It’s a cool, fall morning, but it’s clear the sun will warm us up later. A few trees in the park near our house have begun to turn to yellow while others remain that magnificent glowing green. I decide on going for a stroll around the lake in the park to see the colors, and the reflections of geese and ducks swimming across the glassy water. A quiet roar of Sunday morning traffic passes on the highway and I chuckle at the constant contrast of peacefulness and energy that surrounds even my morning walks. Suddenly I realize I’m home, that I’ve settled back into the lovely routine of the rooted life. So of course what happens? I take a moment to reflect on why I travel, why that itch to be on the move creeps into my bones even on the most stunning of weekend mornings.
– On a train to Lao from Thailand. The middle of the night. Half fog, half consciousness of anti-malaria medicine inducing hallucinatory dreams, vivid but unable to remember. I shouldn’t be reading Ed Abbey’s “Hayduke Lives” as I’m now being chased by a bull-dozer and the inevitable destruction of nature.
– Sitting street side in a little cafe in Hoi-An, Vietnam. The constant sound of Kenny G elevator music or Disney’s instrumental classical hits without lyrics, and the likes of those god-awful 80s love ballads. The hornet buzz of motos grows comforting.
– My Son, ancient Hindu Tombs on the demilitarized zone between old North and South Vietnam. There are ghosts here. Many. Tourists overrun sacred spaces; I am one of them.
– Walking through the recreated mind of Ho Chi Minh in a surrealist museum dedicated to his biography. I gain new perspectives on the War with America, communism, and humble leadership in his small stilt house. We dine at restaurants that give Hanoi street kids a second chance.
– We see land mine victims. Land mines from carpet bombing (yes, u.s. did some of that). I read articles back home about their plight, but nothing compares to seeing missing limbs and the daily struggle. And they forgive us. My world view reorients and reframes, again and again, and again.
– An ancient artist king creates an incredible second home and funeral palace for his tomb. He carves a critical autobiography onto a 20-foot tall stone and leaves it for all to see, for near eternity. I plot how to live differently upon returning, how to integrate new ideas into new directions.
– We watch the world go by from street corners, my favorite time of everyday. We watch the world go by sitting on boats, on buses on trains, by foot and even in airports. We do the Hanoi hop, dodging motos and sidewalk vendors and fruit baskets.
– Enchantment strikes as we continually find life even in the midst of the tourist march. Monks in the incredible light of Halong Bay. A water puppet show to the musical soundtrack of ancient instruments in a crowded little theater, seats worn thin. Water buffalo chase rice paddies and water buffalo, old Thai women float through their market, children ride a street fair ferris wheel in Vientien of today. Locals bath in the river with shampoo, or drop their motos on shoresides for an evening dip with friends. Worshippers wander to temples to hear monks reading scripture and another chants alone, other than our intrusive observation. He plays the drum in time to his struggle for new understandings. Cicadas belt out a separate voice, a roar, a lyric, a meditational pull for the early morning pagoda.
– All this: difficulties, cultural understanding, thinking, movement, enchantment. Ways of travel. Ways of living. I am home. Here. There. Everywhere.