There’s Nothing Else
By Andrew McCarthy
I once heard the ebullient travel writer Don George say, “There’s one trip that changes every traveler’s life.” He was referring to that sojourn that marks a reckoning of life “before,” and then “after” – a journey that changes the way we see the world, or see our place in it. A five hundred mile walk across the north of Spain along the Camino de Santiago was such a trip for me.
I began my journey the way most of us enter upon life’s momentous transitions – with no awareness, no preparedness, of what was before me. Yet how could I possibly have known what was to come? Isn’t the purpose of entering the wilderness of our life a journey into the unknown with the intent of emerging from it altered?
Paul Theroux, the man who rewrote what the modern travel narrative could be, once claimed, “You come back, but never all the way.”
Travel changes us, that’s the point.
That singular moment of discovery by the side of a barn in the high meseta under a blistering Spanish sun outside the dusty village of Castrojeriz changed my perception of everything that had come before, and equipped me for life after, in a way that might never have happened had I not left the supposed safety of home. I saw, in an unwitting flash of emotional light that went to the center of my being, precisely the way that fear had ruled me—and to a degree that I had never been previously aware. With that insight, I was liberated to choose a different way to walk through time. There was before, and then there was after.
Bold travel has the power to obliterate our fears and preconceptions if we allow it. Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness.” In this complex moment in our history, it would be difficult to find more openhearted and practical wisdom.
So take the plunge into the unknown, make that Grand Tour around the edges of your comfort. The great American playwright Tennessee Williams summed it up for us when he wrote, “Make voyages! – Attempt them! – there’s nothing else…”