Travel is good for the soul. Travel always makes me appreciate coming home.
We just got back from Tour-cation. Tour-cation is when you’re a musician, and you’d love to take your family on a nice vacation, but fuel and hotel room prices are so jacked up because of inflation, the only way you can justify going is to tour and play concerts, shows, and festivals the whole time. So, for me it was awesome. Best of both worlds: family + music + travel = fun. For them? Well, on the road, someone has to be the rockstar and some have to be the roadies… 😀
The Great Generational Divide
The Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation didn’t have anything to play with except dirt (1901-1945), so The Boomers wanted to have lots of things, and they did. They still do. The Gen X’ers saw having “things” didn’t really make The Boomers happy, so they went out in search for what really does make people happy, and following suite, Millennials and Gen Z are into capturing memories, vids, and photos of experiences. If they don’t post it, it didn’t really happen. Millennials and Zillennials have really picked up on the benefits of traveling.
That’s their currency. Experiences.
I like the mindset of loving travel, but for a different purpose other than simply bragging rights on the socials. Maybe because the overall benefits of travel outshine the costs (hmm, well it depends on how you travel…)
There’s No Place Like Home
When I play a show in St Louis and I’m literally stepping over vagrants as I carry my guitar into the front door of the venue, it makes me appreciate the River Valley. I think of how Fred Teague would not let that stand. He and the Russ-Bus would be on the scene making sure they were taken care of for the night.
The time I was (almost) mugged in Memphis until they found out I was a musician and told me I was too poor to steal from… (Thankfully, all I had on me was $3 at the time.) Yeah, that makes me appreciate the River Valley.
When I’m playing in Colorado in August and it’s a cool breezy 70˚ with 12% humidity and people are throwing $20’s and $100’s in my tip jar I can’t wait to get back to… No, wait.. come to think about it, back home it’s 99% humidity with temps 101˚ feels like 136˚… I’m actually ok trading some parts of home for the road. 😉
But I still love coming home to the River Valley. Just preferably in the Fall.
Eyes Wide Shut
Travel offers us a glimpse into how other people live. For example:
We stopped along the side of the road near the Grand Canyon at a Native American stand where they were selling their handmade goods. There was a young girl there with a toddler boy, and though she was very young, he was her son.
We looked through her goods and found some trinkets and treasures. We wanted to support her because you could tell she had been having a hard go of it. We were the only people there the whole time we were shopping. She told us about the big businesses that were coming in a few miles away, building a resort and how they would send people to look at her store wares (jewelry and clothing) and then find ways to mimic and recreate them and sell them for much more at their big stores. Apparently, they had gone as far as to buy the land that she was set up on to get rid of her. She said the next time, if we ever drove by again, she would most likely not be there because they were kicking her off.
As I left, I noticed an offset segment of the tent had a full-size bed in it. I thought, “This must be part of their home. Or maybe the toddler needs a place to sleep for naptimes.” I even asked the young lady, “Do you live here also?” She looked down and said no.
We purposely overpaid for our treasures and thanked her for her unique artwork.
I was driving away, down through the Hopi desert, and about two hours later, it occurred to me: that bed is not for taking naps. That was another source of income for her.
It crushed me.
I have to tell you, I am still naive to certain things in this world. I just don’t think about them in certain ways. I think it’s because I grew up very isolated, living out in the country. I didn’t grow up around any kids my age, except in school. I grew up running around in the backwoods of Gum Log all by myself. I was one of those kids. My nearest neighbor was a half-mile away and I still don’t know who they are. I was wild. It was hard to get me to come inside, and by the time I did I had to strip my filthy clothes outside the door, check for ticks, & then go directly to take a bath.
If that sounds horrible, trust me, it wasn’t. It was Heaven. Because I wasn’t fettered with other people’s opinions, anxieties, ideologies, religiosities and negativities. I was free to think I lived in a good world of innocence and fun. Evil was a concept that was always meant to be overcome by good. Good wins. Just like in Star Wars.
And there are some things that just never crossed my mind.
I never knew true “want” growing up. My parents were together, they owned and operated a modest business, there was food on the table for every meal and with the innocence of a child, I assumed the same was true for everyone.
There’s a story (I’ll paraphrase) of the Buddha who grew up princely, his father never allowing him to see suffering or know it existed until one day he peered over the walls to the outside kingdom where he saw illness and suffering.
My isolation had allowed me to stay hidden from the unsavory truth of this earth.
The world is broken. Homes are shattered, people are greedy and unkind, governments are corrupt, children are mistreated, not fed, parental providers sometimes have to do things that are deemed “not right” to offer a chance for their children to live a better life.
The problem is whenever you see over that wall, you can never go back to living in that princely, guileless innocence. You will forevermore be dissatisfied knowing just on the other side of the wall is suffering. It will cling to your once-naive little soul and eat away at your joy and force you to do something about it. You will only find Joy by doing something about it.
I imagine the only person who could delay the effect of this is someone who has severed themselves from their conscience by choosing a selfish life focused on one’s own personal happiness and experiences and nothing else. These people find themselves constantly miserable, plagued with anxieties, and they don’t know why.
I know why.
Travel is Valuable
Because it has the potential of opening our eyes to the suffering of others and making us aware that we are in a position of privilege, and we can change the world around us: Travel. Is. Valuable.
I guess my challenge for myself today and every day is, “How do I cope with seeing over the wall?” I know things aren’t right, even in our little community here in Arkansas.
Children go to bed hungry in this town.
Go on and read that again.
It may be hard to imagine, but I guarantee you it is true.
I stuffed backpacks every school week for 8 years over at Dwight Elementary School. For kids with as many as up to six siblings to feed at their home.
And the counselor reminded me, “This is the only food some of them are going to get this week.” So yeah, I probably overstuffed them a little bit. Okay… a lot. But what I noticed about the food pantry is it always refilled itself, thanks to hard-working, generous organizations like The River Valley Food 4 Kids and parents and grandparents and the counselor herself who chipped in when needed.
I’m not obsessed with dying but since I was young, I always understood there’s a limited amount of time here on Earth. It is an echoed theme throughout many of my songs. The inescapability of the end, at least the end as we perceive it. And as I grow older, I understand how preciously finite this time is. If you are like me, in that you were once naive to the sufferings of this world because of how wonderful your childhood was, this is a glimpse: a peek over the wall.
We can’t just expect others to take care of the less fortunate whenever we are the more fortunate. One day the tides may turn, and it will be us in need. Who will come to our rescue in our time of need?
In this uncertain life, the only thing we can really be certain of is what we can control: our own actions. I love waxing philosophic with friends; I love studying religions and philosophies and ideologies. But the part I take to heart is what I believe. In the Book of James we’re told that pure religion, that the Lord accepts, is this: “To take care of orphans and widows.”
The problem with philosophies, ideologies and religions is that they are often so turned in on themselves that they forget to tend to the simplest of basic human needs.
Love God, Love others, and yes, even Love yourself.
Do it in that order though, lest we put the wrong thing in the wrong place.
How will you leave the world a better place than when you arrived?
Be Wonderful, friend.
Life is only Now.
P.S. If you want to make a change in the lives around you, then please give generously and often to these two amazing local organizations doing great work in the River Valley: rivervalleyfood4kids.org and therussbus.org