Starting this year, I am embarking on a new series called Conversational Posts, which will feature once in two months. I invite two bloggers to converse with one another and me. Based on a theme, the two bloggers will have a conversation with me. The theme for today’s Conversational Post is Journey and the two bloggers who set the wheels rolling for the inaugural edition are Corinne from Everyday Gyaan and AJ Poliquit from The Transcendental Tourist. If you ask me why the theme ‘journey,’ then I will have to tell you that both Corinne and AJ discuss journeys on their blogs; the former, a metaphorical journey of the self and the latter, a literal journey of the self. So, here we go:
Susan Deborah (hereafter, SD): Describe your blog.
Corinne Rodrigues (hereafter, CR): My blog is a reflection of my own search towards living an inspired and holistic life - every day.
AJ Poliquit (hereafter, AJ): The Transcendental Tourist is a mom-and-pop travel blog. It does not aspire to be more than a repository of my travel memories and epiphanies. My blog is a diary of my life journey disguised as a travel blog.
SD: You say that the blog is a diary of your life journey - but isn't travel only a part of the journey of life?
AJ: - That's true. But a part can give a glimpse of the whole; I'm not audacious enough to allow full disclosure of my life in the net, haha! With my blog, I aim to present life - my life - as a (literal and literary) journey. It encompasses life experiences that have shaped who I am, that I have learned from, that have enriched my life. I concede, though, that there are experiences outside of travel that I want to write about; that's why I keep a separate folder of non-travel posts in my blog.
AJ to CR: I think that is the search of every human being, whether they are aware of it or not. It is commendable that you develop such consciousness and that you share your life journey with others through your blog.
CR: Thanks, AJ. Yes, I do believe that our blogging is an attempt to reach out to others with our ideas, thoughts or information. In my case, I want to share experiences and see how this resonates with others.
SD: What does a journey mean to you?
CR: A journey is always an adventure - you don't know who or what you are going to encounter. I like to be prepared for my journeys but I also like to be surprised.
AJ: Journey means movement, and movement is freedom.
SD: What about rootedness then? Our forefather never travelled as much, didn't they have freedom. And by freedom, what freedom do you mean - mental, physical? Please elaborate on this 'freedom.'
AJ: Yes, freedom is not only physical. Freedom can be indulging our capacity to dream. Case in point, my maternal grandfather. He was born in the mountains. You wouldn't think he could get any further than the nearest town which was accessible by crossing 2 rivers on foot. Yet, he walked those miles to attend school. As a teenager, he boarded a steamship to America, worked on canneries in Alaska to save up for his education. He eventually put himself to school in Oregon until he got to theological school in Massachusetts. He's the epitome of freedom of body and the human spirit. I hope to write part of his story, or journey, soon.
AJ to CR: True that. What are some of the memorable surprises that you have encountered in your travels? How do they account for living an inspired and holistic life?
CR: Funny that you should ask that, AJ. My most memorable surprise was my the celebration of my birthday in Manila. I had gone for a three week training and the organizers found that it was my birthday. The celebrations started right after Sunday Mass and continued right up to dinner where I was brought a cake by the restaurant waiters singing 'Happy Birthday'. That whole trip taught me the value of relationships and keeping things real.
SD: How do you describe a journey that does not nave the literal element of journey - a travel, for instance?
CR: There are various kinds of journeys - I often undertake journeys via books and blogs without having to leave my desk.
AJ: I do see life as a journey. We are all at different points in our life journey. Memories are landmarks of the past; they represent particular places in my life, usually forks on the road, that have led me to choose my present path. My literal journeys (trips) are just part of this cosmic journey - the bigger scheme of things, as they say.
AJ to CR: You have said that a journey is an adventure. Does that also reflect your choice of reading materials? Do they count for armchair traveling for you?
CR: I love reading fiction. I can truly say that I got a broad understanding of life and customs of many countries via the stories I read that were based in them. For example, my aunt used to visit Ireland often when she lived in the UK. She brought back with her many story books set in Ireland. I have yet to visit Ireland but my vast reading of stories set in that country makes me feel I'm part Irish! ;) I listen to Celtic music a lot and am totally besotted with the Irish accent.
SD: What does travel do to you in the literal and figurative sense?
CR: It widens my mind as it often helps me see things from a new perspective. Many times I learn new things about a culture or a people. Often I make new friends on my travel and that also helps my world to get bigger.
AJ to CR: - My thoughts exactly.
AJ to CR: - My thoughts exactly.
AJ: Traveling is a heightened experience. Literally, it stimulates the senses. The strange sights, smells, sounds, and tastes arouse the senses that may have been tempered by the familiarity of home. Figuratively, it engages the mind and spirit to discover another world and another time. A cultural experience occurs in the soul; it connects humanity and history through common threads in the quilt of diversity. It is more than a tangier taste or a colder climate.
SD: “Cultural experience of the soul” is an interesting way of seeing travel. Tell me your experience of the very first travel you undertook. Do you remember it vividly? Was it a liberating experience?
AJ: I've always traveled as far back as I can remember. Weekend trips to our sugarcane farm in the countryside comprise a huge chunk of my childhood memories. My first trip overseas was a cross-country tour through the US and Canada with my mother. She begged the grade school principal to allow me to be absent for three months, citing that travel is the best teacher. The principal believed her and I did too - that trip shaped so much how I see travel, that it isn't just a physical change of location, but a way to expand the horizons of the mind and soul. I vividly remember our first night in San Francisco. Our host family received us at almost midnight and served us rye bread. To me it had the sting of medicine, but my mother urged me to eat it anyway out of politeness. The hospitality was familiar, but the way it was given was not. It was my first taste (literally, haha!) of the sameness of humanity and the diversity of culture.
SD: Do you think that a journey is possible only when you have a firm starting point, i. e. the home?
CR: I do think it's important to have a place to come back to. But then sometimes it's good to let it all go and find your 'home' within yourself.
AJ: Journeys are cyclical. As such, they do not begin and end at a place. In another sense, they are points in a continuum. Even in my blog, I seldom describe my trips by starting at the airport or stating the time I left the bus terminal. It could start from a childhood experience that would eventually lead me to a place in the present. It may then form a link to a future journey. Life, after all, is one journey that does not begin at birth and end at death (but that's just me, hehe).
SD: Quite profound thoughts here, AJ. But what is the role of the home in all these endeavours? No matter how cyclical the journeys are, don't they begin at home - the place where you are rooted?
AJ: What I wanted to highlight was the connectedness of experience. Life, to me, is an interwoven fabric. I don't see beginnings and endings as such, but more like transitions and gradations. One phase leads to another, building a life little by little. I guess this concept stems from the fact that I've not lived in a house of my own since I was 10. We've always moved, just renting here and there. I've never felt rooted in a place, but I do feel rooted to people, to relationships.
AJ to CR: - I second that. I do think the concept of home is not dependent on a place. It is really a heart matter more than anything else. However, do you feel a sense of rootedness to a place (where you start and end a journey)? Why is it important to go back to this place?
CR: I think it's important to go back 'home' to see how far you've traveled and what you've learned on the way.
SD: When you can sit at home and travel virtually via the internet, why do you need to have a literal journey at all?
CR: Nothing compares to the actual journey - the preparation, the excitement, the sights, smells and sounds of the travel and the discoveries in the new place.
AJ: I think it's human nature to travel. Just as other creatures we share the world with, humans are ambulatory. Even our ancestors from thousands of years ago were nomadic. With none of our modern modes of transportation, ancient humans crossed continents and even took to the seas. We are made to roam the earth!
SD: But many humans don't travel, AJ. Only a minuscule percentage who have the time and money. The rest are content to be home in their limited circle of life, family and friends. Ancient humans roamed the earth in search of food, habitation and other essential things but the modern man's (almost) travel is something for pleasure and knowledge. Don't you think?
AJ: Modern people travel to seek greener pastures. I take that as roaming the earth in search of food and habitation in a modern sense. I think people travel to seek something for themselves, may it be pleasure (richness of experience) or survival. I also consider my daily train trips to my workplace in the city next door as a journey, as much as any of my overseas trips. I also know someone who has hardly traveled away from her hometown, but the glimmer in her eyes when she listens to her cousins' stories of the places they have been betray a hint of wanderlust.
AJ to CR: Agree as well. An appreciation of life can heighten the pleasures and agonies of traveling and getting a broader, first-hand experience of the human condition. How do these experiences help you achieve a holistic life?
CR: I think all my journeys have given me a much broader perspective to life - I see that life has to consist of intellectual, spiritual, emotional and physical growth. We cannot afford to focus on one area at the cost of others. I recall learning faith from watching pious Hindus braving heavy rain and unimaginable crowds to take a dip in the Ganges on the most auspicious day of a Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. I remember learning to appreciate the variety and beauty of dance forms by watching a display of Samba in Hong Kong. I smile when I think about learning to enjoy good food and delight in it in the Philippines . . .
SD: In the process of your journey, how do you think you make a difference in the lives of other fellow travellers?
CR: Thoughtfulness and courtesy can go a long way in our journey - whether we travel or we don't. A sensitivity to other people allows us to learn from other cultures and not stamp on any toes!
AJ: I'm usually the flexible one in a group of travelers. Anything goes with me so long as we travel responsibly. I go by my motto: "A trip need not be perfect, just personal." I focus on how a place - any place, or perhaps I should say, experience - can enrich my life rather than simply checking off an itinerary list or even a bucket list (which I don't have).
AJ to CR: What are instances of paradigm shifting cultural experiences have you had in your travels?
CR: I can give you a simple example of learning to walk on one side of the staircase in a crowded Hong Kong MTR station. I'm left handed and tend to go in a different direction than most other 'normal' people. It was the polite stares that taught me to be more sensitive :).
SD: What happens after the journey is completed and you get back home?
CR: I am often glad to be back home to the familiar. But the memories of my journey linger with me via pictures and people and some of the artifacts I pick up from the places I visit.
AJ: A journey is really never completed. It just takes on a different form - as a memory I go back to in the present, as building blocks to future journeys, as a life experience. All of my journeys are connected in one way or another, directing me to the path I presently take.
SD: You seem to dwell a lot on the future when it comes to journeys, have you planned a lot of travelling in the next year?
AJ: Ironically, I'm bad at organizing. I look forward to the future, but not in a concrete way. Many of my trips are borderline spontaneous. Next Feb I hope to be in Nepal, but true to character, I have not really sat down to even check where I'd stay. Nepal, though, seems a logical place to continue the path that has already led me to Angkor Wat and Borobudur. There goes the connectedness again. :)
AJ to CR: Memories are part of the building blocks of our lives, but how do they add up to who you are in the present? Do they influence a potential path that you take in life?
CR: I do believe that all my memories have made me realize that people are essentially the same all the world over. My early interaction with a variety of people helped me to be at ease with most people.
SD: Does the comfort and warmth of the home play a role in your journey?
CR: Yes, sometimes it's hard not to compare places with home. But having lived the life of a wanderer as an Army brat, I learned early to adapt to wherever I am.
AJ: The sensuous assault by being exposed to an unfamiliar culture and climate does merit longing for the hearth of home where we can rest on familiar ground. That's not to say that I always long for home when I travel. Cliche as it is, home is where the heart is, and when I'm on the road with people I love, I've never really left home. That's why I prefer traveling with my family. I become a turtle walking around with its home on its back! :)
SD: If 'home is where the heart is,' then what about the place? Doesn't the place of your ancestors matter when talking about home? People do make a home but what role does the place play?
AJ: I consider hometowns and birthdates as part of the accident of birth. We don't choose where and when we will be born. As such, I am fascinated at how the places where people were born or live form a part of who they are. The houses and objects and customs therein are catalysts for triggering memories, for discovering histories, for exploring personalities. I regard my family's ancestral house in such a way. It has helped me know the kind of people my ancestors were.
AJ to CR: Do you find yourself focusing more on the differences or similarities of places you visit and your home? Which weighs more to you?
CR: I tend to focus on the similarities to make myself feel more at home.
SD: Do you think that the lived experience at home is always in the background of your journey and foregrounds what you experience in the journey?
CR: It would be difficult not to have my personal experiences of home and life influence my journey. However, I do believe that every journey is different - even if it is to the same place. Without an open mind, one cannot undertake travel or the journey of life successfully.
AJ: I don't think any traveler can claim to be a tabula rasa. Just as we try to understand where the locals of a place are "coming from," we should also understand that in ourselves. It makes the experience a uniquely personal one.
SD: Quite rightly said.
AJ to CR: Amen to that! :)
Postscript: I must thank AJ and Corinne who willingly obliged to be a part of this post. I must admit that this was a time-consuming exercise where mails were sent back and forth between the three of us. It not for the patience and generosity of spending time of Corinne and AJ, this post would not have seen the light of day.
If (inspite of everything mentioned above) you would like to be featured in a Conversational Post with me, please do write to me at conversationaldotpostatgmail.com
All photographs in this post are Sachindev's, a friend and artist. Check out his photographs here.
All photographs in this post are Sachindev's, a friend and artist. Check out his photographs here.