Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Traveling to Love

One of the most exciting parts of the summer for my siblings and I was attending camp when we were children. Those seven days away from mom and dad were something looked forward to with equal parts trepidation and anticipation. I remember ping-ponging between fear and excitement, the two warring within me as the hour-and-a-half car ride to Jumonville dragged on for what seemed like days. Standing in the registration line at the camp could just as easily have been me waiting to get on a roller coaster. Heart pounding, palms sweating, wanting to turn back but knowing if I just got on the ride I’d have a great time. I only ever felt more vulnerable after my parents left; surrounded by peers who would only judge my every minute action. The saving grace which never failed to break the pale of fear hanging over me was the presence of my counselors. I fell in love with them every summer; they took away my anxiety and cushioned my vulnerability. They cared for me when I did not have my safety net of family and friends to care for me. Without their presence, I don’t think I would have been able to get over the initial and frequently irrational fears that plagued my travels.
I truly believe that I fell in love with these counselors every summer. I remember wanting to be their very best friend at camp and I would spin fantasies about how we would stay in touch after I left. As I grew older, I began to fall in love with boys instead of counselors at Jumonville. As I look back on how I felt about people I lived with for a week as a kid, it strikes me as natural to seek out the extreme comfort that love offers. The idea of finding comfort when one travels is something that has come up in our class discussion on a regular basis. Many students who have traveled abroad have stated that the only thing that made them feel comfortable in an unknown situation was the presence of a caring and loving host family. Traveling with family and friends also mitigates the discomfort and vulnerability that follows a person when they leave home. Clearly it is natural to seek comfort while traveling, so why not fall in love and have the ultimate level of comfort from someone?

            Jack Kerouac’s On the Road only made me more certain that traveling makes it easy to fall in love. As Kerouac’s character Sal is waiting at the bus station to catch his ride to LA, he sees a beautiful girl on a bus that has just pulled into the station. “A pain stabbed [his] heart, as it did every time [he] saw a girl [he] loved who was going the opposite direction in this too-big world” (81). Weary from standing in the cold for hours trying to hitch a ride to LA, Sal falls for this stranger without any preamble whatsoever. Kerouac structures the sentence such that it seems like falling in love with strangers is something that Sal does on a regular basis and is something that should be accepted by the reader. As we know, Sal ends up becoming involved with this woman in particular, but the potential for him to fall in love on his travels so easily is something Kerouac takes the time to point out to the reader. Traveling makes us vulnerable, therefore we are more inclined to seek out comfort and can fall in love more easily as we move away from that which is safe and known. This beautiful idea that vulnerability can lead us to fall in love as we travel, whether it be with a person or perhaps a place, is inspiring to all who feel that dread and fear that I did when I went to summer camp as a child. People frequently say that they are “in love” with a foreign country or place, and Kerouac and I seem to agree that this is only possible through the vulnerability and discomfort that is present because of traveling.

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