We all know how we can be turned around by a magic place; that’s why we travel, often. And yet we all know, too, that the change cannot be guaranteed. Travel is a fool’s paradise, Emerson reminded us, if we think that we can find anything far off that we could not find at home. The person who steps out into the silent emptiness of Easter Island is, alas, too often the same person who got onto the plane the day before at Heathrow, red-faced and in a rage.
Yet still the hope persists and sends us out onto the road: certain places can so shock or humble us that they take us to places inside ourselves, of terror or wonder or the confounding mixture of them both, that we never see amidst the hourly distractions and clutter of home. They slap us awake, and into a recognition of who we might be in our deepest moments. I will never forget walking out onto the terrace of my broken guest-house in Lhasa, in 1985, and seeing the Potala Palace above what was then just a cluster of traditional whitewashed Tibetan houses, its thousand windows seeming to watch over us. I will never forget, too, visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem two years ago and feeling, whether I wanted to or not, all the prayers, hopes and complications that people had brought to it. The place is as dark, irregular and everyday as the fights it houses — as worldly and human as the Potala seems the opposite — and yet the very fact that so many millions have come for centuries to pray and sob among its flickering candles ensures that many more will do so, even if, like me, they’re not Christian or Buddhist or anything.”
~From Pico Iyer
Photo from my trip to China in 2005–the first time I traveled sans spouse and children. And, such an important journey for me…