highlight of our continental travels…..or more accurately, my memories of that brief moment in a long life.
It was a sunny September morning. I remember standing in line waiting for the doors to open. (They were late opening that morning.) All around us everyone was upbeat and eager to begin their great art adventure….the world-renown Louvre. We had studied our Rick Steve’s map of the sprawling building….planning our route through the dozens of galleries to see what we had been told were the best sights.
And then, in a matter hours, it was over. Having seen what we wanted to see, our investment of time, anticipation, and attention had produced our own very personal return…..a collage of recollections we hoped would last a lifetime.
That, it seems to me, is the reality of the wanderlust and travel urges I have never outgrown. Truth is, the places, people, and things we had seen along the way were invariably fleeting experiences. Rather than the sights and sounds themselves….as memorable as they were….the lasting fruits of our travels depended on the memories, photos, souvenirs, and friendships we gathered along the way….the reminders we brought home with us, to be revisited at anytime in the future. Bottom line…..the most successful travel experiences are a mental exercise….as good and lasting as our memory allows.
Be it the Mona Lisa, the Eiffel Tower, a dreamy Rue Cler dinner, or the Yorkshire dales, with vistas that take your breath away….in every case the moment itself was transitory. Yet though we may never return there again in person, the impact of those experiences will last a lifetime.
So why do we travel? What do we hope to gain or achieve? What is it we bring home from those travels? And what do they mean…..the memories and mementos of our time abroad?
More to the point, why at my age, would I even consider another round of extended travel…..the eight or ten week adventures that worked so well for Roma and I as younger travelers? What would I hope to gain this time? Is there something new to be learned, a reason to go again?
I still have those moments, you know….when I can visualize doing that again, driving the backroads, doing my age-appropriate “wild and crazy” things, and visiting again with well-remembered friends. Yet, that hazy vision is quickly coupled with so many reasons why those once-appealing possibilities would not be such a good idea at this stage of the game.
Some of the possible deterrents are practical matters…..sitting quietly through a ten-hour transcontinental flight is probably beyond me. The notion of a new and different bed every few nights has lost its appeal. Extended walking tours are out of the question.
Beyond those physical limitations are the more subtle reasons. Anymore, there are not that many things I want to DO. Instead, I have grown more interested in observing what goes on around me, soaking up the feel and mood of a place and its people. Those mental souvenirs, along with reminding photos, are what I would hope to bring home with me.
Is that enough to fan even the most modest dreams of traveling again…..especially alone, without my trusty partner-in-crime? A review of the pros and cons seems to weigh against that.
Instead, why not return to our earlier travels, both with family, or just the two of us….as documented by the albums, notebooks, photos, and mementos we have from those times. Why not use my energy to milk the feelings and memories of remembered times, as seen through my now-older eyes, and filtered through my now-older mind.
Seems to me that approach would allow me to side-step the limitations of the “me” I have become, while allowing that "me" to view our old travels on a new screen, complete with new, more mature insights.
Here’s the deal…..life, whether good or bad, is lived in our minds. That was true at twenty-five or thirty. It is even more true at eighty-seven. The travel I have always loved and looked forward to, no matter what the destination, was a mind game….to be lived and relived in our consciousness…..as thoughts, memories, and daydreams.
If that is so…..why should I subject my aging body, so ill-equipped for the rigors of modern-day travel…..demanding flights, strenuous excursions, constantly changing accommodations, etc, to such an ordeal?
Why not simply send my mind and my consciousness, on the “trip of my dreams”? With generous assists from our photo library, notebooks, self-published stories, YouTube, Google, and other internet resources I can capture the good things I hope to experience from the comfort of my easy chair, while saving the wear and tear on my aging body, not to mention my bank account.
Why shouldn’t we, any of us, return to our own fruitful past…. fleshing it out if necessary….to create the mind-dwelling future we dream of?
With that in mind I am presently wrestling with thoughts of posting a few of our personal travel escapades on these pages…..ones that illustrate my propensity for unplanned, unexpected adventures in the ‘old world.’ If I can follow through with that idea you should see the first episode in a week or two.