Nowhere Man Takes a Walk

I love to travel, whether its in my home state of Utah or somewhere globally . . . it just does not matter . . . I just like to travel. But standard tourism doesn’t hold much interest for me. Its always the goofy stuff that leaves a lasting impression on me. And I love to walk, and the world is becoming very walk-friendly. Werner Herzog’s (German writer/director of Grizzly Man and Rescue Dawn) dictum is: “Tourism is sin, and travel on foot, virtue.” Now there is a man after my own heart.

Walking is the purist form of travel. There is time to peruse and appreciate the terrain. You get to meet other people, whether locals or other walkers. You are in the elements. When in the countryside or wilderness, the quiet is very appealing. There is also time to resurrect the words of a favorite poem or song or Bible verse:

He’s a real nowhere man,
Sitting in his nowhere land,
Making all his nowhere plans
for nobody.

I travel with a small backpack (I’m getting better at traveling light). That way I can walk whenever I choose, whether it is through downtown Helsinki, across northern Spain, along Hadrian’s Wall, through Pere-Lachaise Cemetary, down to a crater lake on Summatra, along the terraced rice paddies of northern Thailand, or buried in a Utah slot canyon. It is all good.

Doesn’t have a point of view,
Knows not where he’s going to,
Isn’t he a bit like you and me?
Nowhere man, please listen,
You don’t know what your’re missing,
Nowhere man, the world is at your command.

For a religious experience there is nothing like travel, coupled with walking. This subject has been heavily criticized by Barry Scholl (as quoted in HCN): “If I read another story about somebody finding an Anasazi ruin and having a spiritual experience, I’m going to barf all over the magazine.” I think Barry is being a little hard on the religious aspects of travel for the following reasons:

First, for many, participation in traditional church attendance is losing its appeal and they are exploring alternative worship opportunities. This potential was demonstrated to me on an island in Lake Van in eastern Turkey (a largely Moslem country). While visiting an ancient and abandonned Armenian church, my sons and I encountered a group of French tourist celebrating Mass inside the 1000-year-old roofless relic. It was all quite spiritual (sorry Barry).

Second, the experience of traditional travel is also losing its appeal. In December, a few years ago, I was traveling in western China; it was cold and I had a cold. In despiration, I hired a guide and a car; I particularly wanted to visit some of the area’s qanats. The guide who spoke little English was set up to take me to 11 specific sites around the desert oasis of Turpan (only one of the sites had anything to do with qanats). All I wanted to do is spend some quality time at 2 or 3 sties. But the driver/guide had been programmed with a “todo list” and she was going to follow it. This form of “check list” travel (with a few photographs at each stop) is, in the end, not very satisfying. That is why some form of religious observance coupled with travel can be very rewarding.

So what might be some examples of spiritual travel experiences. My friends and I occasionally have a group, non-demonational prayer at particularly inspirational spots: Spiral Jetty in northern Utah, Chartre in northern France, etc. One of our group gave a 2-and-a-half minute talk at the Sun Tunnels in western Utah. After walking a path across northern Spain, I attended a pilgrim’s Mass in the medieval cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. While walking through the historic section of Tallinn, Estonia, I settled into an old church and listened to some wonderful music performed by the organist and a vocalist. In Catholic and Orthodox churches, I love to burn candles. At a beautiful old church in Copacabana, Bolivia, they had a stone tub for burning candles. As I lit several candles, I asked my guide what I should wish (or pray), she suggested the health of my family. In the cathedral, the Priest was performing a folk mass. I think similar opportunities are possible at Anaszi sites also.

Travel is what you make of it. And a spiritual or religious experience should not be dismissed.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Religion, Travel, Walking. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Nowhere Man Takes a Walk

  1. Susan says:

    Although your comments are valid, sometimes those “touristy” spots are what others need to see. I recently was privileged to visit Paris, France, and I hit as many of the “tourist” spots as I could. It was not quiet, I was not alone, and yet the spiritual aspects were also very satisfying. You sound like a “nomad” man, not a “nowhere” man.

  2. Roger Hansen says:

    Even in Paris you can find interesting spots that are a bit off the beaten path. Try a leizurely stroll through Pere-Lachaise Cemetary, or a boat trip on a Parisian canal, or a intimate, 2-hour dinner with friends at a small French restaurant. Also, walking in Paris can be an enjoyable activity.

  3. Roger Hansen says:

    Lyrics to “Road to Nowhere” performed by the Talking Heads:

    WELL WE KNOW WHERE WE’RE GOIN’
    BUT WE DON’T KNOW WHERE WE’VE BEEN
    AND WE KNOW WHAT WE’RE KNOWIN’
    BUT WE CAN’T SAY WHAT WE’VE SEEN
    AND WE’RE NOT LITTLE CHILDREN
    AND WE KNOW WHAT WE WANT
    AND THE FUTURE IS CERTAIN
    GIVE US TIME TO WORK IT OUT

    We’re on a road to nowhere
    Come on inside
    Takin’ that ride to nowhere
    We’ll take that ride

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s