Saturday, January 14, 2017
The Value of Travel
What do you picture as the meaning of life? As I face some serious health problems, I find myself asking this question. I've spent most of my life trying to get by. My hard work and perseverance sometimes seems to be for nought. I'm surrounded by people who put a lot of value on material things, and I worry that we've all lost sight of what's really important in life. I won't argue the value of love and family, but I have to argue the value of fancy cars and big houses; Iphones and designer clothes. I feel that the most important things that we can accumulate are memories and for the first time in my life, I can argue why.
I've been many things in my life. I've been both rich and poor. I chose to live my life as a middle class person. I walked away from rich. My friends, acquaintances, family and others around me are always talking about things. Everyone talks about buying a big house, a fancy car, a great phone, a big TV, and so on. All I ever wanted to do was see the world. I've had a chance to see a bit of it, and the more I see, the more I want to see. I always wanted to know if I was crazy because going places and doing things and having experiences was more important to me than who made my purse. I wanted to be like people I know that spend their lives content with never leaving their country, their state, or even their city. I thought I was wrong. I don't feel that way anymore.
There's an old saying that you can't take it with you. I've always liked that. Most of us believe in some kind of spiritual life. Whether you think that you're going to heaven, hell, purgatory, limbo or whatever; whether you believe in karma, reincarnation, or whatever; you cannot take material things with you. In ancient times, they buried people with what they would need for the afterlife or for when they returned. We're digging up the items that were buried with these people today. You can't take it with you folks. What do you get to keep? Your memories.
My travels are some of the best memories of my life. I never questioned that. I love to share my stories of sitting on the Berlin Wall, going to church in Russia with the Pope, hiking in Iceland, walking in the Alps and many more. I also love my house, my car, my new oven and many other things. But, today I learned the value of memories.
I was talking to my mom. That's right, just talking to my mom. This is the time of year that makes her a little sad. Two years ago today, my dad died suddenly. My mom is still recovering. My parents lived comfortably. My parents also liked to travel. I talked to my mom today, as I always do on days that I'm afraid may upset her about my dad's death. She told me three stories that were adorable anecdotes from trips that she took with my dad. She told me about a time that she got drunk in Cancun with him and how much trouble he had getting her back to the hotel room and putting her in bed. She told me about the time that they were part of the crew on a schooner in the Caribbean. She told me about the time that they went to Flagstaff and it snowed in the summer on top of the mountains there. Her voice sounded happy when she was telling me the stories.
I realized that every time my mom talked about the house or the car it was a story of something that stressed her out. She had something that broke and she had to get it fixed. She had something that was just there that she didn't seem to want to think about. Since my dad died, the house has given her no comfort. The car has given her no comfort. His gigantic clock collection has given her no comfort. The only time that she sounds comforted when she talks about my dad is when she talks about their memories. Most of their memories involve travel. I thought about that today as I prepare to take care of some serious problems myself. I wondered if I was losing my mind, or was it really more important to have great memories than to have a lot of money and stuff.
Life is a journey and travel is journeying. It's pretty simple. Explorers never seemed to talk of regret. I have never regretted a single journey that I've taken. I've been told that travel is a waste of money, but I argue that you cannot put a monetary value on irreplaceable experiences and the memories that they create. Do I want to look back on my life and judge it on my possessions? No. I would rather look back on my life as a story of amazing experiences. I would call that money well spent. You can't get time back, so spend it well. Don't tie yourself to a house and make that your life. Go out and experience life. A house can be a prison. An experience can set you free. Think about it.
Money spent on travel is money spent on making memories. That's not a waste. My mom has great memories. That's what comforts her. Those are the things that she remembers most. This is a woman who once placed a great deal of importance on material things. Now that she's missing my dad, her point of view has changed. Facing my own problems and looking back at my regrets and my accomplishments I can say that I most fondly remember my travels. I don't have a fancy house or a fancy car. I don't have an Iphone or a designer purse. I do have memories of traveling 17 countries and 37 states. I have memories of romantic getaways with my husband. I have memories of road trips with my son. I have memories of European adventures with my family. I have memories of hiking Iceland with my mom. I'll take my memories. After all, it's the only thing that I have a shot at taking with me.
So, take some time and do some traveling. Spend some quality time on the road with your family and loved ones. Make the memories that will comfort you when your loved ones have gone. Remembering is what we really have after our loved ones leave us, so make the memories that will comfort you later now. See the world and enjoy!