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Thousand  Journeys



“Of journeying the benefits are many: the freshness it brings to the heart, the seeing and hearing of marvellous things, the delight of beholding new cities, the meeting of unknown friends, and the learning of high manners”   Muslih-uddin Sai. (13th Century)

Some years ago a renowned Japanese Haiku poet called Matsuo Basho decided to travel throughout the land to gain better inspiration for his writing. His poems were profound and beautiful and all he ever wrote about was his direct experience of the world around him. He became a genius at encapsulating the deep reality of a scene in a few simple words. During the course of his travels Matsuo came to the understanding that “Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home”

More recently a social scientist called Os Guinness has spent his time researching some of the fundamental characteristics of human societies. Interestingly one of his key conclusions is that the deepest common metaphor of how people from all cultures across the world describe their life is expressed as  “A Journey”.

The simple truth is that each of us are on a journey between our birth (which we did not choose) and our death (which we do not understand and cannot control), and each day we have countless experiences that we could not foresee and which can unfold into new relationships, new situations and new learning. It’s therefore fair to say that we are all constantly on a journey ….. adventuring across the unknown.

I really like the fact that an ancient Japanese poet and a modern Western scientist can both come to this same understanding.

With this in mind, it is easy to see why people often say “Life is a Journey”. But actually I find it easier to think of life as consisting of a thousand smaller journeys. Journeys are everywhere and have a special value. We constantly spend our life journeying through different landscapes, through different relationships, through responsibilities, through careers, through gaining mastery in all the things we are passionate about.

The renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow clearly highlighted a fundamental aspect of human growth. Realising that we are all caught between the competing needs for security and exploration, he used the analogy of a toddler who peeks out from behind his mothers skirts before finally summoning up the courage to venture forth into a room full of strangers, and then quickly scurrying back to mum when it all gets too much. This pattern is repeated again and again. Each time the child feeling more confident , learning more and able to travel further until finally the strangers become friends, and the room becomes more familiar.

So journeys are not just an external experience – they also change us inside. From working as an occupational therapist, I have come to appreciate that as humans we all need activity to thrive and reach our potential. We are creative and curious creatures who grow when we are exposed to new ideas, new activities and new experiences, and so we have an inherent need to set forth and explore the world around us. In this way journeys enable us to become more - much more than if we had stayed fixed as we were.

A good example of this is when the author Lillian Smith travelled to China and soon realized that “no journey carries us far unless it takes us the same distance inside as it extends into the world around us”. From this insight she acknowledged that it was her reaction to the poverty and inequality she witnessed in Asia that sparked her to later become a social activist and to fight against racism in America.

Similarly the author Herman Hesse wrote that “each man’s life represents a road toward himself”. In this way our journeys help us to see who we really are as a person, and as most of us have already found out ….. Journeying from the known to the unknown is is not always a comfortable experience.

Travelling from one type of society and economy into a different one can present us with situations that we have had little preparation for. Our familiar and socially programmed responses we pick up from childhood often prove inadequate when confronted with the demanding experiences and the strangeness of new cultures. A classic example from my own experience was being confronted with deep poverty for the first time. Even though it was twenty five years ago I can easily remember feeling overwhelmed and totally at a loss about how to respond to the beggar children of Bombay. It’s at these times that our adventures into the unknown strip away our preconceptions and force us to question ourselves; to uncover what we really value in life and to make authentic decisions based on this truth.

Stories of journeys are used again and again throughout mythology, folklore and modern novels, where they are presented as “The Quest.” This is where the central character leaves the safety of home and sets out into uncharted territory in order to find something of value. When our hero finally returns home from their adventure, they return somehow changed. This change can be as simple as coming back with a collection of valued memories and photos, it can mean coming back wounded but wiser, or it can mean coming back with a much broader perspective on life; and like Matsuo Basho able to find greater depth, value and uniqueness in the “ordinary” life that surrounds us every day.

So it is these views of life that have formed my appreciation of the travelling mindset, and it kind of stands as the philosophy woven through this website. The core belief of this philosophy is that we are all journey-makers and through our journeying we discover the world around us, what lies within us, and hopefully a deeper appreciation of what really matters in life.

In a very small way I try to reflect this in my writing and photos. They are moments of discovery, interaction and reflection.

All we really have in life are moments in the here and now, and our reflections on their impressions upon us.

“If life's journey be endless where is its goal? The answer is, it is everywhere. We are in a palace which has no end, but which we have reached. By exploring it and extending our relationship with it we are ever making it more and more our own”.  

Rabindranath Tagore (19th Century)