Pico Iyer, On Travel and Stillness

Sometimes I think I travel in order to be able to think. In order to dream fully. In order to write. In order not to have demands placed on me by myself or by others. In order to just sit, and perhaps write, or just observe; activities I allow myself only in the (very) rare yoga routine and in the (sometimes nonexistent and often hurried) journal writing I try to do in the morning before the tasks of the day pull me away from the quiet. I leave to arrive at myself. I travel faraway to incongruously find an inner quiet to sustain me.

And, then, when I return to my blessed home where my life is not only full, but often joy-full, my desire to write of my experiences is so strong that I feel off-kilter unless I’m describing the experiences and observances here in this blog. I need to sit with the trip, process it over and over, smile over discoveries, ponder the mistakes, revel in all that I’ve learned. I love that. The coming home is perhaps more important than the adventure itself because it is here that the trip becomes part of who I am.

Pico Iyer, eloquent in his travel writing and journalism, in a thoughtful TED talk, speaks to this stillness and even to not leaving at all but remaining and to pulling away from the hurry that envelops all of us.

“Take the time and trouble to be still,” he says.

Memorable quotes for me from this talk:

“Twenty-four years ago I took the most mind-bending trip across North Korea. But the trip lasted a few days. What I’ve done with it sitting still, going back to it in my head, trying to understand it, finding a place for it in my thinking, that’s lasted 24 years already and will probably last a lifetime. The trip, in other words, gave me some amazing sights, but it’s only sitting still that allows me to turn those into lasting insights.”

“I sometimes remember that any time I want, I can get a second home in time, if not in space, just by taking a day off. And it’s never easy because, of course, whenever I do I spend much of it worried about all the extra stuff that’s going to crash down on me the following day. I sometimes think I’d rather give up meat or sex or wine than the chance to check on my emails. (Laughter) And every season I do try to take three days off on retreat but a part of me still feels guilty to be leaving my poor wife behind and to be ignoring all those seemingly urgent emails from my bosses and maybe to be missing a friend’s birthday party. But as soon as I get to a place of real quiet, I realize that it’s only by going there that I’ll have anything fresh or creative or joyful to share with my wife or bosses or friends. Otherwise, really, I’m just foisting on them my exhaustion or my distractedness, which is no blessing at all.”

“…[O]ne of the beauties of travel is that it allows you to bring stillness into the motion and the commotion of the world.”

“I think many of us have the sensation, I certainly do, that we’re standing about two inches away from a huge screen, and it’s noisy and it’s crowded and it’s changing with every second, and that screen is our lives.And it’s only by stepping back, and then further back, and holding still, that we can begin to see what the canvas means and to catch the larger picture. And a few people do that for us by going nowhere.”

Comments? Questions? Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s