Welcome to Traveling Savage. I’ve begun this blog to chronicle my travels, provide travel tips and advice, and share my observations and insights. I hope you follow along and find useful bits along the way. “Traveling Savage” stands for many things, but it’s primarily a philosophy. To travel savagely is to embrace with open arms the entire voyage, to cast aside conceptions – even your old self, if necessary – so that you can find your savage and exuberant core.
And now, a story…
It was the late summer of 1998. I had recently moved to Madison, Wisconsin to embark on the first great adventure of my life: college. Really, school. I didn’t want it to end once it started. But it did end, and I have two reminders of that time: the degree hanging prettily on my office wall and the experiences of four-and-a-half-years brimming with fondness, wonder, and gratitude.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Southeast dorms were hot and stuffy in August – and empty. I was required to move in early to begin my campus food service job. As a kid, I didn’t enjoy spending the night at friends’; to be honest, I was filled with a suffocating homesickness. It was a shade of this same feeling that greeted me as I prepared for bed that first night in the dorm. I missed my family and anxiously dwelled on the unknown ahead.
Each morning the specter of that longing gradually faded away until it was replaced by an emotional cocktail of excitement, open-mindedness, and a compulsion for new experiences. The other new students moved in. Classes started. Hangovers started. I befriended dozens of people, most unlike my old friends, went to house parties, bars(!), concerts, and consumed a host of new and interesting tonics. I occasionally attended class and studied, too. By the time the school year came to a close, the preceding months were an inseparable melange of flashbulb memories that had been preserved by the spell of wonder I’d been under. Wonder born, in part, of the seemingly endless opportunities – and their unknown conclusions – that awaited in the future.
Distance is powerful
Seven years past graduation, and the shape of that time has become clearer. Peaks and valleys are more pronounced and the minutiae are lost in the mix. My college experience was at times long and confusing, often trying, but ultimately exhilarating and transformative. Beyond the academic growth, I’m grateful for the wealth of experience and knowledge of self I gained those years at UW-Madison. Grateful to my parents for the satisfying goose egg in my debt column as well. Seven years of office work helped me see how special that time was, and I’m grateful for the insight I’ve found through this analysis.
In many ways, the experience of college mirrors the feeling of travel: the fondness for your family and old routines; the wonder and awe of new countries and cultures; a lasting and warming gratitude that you were able to experience that. And perhaps travel itself is just another mirror of something greater. Journeys of self-discovery? Well, if nothing so great, at least an easily replicable method for feeling alive and fresh and new.
The golden age of now
So many people think back on college as the best time of their lives, as if the feelings and experiences of that time are relegated to the past, irrevocably lost to the ether of memory or time or soul-sucking jobdom. In the midst of workaday routines, the rhythm and rules of society seem as inescapable as a high-security penitentiary to those who are explorers at heart. I know. If you’re anything like me, you think about your domestic and work responsibilities, sigh, and continue living one way and dreaming another. If you can add and acquire, then you can remove and divest. The ability to restart is in us all; we just need to find the courage to push the reset button.
One of the more random acts of college occurred during my first week in Madison. I was at the student library when I stumbled on the Dadaist Manifesto. This document was written in Zurich during the height of World War I, and it ridiculed what its authors considered to be the meaninglessness of the modern world. I was struck by the strangeness of it, but something in its message resonated with my new-found freedom. I quickly photocopied the manifesto and taped it to my dorm-room door (to the chagrin of my roommate, I’m sure). I didn’t – and still don’t – fully understand Dada, but then, I didn’t fully understand myself either. Taping that photocopy to the door was a declaration of the indescribable revolution happening to me. It was also a tangible reminder that, I realize now, was meant to help me maintain that mindset.
Three very important words
So today I present a new manifesto composed of three simple words: Fondness. Wonder. Gratitude. Words to write in a journal, keep in your pocket, and read every morning. So they can be more than just words.
Tape them on your door if it helps.
Have your own personal mantra? How do you keep yourself focused on your goals, travel or otherwise?