The Secret Wealth of Travel
It was an interesting transition.
My wife and I were in the process of selling and storing the great majority of our accumulated possessions. At the same time, we were meticulously choosing the handful of items we would carry with us across the world. I discovered in the tensions of storing, simplifying, and selecting, that there is a sacredness to our possessions.
Our stuff matters. Memories fill the halls of our homes. Pieces of books and paintings and kitchen utensils are stored inside us. These items help us navigate through daily life, but they also connect us with experiences and moments we can’t quite articulate. We only know that this stuff is in some small way considered ours and it is our responsibility to care for it.
Most of us will spend our lives adding to the pile of what is termed ours, working long, hard hours to live securely, comfortably, and pleasurably. We chase after the seductive promises of wealth in search of satisfaction.
But in considering what it means to be truly wealthy, I’ve discovered that our stuff has less to do with it than I once thought.
Nothing is Sacred
While there is no denying that our stuff matters, there remains an eternal splinter in my human psyche. One of those realities that introduce constant chaos into my feeble attempts at constructing a manageable paradigm. I just can’t pin it down.
How quickly new turns to old, cherished to expendable, coveted to clearance, precious to parting. How one man’s treasure transforms into his trash in no time.
Nothing is sacred. Sacred just went on sale at eBay.
We work hard for money we’ll soon spend on flash new toys and the right fashions to suit the image we’re trying to maintain. We buy the comforts of luxury or indulge in the whims of whatever is in front of us we weren’t planning on purchasing. We spend hundreds on food that will soon be a memory of a time when we were full. Wealth allows us companions who make one leg of the journey with us, but can never walk the full road alongside us.
Because our stuff fades and breaks and tears and gets lost.
Money comes and goes, just as we will. And while having material possessions is not bad in and of itself, there are issues when we accumulate belongings without ever learning the wisdom from our own frailty and fleeting desires. The value of anything is determined by how much we want that anything at this moment. And if the price is right, we can be persuaded to buy or sell or give away what may or may not be precious to us.
That should tell us something. Could there be secret, more enriching understandings of wealth aside from how many and how expensive our possessions?
A Wealth that Matters
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
While travel may not be the singular path in discovering a meaningful richness, there is no proper replication of the journey she offers. Mark Twain says it beautifully when he says,
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.
Because when we travel outside of the comforts of our credit card’s spending limits and turn to the unpredictability of dusty roads and the generosity of foreign families, we buy into a truer narrative. Like the man who finds a pearl of great price hidden in a field, then quickly returns home, sells everything he owns, and purchases the field.
In this case, travel is the field. The pearl is for you to discover.
However, I doubt the pearl you find will be the desire to purchase more stuff with which to clutter your life.
Travel done intentionally and well can take us outside of our envy for more stuff, moving us instead to a place where we just desire more. More life. More risk. More adventure. More beauty. More communion with the world we play in. More understanding of who we are. More connection with our fellow man. More appreciation of what it means to be human.
Money and the greed inherent hide these foundational truths from us, blinding us by an insatiable need to compare, consume, and collect. Travel teaches us to simplify, if just for a moment, and greet the world with open hands – better to give, better to receive.
If this sounds like utter nonsense, that’s because these are secrets we must experience with our feet, not our head alone. The challenge now rests upon your capable legs: will you dare to go? Even if it costs you more than money? Even if we know we will never be the same once we travel? Even if we must abandon our notions of what it means to be wealthy?
Everything is Sacred
Once we take bold steps outside our “one little corner of the earth” and discover a more fulfilling definition of wealth, we will come to recognize that everything is sacred. Through gratitude, space is made in our hearts for satisfaction, joy, and peace to take root. We learn to ascribe value to what we used to take for granted. We are taught to see ourselves and others properly.
Travel leads us to generosity and living a more generous way. This is true wealth.
After two years, I have forgotten much of what waits for me in storage back home. Many of my current clothes are unraveling after the miles we’ve seen together and it’s time to invest in new ones again. I’m utilizing other people’s vehicles, houses, couches, pillows, and nearly everything else. There is very little I can properly call my own in this place. At least, in the physical sense. My dependency keeps me humble and appreciative. I am a steward here.
As this reality dawns on me, the wisdom of travel whispers that we are all stewards on the earth. What we own has been gifted to us, from the very breath in our lungs to the houses in which we sleep to the trees standing stoic outside the front window. We can choose to build bigger barns for our newest acquisitions, but we don’t take any of it with us in the long run.
Only the secret wealth of our travels on this earth: