Patterns from a Rooftop: Chapter 4
An elective brush with privation is a warning of sorts. Faint desolation lies just beyond reach in many a sublime travel situation. In less ideal circumstances, it progressively seeps into the membranes of consciousness. Destinations on the verge of abandon are well suited for brittle desperation. Lodged in a place of spectacular vistas without fresh water and soothing soft greenery, luxury soon turns to longing for return to the ordinary. A beachhead on the brink of sand and sea without prospect of relief is but a parched and unsustainable retreat of last resort.
Bathed in salt under blistering sun, a solitary traveler explores little, seeking shade and refuge from forlorn, intangible beauty and hazardous temptations. To stray dogs go the spoils – of want, of idleness, of uncertain future. Like many a restless nomad, I heedlessly succumbed to the lure, the whine, and the rumor of exotic travelers compelled to move to different, unknown ground for the sake of claiming that they had done so.
Carefree existence is not free, nor is it absent of care. It prepares one for liberation only in pursuit of caring. Prepared by extremes of open space, jungle comes to signify more than geographical topography: jungle, in contrast, is a mirage of hospitality, an embattled rather than a vacuous isolation. Only too soon does jungle become a tangle of warring irrational tensions intensified with every drop of sweat and every concealed recess. Caring and self-discernment are the beginning of liberty. Only complete extrication is a clear path of escape.
The most arduous journey – especially when traveling with little money in a harsh foreign environment with limited social outlets, few distractions, and no place to hide – is coming to terms with oneself. Often in such travel one goes days without so much as a mirror to aid reflection. Thus the extended encounter with self is purely psychological: under the influence of shifting raw experience deprived of steady, knowing eyes looking on as an unbiased check on reality. Context and inner life collide to distill self down to its purest elements of endurance, character, and adaptability with all excess fat eliminated. Few emerge cleanly, but most emerge changed.