Ruminating On Travel

January 05, 2011

Two weeks ago today, my younger sister left for Guatemala, where she will spend the next twenty-seven months serving as a Peace Corps volunteer. I am amazingly proud of her courage, her commitment, and her sense of adventure. Thanks to the the wonders of technology, I've been able to Skype with her a couple of times already, and hearing about her experience has brought waves of different ruminations to my mind. The first is about travel in general. This is my sister's first time outside of the US, and she's doing it completely on her own. The degree of culture shock that anyone feels when traveling is multiplied many times over in her extreme situation. The noise levels, new foods, new language, and attention she receives are all the more difficult to adjust to since she's doing it on her own. I can't even fathom it, and so, I admire her courage. My second thought is about technology and how it affects our worldview. Even in a small town in Guatemala, my sister is able to occasionally update her blog and Facebook page, and to Skype with family. This has helped with the transition immensely, in that it makes the distance between us seem all the smaller. And I imagine it makes her feel more connected to home, which is a comfort to her. The prospect of living in a foreign land for more than two years remains daunting, but it seems that in this day and age, it is all the more possible to stay connected regardless of geographical location. Still, I admire her commitment to the cause, that she would leave everything familiar to go and serve others. My final rumination revolves around how different she and I are. They say that your siblings shape your personality more than peers or even parents. If this is true, then my sister and I shaped each other by pushing each other in opposite directions. We get along great and I love her to death, and yet we are almost complete opposites. She's always been the risk-taker, the spontaneous wild child, the adventurer, whereas I'm more the cautious, responsible, old-woman-in-a-young-woman's-body type. I enjoy travel, but a lot of the time, I really just love to be at home surrounded by those I love. And so, I admire her sense of adventure. In honor of my sister, I share these two poems, both for and against travel, and wish our readers all the best in their 2011 travels. Stephanie **** Travel, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
The railroad track is miles away, And the day is loud with voices speaking, Yet there isn't a train goes by all day But I hear its whistle shrieking. All night there isn't a train goes by, Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming, But I see its cinders red on the sky, And hear its engine steaming. My heart is warm with friends I make, And better friends I'll not be knowing; Yet there isn't a train I'd rather take, No matter where it's going.
**** Against Travel, by Charles Tomlinson
These days are best when one goes nowhere, The house a reservoir of quiet change, The creak of furniture, the window panes Brushed by the half-rhymes of activities That do not quite declare what thing it was Gave rise to them outside. The colours, even, Accord with the tenor of the day—yes, ‘grey’ You will hear reported of the weather, But what a grey, in which the tinges hover, About to catch, although they still hold back The blaze that's in them should the sun appear, And yet it does not. Then the window pane With a tremor of glass acknowledges The distant boom of a departing plane.


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