Most stories involve travel, in the form of a journey. You know the cliché about the “hero’s journey.” It’s used all the time because it’s something we can relate to – the need to get away, to explore, to experience the unfamiliar and unknown, to travel far and wide before we can find our way back home. Our journeys can be geographical or emotional or both. Sometimes in fiction we travel through time as well as space. We cross boundaries in stories that we can’t in “real” life, though sometimes the journeys in stories seem more real to me than what I spend most of my time doing every day.
I used to have a powerful urge to roam. Sometimes I still do. But compared to a year or two ago, I find that I am more and more inclined to seek out journeys of the heart and soul, rather than ones that involve real travel. Don’t get me wrong – I’m deeply grateful for the travel I’ve been able to do. It’s probably taught me more about myself than almost anything else I’ve done. There’s nothing like having to figure out how to do laundry in a foreign country, or how to ride a bus the right direction, or how to deal with being a vegetarian in meat-eating places (“oh, here’s a vegetarian dish: potatoes with bacon”) to show you the limits of your own resourcefulness. And I’m not on a travel moratorium; as you read this, I will have just returned from a trip to teach the second session of a college class in Puebla, Mexico, one of the most beautiful spots I’ve ever seen.
It’s just that I’m discovering what you can learn from taking journeys that go deep instead of wide. Staying with a friendship that isn’t working until you figure out how it can work again. Riding the waves of emotion that come with major life changes, good and bad. Creating new connections with people who live just around the corner.
Discovering the parallel universes that become obvious as soon as we start to pay attention. That’s fun, and it’ll be one of the themes of this year’s NaNoWriMo story. Starting November 1, watch this space to follow along with the daily word count insanity!