Travel can be a disorienting gift. The displacement we experience outside of our usual routines and familiar landmarks often results in a variety of feelings and thoughts. Excitement, fear, stress, curiosity, are just a few of the things I felt during our most recent journey to the American Southwest.
The planning of our journey began a few months back, when we realized that the Friends of Dard Hunter annual papermaking conference (#EarthPaperSky) was taking place in Santa Fe, NM and that coincidentally, some of our closest friends were planning on moving to Taos, NM that same week. A scheme started to hatch where in exchange for driving their moving truck, we could stay with our friends (about a 1.5 hour drive away from the conference) and they would help us out with travel costs. We knew from attending the past 2 conferences that lodging and transportation were our main expenses, so we figured we might be able to afford the trip with this unique arrangement in mind.
Plans came together. We hit the road on a Sunday, travelling through the Columbia River Gorge into Idaho, where we would stay in Boise, then made our way on to Moab, Utah, enjoyed a brief leg in Colorado, arriving in Taos on the third day of driving. The days were long and the scenery beautiful. I fell into a mesmerizing state of nowness. Every time my mind would drift to thoughts about my normal, daily concerns I would bat them away and meditate on the landscape, on my driving speed, on the temperature of the truck cabin. My concerns came down to bathroom breaks, safe driving, listening to podcasts and grooving to the tunes of the Casbah. ( As an aside- If you don't know the Casbah program from San Antonio you should check it out. Downloading episodes for long roadtrips has helped grease the wheels of my and Gary's relationship. Seriously. Big thanks to Casbah host Brian Parrish!)
Once we were in Taos we unloaded the moving truck into our friend's new earthship home. I've recently realized that a lot of people don't know what earthships are. If you're not familiar with alternative building techniques like strawbale homes, shipping container homes, etc. you might not have seen or heard about earthships. Check out this page to learn more about how awesome they are - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthship.
Entering the desert landscape in this part of New Mexico was a little bit like landing on an alien planet. The sky was blue and vast, the trees were short and the mountain peaks (for now) were bare. At first I didn't think the higher altitude was effecting me too greatly, but after several days I started to feel like my nasal passages were constantly dried out and my lips cracked without a consistent application of chap-stick. I really enjoyed the landscape despite the dryness. There is a rugged beauty and sense of peace in the open sky. The morning and evening light was indeed golden. Sadly, the feeling of being in the present moment that I embraced on the drive started to fall away as we had to plan for attending the papermaking conference. We only had about a day in between driving and conference attending, so we did our best to soak up some down-time in Taos.
On arriving in Santa Fe we felt the familiar hustle and bustle of cars, people and activities. I'll write a separate account of our time at the conference, but for now I want to focus on the act of travel and what I think it does to our brains. One of the things Gary commented on was that when looking at the ever present adobe architecture we encountered, he couldn't place how old buildings were, as the signs of age and construction he is accustomed to weren't present. I think of this as an apt way of describing travel in general. Your usual markers for navigating the world drift away and you are left to engage anew.
Here's why I think travel is important. It awakens your curiosity and (hopefully) alters and expands your understanding of the world. Of course I am sure that many people travel and try and stick to the familiar so that there worldview is not challenged, and that their experience stays familiar. I feel badly for those people. A bit of the unknown can do a body (and mind) good. I also recognize what an amazing privilege it is to travel. Not everyone can afford to go beyond the place where they live and work. I strongly believe that providing people with an opportunity to see other spaces, cultures and landscapes can transform our understanding of the world and drive a more emapthetic and sustainable culture. Educational programs like Outdoor School in Oregon help give a glimpse to children of the world in this way.
Our next trip will be a family centered one over Thanksgiving. We'll be flying to Hot Springs, and visiting the Crystal Springs Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. After that we don't know where the next adventure will take us. I'm hoping we can go somewhere to celebrate my 40th birthday in April. I'd love to return to Paris and/or London (I lived in Paris for a year back during my undergrad studies), or visit a friend who lives in Japan, but international travel means we need more $$$$. Other possibilities are visiting Big Sur in California, or heading up to the San Juan Islands. Time (and money) will tell.
I'd love to know where you've traveled to lately and why you think it an important part of the human experience. Comment here and let me know.
- Jenn Woodward
Co-Founder and Lead Instructor, Pulp & Deckle
Pulp & Deckle is a handmade papermaking studio located in Portland, OR.