Preparation for the journey.

I’m not a very spontaneous person (that may be an understatement) – if you ask my wife she’d probably tell you that I tend to be more on the obsessive-compulsive end of the spectrum.  So, when it comes to traveling, I like to be well prepared for the journey and not leave things to the last minute or to chance.  Some destinations require a visa for entry into the country and that requires some advance preparation in order to get your passport back in time.  Other places require innoculations which are best not left to the last minute.  Of course, there are also the more routine matters of selecting the right clothes, the right luggage and the right accessories for the journey (and for me in particular, which books to pack).  I like to know where I am going, how I am getting there and where my travels will take me along the way, so an itinerary is an important consideration.
A number of years ago, my wife and I decided to make a motor touring vacation of the western isles of Scotland and it quickly became apparent that you can’t just go with a car and expect to catch a ferry.  There are limited sailings and limited space on most of the ferries.  It was necessary to plan out our journey, booking accommodations and spaces on the ferries and calculate distances and driving times in order to see all that we wished to see and to complete our journey successfully.  It worked (with the exception of one missed ferry) and we had a wonderful trip with many great memories.
Just the other day I was asked if I would do the reading at the funeral of a friend’s mother.  There were two passages of scripture and a poem by Robert Frost that she requested I read.  The common thread that held these thoughts together was that life is not a journey to be embarked on carelessly or without thought to the purpose and destination.
I wonder how many people find themselves on the journey of life without realizing how they got there and having given little thought to where they were heading?  I’m rather reminded of foolish hounds (and yes, we’ve had some) who get on the scent of a deer and chase it for miles before coming to a realization that they are lost in the woods.  The Italian poet Durante degli Alighieri (commonly known as Dante) wrote of his sudden awareness at the age of thirty-five that he was lost:
“In the midway of this our mortal life, I found me in a gloomy wood, astray, gone from the path direct…How first I entered it I scarce can say.”  Now, I don’t know what it was that brought him to this awareness, but whatever providence or misfortune awoke him to his dilemma; to it he owed a debt of gratitude for it was then that he was able to change his course, fight his way out through the undergrowth and glimpse the sunlit hill which was the goal he desired to reach.
It has been said that if you have no particular destination in mind any path will take you there and that, sadly, seems to be the case with so many travelers on the road of life.  Even for an obsessive-compulsive person like myself, life has plenty of surprises, detours and hazards along the way that we have to learn to take in stride and adjust for, but an unexamined life is one that leads deep into the heart of the woods.  From there, it is hard to see the sunlit hill that we desire to climb, to rest on its summit and to look back with satisfaction on the journey that took us there.

Puerto Rico

View from a sunlit hill – Puerto Rico

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One thought on “Preparation for the journey.

  1. Conrad, so true! So true! I’m a spontaneous planner…..can you be that? I will go most anywhere as long as I have some time to plan; and I can plan at a high rate of speed when necessary! Life IS the journey, and I ain’t missing any of it! Keep on traveling, my friend!

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