It is a not uncommon devotion of the elderly (and the rich) to preoccupy themselves with limitless travel throughout the globe. Seemingly there is a race by those who putatively have the most to lose to see everything, everywhere before time runs out. The more exotic the adventure, the more exquisite it is retailed. The prescription far outdistances any chat about getting to know whatever is at hand. By comparison, armchair philosophy is viewed as utterly exhausting (even though it nourished some of society’s most strategic logicians and empiricists, the likes of David Hume and René Descartes). Indeed the more remote the travel venue, the more challenging the familiarity and very often the more expensive the enterprise, the better. There is a perception conveyed when talking to these labouring vagabonds that the Holy Grail (or some other equally nebulous goal) is always within reach.
The Holy Grail is a treasure that serves as an important motif in Arthurian literature. Various traditions describe the Holy Grail as a cup, dish, or stone with miraculous healing powers, sometimes providing eternal youth or sustenance in infinite abundance, often guarded in the custody of the Fisher King and located in the hidden Grail castle. By analogy, any elusive object or goal of great significance may be perceived as a “holy grail” by those seeking such.
One must recall that the Holy Grail is an ornament. Understandably most of us would be spirited by extravagant travel but such winsome appeal fails to address the larger issue of what is before our eyes. Call me frumpish but I am unsure of the value of travel for the sake of travel. I think no more or less of the man who has been to the moon. Instead I am more guided by the apothegm once shared with me by a former friend (now deceased) that “There ain’t no ship to take you away from yourself; you travel the suburbs of your own mind.” The seeming lack of vitality to this witticism is not however an encumbrance; at worst it is a splash of cold water. Reaching for the stars, or imagining that value is located somewhere on the other side of the universe, is certainly adventurous but I have yet to convince myself of its indispensability. I am reminded of Henry David Thoreau’s experiment on Walden Pond. Arguably he hadn’t the wherewithal to travel exotically, but I prefer to give him the benefit of deeper insight than economy.
Staying at home is a vernacular we are in the throes of readapting. After a decade of annual six-month travel (albeit predominantly only within North America) we have reconsidered both the need and the desire. It is perhaps fortuitous that our current landing pad is my favourite. I love Almonte. I’ll leave it at that rather than lapse into the appearance of entire complacency.
Yet in spite of this unmitigated smugness I nonetheless preserve an element of anxiety. My separation from the globe is emblematic of my burgeoning internal reserve. At times I think it is little more than Nature teaching me how to die; that instinctive withdrawal and decomposition. You laugh. But at 75 years of age the statistics are hardly in favour of buoyancy! Do I have somewhere to which I must travel before it all ends? Honestly I am currently so overtaken by the richness of life that every day is beyond gratifying. I hesitate to say so because I have no idea to what I owe the entitlement.