What do I mean by that?
For people who choose to travel the way I do (by foot, carrying my life on my back, where staying in hotels accrues penalty points), I have observed there are two basic types.
Stanley/Livingstone travelers need some element of extreme in their adventure. If the climate is not 100% humidity with bugs so big you can throw saddles on them, then it isn’t really a trip worth taking. Or, it has to be in some area where there is known political unrest or an unsavory reputation. Maybe it’s a place where the borders between restricted and unrestricted are blurry, or the elevations that need to be navigated seem to only go up, and then up again. You can’t go diving there without encountering sharks, or the view is great as you run off the cliff with the kite on your back. In short, for the trip to be worth taking, there has to be some element of physical, mental or spiritual testing that will spike your heart rate and allow you to see yourself in a new way.
For those of us who are born storytellers, you can understand the attraction. Oh, the tale we live to tell! But oh, the wear and tear it inflicts on traveling companions not to mention ourselves!
It is how I became a solo traveler. There are few who travel my way, and even fewer who are female.
But now my need for pushing boundaries and finding myself in that burst of adrenaline has changed. Perhaps, because I lived to tell the tale. What I found on the other side is what I think of as Lewis/Clark travel.
I acknowledge that some part of this change was triggered by growing up and growing older. I had children and that gave me a new appreciation for vulnerability and foolhardiness.
But now my boys are men, and my life returns to the road and the collection of stories.
There are still the same elements of unknown, but the stories I now search are found in the place itself. It is the road that is the story: the land, the people, the plants, the animals, and the way it reveals itself. Have you ever noticed that you get no true feel of a place as you drive by? Even riding bicycles doesn’t give you the same connection, the appreciation of rolling hills and sudden, slot valleys that plunge into the landscape, revealing their hidden gems only to those who pause to explore through finger and foot. It is about taking one’s time to see the way markers, to ask oneself ‘who built that wall?’ to savor the scent of wildflowers and salt on the wind. It is in the purposeful asking for directions, not because you are lost, but because it is an opportunity to engage in conversation with someone who may have something wise or wonderful to share with you.
In short, my travel has evolved from being all about experiencing me, to being about me appreciating the place where I am and the beauty that I find there.
Like Lewis and Clark, I approach each adventure with some degree of ignorance, but it is not the person, the ‘Dr. Stanley,” I now seek. It is the promise of the Northwest Passage, where it is the journey itself that is important, perhaps more important, than the goal.