A Perspective On Travel

Travel. I’m convinced that I can tell if a person is well-traveled simply by talking with them for 5 minutes. Even if they don’t drop a name of a foreign location, it becomes evident that they are intelligent and comfortable with conversation with a stranger. It’s easy to pick up on anyone who holds a wider perspective of the world and its myriad problems.

An adventurous spirit, a healthy appetite for information and knowledge; an easy demeanor and an understanding of change and the need for its acceptance; these things usually instantly define, for me anyway, a person who has traveled and enjoyed learning of other cultures, other lands, other ways of life.

Only in the past ten years have I come to this realization. Before that I had traveled only to 5 South American countries, England, The Netherlands, Belgium and France. Not bad, actually, but still not nearly enough for me to finally acquire the “world traveler gene,” which I now claim to possess.

I have a few good friends who will howl at this if they read it. My B for one and Rick Gohn for another. For they are truly world travelers and know me, and who view my world traveler’s feet as barely being wet by their standards. Eh, that’s okay. Knowing that “comparison is the thief of joy,” I will continue on my merry way here, as I have a point to make with all this, and it’s doubtful it could be made better with 100,000 more miles of world travel tacked on to it.

You see, with a certain amount of travel, a new perspective of who we are, where we are in this life, and what really matters finally becomes clear to us. It happens at different times for everyone, at different places, for different reasons… but it happens. And with that new perspective of ourselves in this world comes (usually) an understanding of the human condition and our place in humanity. With that comes a sense of compassion for all beings and things, a deeper understanding of all our challenges, knowing little to nothing about why we’re here in the first place, and therefor simply trying to make the best of it. Not just for us but for all of us.

I’m aware that a few people we know seem to have these qualities ingrained from their beginning, and travel only puts a deeper shine on them. What I’m discussing here is the rest of us… who grew up in communities across the country and think that all the secrets of the world and life can be found in books, in internet searches and perhaps down at your favorite bar.

Many of us live for each other’s good and well-being, albeit without really knowing why… we’re just that way. The “aha” moment comes when we realize why we are that way, and how important it is to be that way… again, for all of us. At that moment, we begin intending to be compassionate for, and thoughtful of others, and consciously access this intention in virtually every life situation we find ourselves in, regardless of who we might be with at the time.

Having our eyes opened to that new sense of self can be enlightening for us. For some it is a subtle sense of being, for others (and me) it can be a memorable moment, holding a new definition of ourselves with a new concept of how to live the rest of our lives.

My “aha’ moment came at a hotel overlooking Sorrento, Italy in 2012. B had taken me to Italy for my first time (we’ve been back twice since) and was showing me what, for her, were the highlights of her favorite country. For she truly loves Italy, and knows her way around the country with an ease that constantly amazes me.

Anyway, we had rented a car in Florence and were driving down to the Amalfi Coast. We had stopped at a gas station about half way down, and for the first time in my life, I needed help with the gas pump. Everything at that station seemed backwards for me… an Italian guy at the next stall looked at me in disgust and finally walked over and helped me figure out the gas nozzle and how to turn it on. Turns out I had even pulled into the station the wrong direction. But hell, who knew?

Having had an embarrassing and somewhat humiliating moment simply trying to gas up, I was trying to forget what a stupid-looking American I must have looked like, and was trying to joke and keep it light on the rest of the drive down to Amalfi. Every time we saw a pointy-looking mountain in the distance, I’d go, “Look, B, there’s mount Vesuvius!” To which she would patiently reply, “No Dear, that’s not it.” Several more times on that drive I would say, “Okay, now that’s got to be Vesuvius!” And B would shake her head and smile. “No, Dear.”

When we got down to the real Mount Vesuvius I didn’t say anything, being too impressed that there, just across from us, was the real Vesuvius, the one I’d read about and seen pictures of in history books and geography books. It was one of those “Wow! It really does exist” moments.

Later in the day, when we’d arrived in Sorrento and B had found our way up a mountain to the hotel we would stay for two days, we got a glass of wine and stood out on the deck, looking down at the spectacular view of Sorrento, the Gulf of Naples with the lights of Naples in the distance. And there, beyond all that stood the famous volcano, Mount Vesuvius, rising quietly above the remains of Pompeii, in silent proof of its fabulous history. It has seen whole civilizations grow and collapse, and there it remains, in mute testimony, to so much that Italy has endured. At that moment I felt extremely small, and extremely lucky. For at that moment I was seeing, and being a part of, the massive history of the civilization in a country I never wanted to, nor expected, to see.

Our view of The Gulf Of Naples, Mount Vesuvius and Naples in the distance.

I don’t pretend to know how most of us find our own personal reality… it could be through our religion, our spirituality, something amazing that happened in our lives… all those things can change one’s life for the better. What I do know, however, is that once a person has seen a certain amount of the world through travel and experience, that person finds a deeper, more compassionate twinkle in their eye, a quieter tone of voice, a keener ear for listening to others, and an abiding sense of purpose. It took 72 years and 17 countries for me to finally get it. If I have it, and I think I do, then I finally got it from that evening in Sorrento, overlooking the Gulf Of Naples. And it wasn’t the wine.

Steve Hulse

One Reply to “A Perspective On Travel”

  1. My Dear Esteemed “World Traveler” – Welcome to the Club! B and I are extremely delighted to have such a quality person, such as yourself, join our ranks. I must say, you chose quite a location to get your “aha” moment. The Amalfi Coast with all its attractions is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful locations in the world. The inlaid wood factories of Sorrento are just one of the many fascinating things to see.

    I found your comments about the traits of a well traveled person to be profound. I guess I never stopped to consider why some people love or enjoy to see different places and to meet people who are much different than ourselves. And then, on the flip side, I have known a great number of people who are perfectly fine to stay home and never venture out anywhere. I feel very sad for those types of people. Your comments, “…adventurous spirit, a healthy appetite for information & knowledge, an easy demeanor and an understanding of change & the need for its acceptance” are some incredibly descriptive words. Words that I wish could be inserted into every history or social textbook that would be required reading for the children or the country – hell – adults too!

    I was stimulated by your words because when I was in Naples at a conference, hosted by the Italian Air Force, our group was offered a chance to take a bus tour to the Amalfi Coast with a stop in Pompeii along the way. Sad to say, there were only a few of us who opted for the trip. WOW – what an education! It was a trip I will never forget plus, Joani beats me up – often – for not taking her with me. I did bring her back an item, which she cherishes – a hand made inlaid wood tray from Sorrento.

    Thanks for another classic article!

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