Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My Ten Favorite Travel Quotes: Inspiration for World Philosophy Day

Simone and some Japanese students contemplating Hello Kitty's place in Zen philosophy at the Ryoan-ji Zen Garden in Kyoto, Japan

Today is UNESCO's World Philosophy Day, the perfect time to share my favorite travel quotes. Sometimes travel can be really hard. You spend hours traipsing around a hilltop town trying to find a temple that apparently doesn't exist, the hostel has lost your reservation, the ferry no longer goes to the island that you want to visit, your feet are swollen and blistered, if you eat one more empanada, you're going to commit hari-kari, the waiter doesn't understand a thing you say, it's been raining non-stop for a week and you just want to go home. At times like that, a little travel inspiration can go a long way (as can a tall, strong, icy cocktail) in making things right, or at least less painful, with the world. Here's what I like to think about when I'm ready to throw in the travel towel:  

Luis watching the sunset, no doubt engrossed in deep, philosophical thoughts or possibly wondering when Happy Hour starts in Canada: Dease Lake, BC (photo by Simone Cannon)   

 “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

I'm fairly sure that when I'm old and withered and sitting in a nursing home, I'm not going to be reminiscing about the wonderful episode of American Idol that I saw one Saturday night. I'm guessing that my memories will probably be more along the lines of what it felt like to see Machu Picchu for the first time as the dawn was breaking over the mountains or the sounds and smells of climbing to the top of ancient ruins in Angkor Wat.

“Not all those who wander are lost.” J. R. R. Tolkien

I read Lord of the Rings three times...all three books. They made me want to hit the trail every time I read them.

“If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.” James Michener

If you're going to travel, travel. Just like love, enter it with abandon or not at all.

 Luis hiking up the Moreno Glacier, El Calafate, Patagonia, Argentina (photo by Simone Cannon)

"Pilgrims are poets who create by taking journeys." Richard R. Niebuhr

If you think that you're not the creative type, maybe you're wrong. Perhaps your art is to travel, to make connections, to learn about the world and its people and to share your stories and photos with others so that they can learn by extension. Perhaps it's your gift.

"My country is the world and my religion is to do good." Thomas Paine

Be a citizen of the world, keep an open mind, perform random acts of kindness, accept the generosity of strangers, try to understand other belief systems, support peace, learn as much as you can and you can't go wrong.

"Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveler is unaware." Martin Buber

You can never know where a trip or path will take you, so keep your eyes open to the possibilities. If you have your whole trip planned out ahead of time, you will never experience serendipity or the joy of discovery. Some of the best moments of traveling for me have been unplanned and sometime the results of things going wrong. Take the road less traveled.

Arriving at the mountain town of Iruya, Argentina via high altitude hairpin turns on the chicken bus (photo by Luis Bastardo)  

"Life is always either a tightrope or a featherbed. Give me the tightrope." Edith Wharton
Take a chance. Don't always take the path of least resistance. Push your comfort zones. Experience life; you'll never have another chance.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness." Mark Twain
Call me optimistic, but I believe that if more people traveled, there would be a lot more empathy, understanding and fewer stereotypes. People are the same the world over. The extremists grab the headlines, but the vast majority of people just go about their lives, living quietly, trying to get by and squeezing in a little happiness whenever they can.

Ballroom dancing in the park, Beijing, China (photo by Simone Cannon)

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