One of the most frequently quoted lines from Marcel’s Proust classic novel, Remembrance of Things Past, declares, “The real journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes; in seeing the universe through the eyes of another, one hundred others – in seeing the hundred universes that each of them sees.” The fact that his poor health inhibited his travels surely contributed to this insight. Still, exploring this beautiful world and its unbounded variety enlivens our hearts, minds, and souls.
Those who see ourselves as life travelers manage two opposing forces. On the one hand, we seek to establish our true coordinates – an authentic inner home that is independent of the outer turbulence surrounding us. At the same time, we enjoy seeing the infinite diversity nature offers. The Upanishads tell us, “As great as the infinite space beyond, so is the space within the lotus of the heart.” The ability to enjoy the exploration of the outer universe is proportionate to our ability to enjoy our inner world. On our inner and outer journeys, we eventually arrive at the goal – the recognition that the world within and the world without are reflections of each other.
In a very practical sense, traveling is one of the most immediate ways to shift our perspective. When we change space, culture, climate, or time, we cannot help but remember that there are many ways to live a life. Our personal challenges become less personal and we recognize that we co-create our realities. Seeing how others address the universal challenges of life is an opportunity to awaken our tolerance and compassion. Traveling and observing the world reminds us that if there are aspects of life that are not bringing us the fulfillment we seek, we have choices. Hopefully after a trip away, we will see our home with new eyes that engender gratitude and appreciation for what we have.