‘Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.’ From Pat Conroy in The Prince of Tides
Spend a lazy half-an-hour searching for travel quotes on the internet and you will find oodles and oodles of them. I do this occasionally when I am struggling with my writing and looking for inspiration for my own words; on one such occasion I discovered the quotation above. I made a note of it because the quote resonated and seemed to have some truth in it. Since then I have come back to it regularly and mulled it over.
It is a certainly a comforting thought that when I can no longer physically travel, I will continue to take journeys in my head. I like the thought of being able to play voyages out over and over again as often as I like. Those of us who have older friends who no longer travel as much as they once did will have witnessed the joy of this. Talking about my own travels can spark memories in these friends and give them a chance to reminisce and recall journeys they made and tell me their own travel stories from the past.
Perhaps my travel memories will be particularly strong. Being observant is part and parcel of being a travel writer, I make notes, take photographs and try and fix a place in my memory. Once I return home I spend my time editing photographs and writing travel articles and blog posts about my experiences and what I have seen. This process keeps the journeys constantly playing out in the forefront of my mind and they stay with me longer than if I had returned to another job.
The memories don’t disappear and therefore the trip doesn’t really end when the copy is sent to my editor or posted on the blog. I find I can be thinking about something else / anything else and a thought comes in sideways. I might be planning our next trip or doing something as mundane as wondering what to cook for our evening meal, a connection is made and recollections of a place will suddenly pop into ‘the quietest chambers’ of my mind.
Perhaps travel changes how my mind works and in more complex ways than I can ever explain. My travel-related research takes in the attractions, the history, the people and culture of a region and this breadth might help my mind establish new associations, tying together the new and old experiences and journeys. Perhaps these exciting labyrinthine links are one of the reasons that travel is so addictive.
A number of bloggers discuss travel addiction or dromomania. Like any addiction it seems that the constant new sights and sounds that travel provides can deliver a contented high to the brain. The brain likes this pleasurable sensory overload and will ask for more of this travel-gratification. While loving travel can be a demonstration of a passionate and adventurous nature, needing travel to thrive could be considered obsessive and damaging. And if this travel high only delivers if you visit new places you are on a road to compulsive journeys that take you way off the tourist trail.
I’m not concerned about dromomania. I am happy returning again and again to the same destination, there is always something new to find even in a well-visited area. Even in a familiar area, when we are travelling our days are packed with new experiences and this can be intoxicating. Yet, what I love the most on a trip is the stripped-down nature of our travelling life, everything feels happily straightforward, we are mostly in control of what is happening [although not always] and have the freedom to take each day as it comes. Whether we are an hour away from home or in a foreign country, I am always eager to relax, explore and get under the skin of a region.
We had a year travelling a few years ago and we had a ball but we both knew that we didn’t want to go for so long again. This was for various reasons but the main one was wanting to keep other relationships alive. Travelling for two or three months at a time is our compromise that works fairly well for us both; I get my fix of travelling that sustains me through a few months at home. Then I enjoy being where I am with my travel memories playing out over and over again in the quiet recesses of my mind until it is time to get our Blue Bus back on the road again!
Pat Conroy wrote many novels including The Price of Tides and The Great Santini.