I’ve wanted to write this piece for a long time, but the words have eluded me. Essentially, my hope is to convey to the savvy networker the benefit and beauty of experiencing other places, thereby meeting new people and, ultimately, collecting new experiences from which to build a fulfilling life. However, that all sounds so esoteric and intangible. That said, having just returned from a week in Lisbon, Portugal, the pieces are falling into place for me.
Years ago, when I worked at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, I recall a conversation with my board chair, mentor and friend, Lesa Mitchell. She had just returned from one of her many business trips. When asked how the trip was, she got a twinkle in her eyes, a smile on her face and simply said, “Awesome.” Over the years, she would share that all travel was “awesome” because of all that you get to see and hear and touch and experience. And, in fact, though I have many, many people in my life, many of whom have vast, broad, global networks, it is Lesa who has the most extensive, supportive, interesting and mutually beneficial.
More recently, I recalled that conversation with Lesa when I read Gloria Steinem’s 2015 memoir, My Life on the Road. Steinem, with whom I already felt a kindred spirit given her activist support of women’s rights and the fact that she is a graduate of my own alma mater, Smith College, won me over even more as soon as I read the introduction to her book…
When people ask me why I still have hope and energy after all these years, I always say: Because I travel. (p. xvii)
She went on to say, “I became a person whose friends and hopes were as spread out as my life. It just felt natural that the one common element in that life was the road” (p. xvii). I just love that sentiment. That one of the benefits of our lives is amassing a collection of people we gather on our journeys.
In addition to books, I also love movies. In fact, my recent trip reminded me of a beautiful movie I saw not too long ago, “Night Train to Lisbon.” The main character, Raimund Gregorius (played by Jeremy Irons), is reading aloud from a book by the real-life Portuguese doctor and activist, Amadeu de Prado, which drives the central story of the film; he shares this passage:
We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place. We stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there. We travel to ourselves when we go to a place where we have covered a stretch of our life, no matter how brief it may have been.
To me, this is another lovely concept: That we leave a piece of ourselves behind when we encounter other people, other places, other cultures. What once was foreign is now familiar; it is a part of us. And, we can retrieve or recapture that which we leave behind by revisiting the place we left it – seems we can do this both physically and by reminiscing about those experiences.
I suppose the lesson of this piece is to encourage you to explore. Go adventuring! Just, GO! Gloria Steinem says that she wants to, “…encourage you to spend some time on the road, too. By that, I mean traveling – or even living for a few days where you are – in an on-the-road state of mind, not seeking out the familiar but staying open to whatever comes along. It can begin the moment you leave your door” (p. xxi).” I agree. Indeed, no need to travel too far. New people, new opportunities can be found where you currently are. You must simply open yourself to the possibility of new opportunity. And, just as you take those experiences with you in your memory and your log of encounters, give of yourself. Leave something of yourself with others. You can revisit and build on those memories when you travel back to them – literally and figuratively.
Do you have a story of friendships established, near and far, that have left an indelible mark on your life? To where have you traveled to collect these experiences? Please take a moment to share and/or leave a comment at CoffeeLunchCoffee.com. Happy Trails!
In my heart, I know that if I were forced into an either/or choice between constancy and change, home and the road – between being a hazar, a dweller in houses, and an arab, a dweller in tents – I, too, would choose the road.
– Gloria Steinem, My Life on the Road, p. 29.