“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Marcel Proust
Do you agree? I mean, I’m not sure I have the mental chops to argue with Proust; but I do agree with him anyway.
I’m exactly one week away from another journey. Another journey back to the wonderful Kruger National Park in South Africa. It’s been pretty much almost one year since I returned from Kruger National Park but that doesn’t bother me in the least. No two days are the same at any rate. And if you’re like me, and happen to believe in the gospel that Mr Proust is spewing, the days are never likely going to be remotely close anyway.
I have always been a firm believer that who we are, what we have previously seen, how we were raised, and just our general disposition, shapes the way we look at things. I will not see the same things in a situation as someone else will. The base fundamentals will be the same of course. I mean, we’ll both be looking at a sunset, that isn’t going to be an argument between us. But that sunset will mean something different to both of us. And I don’t think that is too much opinion and too little fact. I think that is quite the opposite – too much fact and too little opinion. But, ironically, that’s just my opinion.
New eyes. I could even expand that say new mind. As I have mentioned many times, a big part of my reasoning for coming to the Middle East to work, especially my original port of call Saudi Arabia, was to see things for myself. The news will only say so much. And the news will say it in the slant they want to say it in (depending on which way they lean politically, ethically, spiritually, whatever). I wanted to form my own conclusions. I knew about the oil, the desert, Islam, and the conflict that resides in much of this part of the world. But seeing it for myself (thankfully I haven’t seen the conflict up close and personal), I am better educated than any newscast or newspaper could have done for me. My eyes were opened as was my mind. Technically, I guess I saw things with new eyes.
Hopefully, by the end of next week I will have seen a few more lions with these beautiful blue eyes of mine. Now, I have seen lions before. Lots of lions before if I’m honest. In fact, on last year’s trip I saw a mega-pride of 19 snacking on a giraffe. Not all 19 at once but a quick count revealed 19 of the wonderful cats. But in the past year, events in my life and the world in general have altered who I am and how I will see things. The most obvious of course, occurred only last month in Zimbabwe when Cecil the Lion was killed. The outrage that has caused, whether rightly or wrongly (I’ll let you have your own views on that, thank you very much), will no doubt alter the way many people look at lions in the wild now. There are an estimated 1600 lions in and around Kruger National Park. And hunting and poaching does go on. The killing of Cecil, a still dominant male, had massive repercussions to his pride and beyond. With Cecil’s death still fresh in a lot of minds, including mine, each time I see a lion this trip it will be a little more special. How many of the lions I saw last year are still alive? Have any of them been hunted? Have they been poached and killed illegally so some fuckwit could have a lion’s paw ashtray? While the general shape of a lion doesn’t change much (and in theory their behavior either), the ones I hopefully see next week will mean something a little different this year. Hope perhaps or sadness. I’ll let you know.
I’ll also be travelling with my friend Kim for the first time. And no doubt her reactions to things, as mine will to her, will trigger different emotions and views as well. You can’t help but react to your environment. Travel to me is so much more about seeing things. Yes, I can wax lyrically about the beauty of an African sunset or fawn like a schoolgirl at a One Direction concert about how cute the penguins are; but it is more than that. Travel should be an emotional experience as well. You should be able to hear it. To taste it. To feel it. And if done right, it will grab a hold of you and shake you from the inside out. And who you are travelling with will have a huge part to play in that. I’ve been on big group tours where there were a few people who you just would never be friends with back home. Sadly, they can have an all-too-strong hold on the way you see and shape things. But you can also be surrounded by people willing to let go and indulge in travel the way you do. And those trips, or those minute experiences, are epic.
But maybe it’s just me. Am I wrong?