I love to travel. I love travelling. I love being away from home.
No matter how I phrase this, it doesn’t seem to come out right. I love being on holiday, away on business, or visiting friends and family. It not that I don’t like being at home; but there is something wonderful about spending time in new (or just different) places. Having said that, it has taken me a long time to actually enjoy travel itself.
As a kid, my brothers and I were piled into the back of the car and taken to our destination with as few stops as possible; the point was to “get there.” Later, when I began to travel as an adult it was often for work, and again the focus was on arriving. Even when I took leisure trips, I didn’t really understand that the journey itself can be savored. My first solo road trips were so ambitious, with such huge distances to cover each day, that I barely saw, let alone stopped to enjoy, the places I passed through.
If I’m honest, I’ve lived most of my life that way; always so focused on the destination that I ignored the journey — and I’m not thinking only of physical travel.
Recently, things have changed. I’m not sure when or how — it has been slow and subtle — but sometime in the last few years I have actually started to experience (not always enjoy — but at least be aware of) the hills and valleys of my wanderings and not simply the end-point.
Of course it is easier when I travel solo; I don’t have to negotiate companions’ timetables or boredom thresholds. I can double-back to photograph the amazing church seen fleetingly on my first pass through a town, pull into a tiny road-side cafe or gallery, and stop for an extended chat with people I meet. With family and friends, the pleasures are often simply to be in their company, with nowhere else to go and no internet to distract.
Sometimes the destination is only part of another journey. Cape Reinga is at very top of New Zealand; with only the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea (which meet off the coast there) beyond. There is only one road, and no other access. Yet for Maori, it is the place where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld (1) by leaping from the headland into an ancient pohutukawa tree below, climbing the roots to enter Te Ara Wairua, the ‘Spirits’ pathway’, and return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki.
Travel is so frequently a metaphor for life that we barely think of it as one at all. I am aware that as my attitudes to physical travel have changed, so to has my appreciation of the rhythm of everyday life. Maybe it’s because I get so caught up in the mundane that I lose track of the bigger goals that seemed so all-consuming in my youth? Maybe I’m just slowing down. I will never be the first woman Governor General of NZ (an old ambition, dashed by the 1989 appointment of the wonderful Dame Cath Tizard), nor will I publish my first book by age 40 (where does the time go?). But maybe I will still achieve some of the big dreams.
In the meantime, I cherish each day with a loving partner and a wonderful child who is rapidly becoming a man.