Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Travel as Buddhist Practice

Ajijic Seen From Lake Chapala
I'm in the process of packing for 3 weeks of travel in Mexico with Deborah. Since I'm putting everything in a backpack that I have to carry, my decision are made almost exclusively by weight. It's a challenging prospect due to the fact that we will be at in a range of climates from 7,000 feet above sea (sunny and comfortably temperate) to absolute sea level which, in July, will be steaming. I'm taking lots of soap so I can wash and rewash the clothes that I'll be sick to death of by the end of the trip. 

Packing is one of the hardest things about travel. Once we leave, we will have next to nothing and will, judging by our past performance, get used to it. It will be as though we never had any other life but the one of motion. Travel is one of the few genuinely Buddhist experiences. You are in the moment because there is nowhere else to be. Taking in the world and meeting basic needs of food and shelter are the goals that take up all the available space. It is a freeing feeling.

When I was young, following the death of my mother in 1973, I took the money from her life insurance, a friend and we went to Europe to bum around indefinitely. Our venture, meant to last at least a year, ended in eight months, not because we ran out of money (hostels and train travel were dirt cheap then) but because, even at 23, we ran out of stamina and patience with nomadic life. In the long run, there is an isolating quality to observing other's lives from the outside.

But, in the short run, I am really looking forward to a few weeks of suspended reality. Especially because, as a newly retired person, I haven't yet defined the parameters of what that day to day reality will actually look like.