Feor-cyþðe beoð selran gesohte þæm þe him selfa deah.
-- Beowulf (1838-39)
Seamus Heaney translates these lines as:
“Foreign places yield more to one who is himself worth meeting.”
|View above the clouds on the flight back from Dublin|
While that’s not a particularly accurate translation, I love what he’s trying to say. Travel may be about new experiences and new cultures and growing as a person… but you’ll be able to gain a richer experience if you’re complete in yourself, first.
I travel because I want to gain something from the cities and countries I visit. I want to learn from the people there, and mature from the sheer rush of newness that comes with stepping off a plane and seeing everything for the first time. I want different and exotic experiences to help shape me into a more understanding person.
But I also want to be a person worth meeting. I don’t want to travel because I have nothing myself, because I’m running from something, or because I’m trying to “find myself.” I’m not looking for travel to fill some sort of emptiness inside of me.
I know who I am. I’m a Christian. I’m a student. I’m a writer. I’m an actress. A dancer. A friend. A daughter. A Canadian. A traveller.
I want to help other people grow. Yeah, it sounds a little egotistical to say “I want people to become better by meeting me” but that’s exactly what I want... in a completely non egotistical way. It has absolutely nothing to do with being intelligent, or a good speaker, or friendly, or rich, or a good conversationalist. Some of the best conversations I’ve had were with people you normally wouldn’t look at twice: little old ladies with a walker, mechanics in Glasgow, construction workers in Kirkaldy, job hunters in Dublin.
These people weren’t anything “special” (who defines “special” anyways?). They weren’t motivational speakers, or the next world leader, or the brilliant scientist who will one day cure cancer. They won’t have thousands of people mourning them when they die. People might not even remember them in a few generations.
But they were interesting. They impacted the way I see the world. They made my travel experience richer. And I want to be like them. I want to be a person worth meeting.