Several years ago, my husband and I went on vacation to the tiny island of Lanai in Hawaii. We had a wonderful time enjoying the beaches and sunshine, and the resort had everything you could possibly want: thickly cushioned, blue chaises; a maze of reflecting pools, splendid rooms, a gorgeous golf course for Steve, and fabulous food and wines and entertainment. At the end of the week, we made our way down to the dock to wait for the boat that would take us back to the larger island of Maui. As we stood there in the fading afternoon, a glorious young man--tanned and barefoot with sun-streaked hair wearing nothing but a tattered pair of khaki shorts--jumped aboard a tiny sailboat and immediately turned up Beethoven on his radio. We overheard some of his friends asking when he'd return, and he shrugged and yelled over the haunting music, "I'm off to Molokai. I'll probably be there for breakfast."
The youth, the freedom of that boy, the strains of music, and the late afternoon light all conspired to sweep me away. I was filled with longing. Tears washed down my face. To the others around me, it looked like I hated to leave this perfectly groomed paradise. But inside I felt the call of the wild: I wanted nothing more than to clamber aboard my own small boat and cast off into uncharted waters, to sail under the sky and stars throughout the night, totally alone with nothing but the sea, and arrive on Molokai in time for breakfast.
To this day, I hold deeply in my heart that rundown old boat, that gorgeous boy, his bare feet, and his insouciance in the face of the whole wide ocean as the summation of the uncluttered, unfettered, perfectly free life. This boy had no need for blue chaises with drinks being served; he needed only a boat and the abundance of the sea. I yearned to be him, and was reminded of how little I need to make a truly happy life. This insight never would have happened at home, and I often think back to that mystical moment whenever I find myself getting caught up in daily minutiae and worrying about the little things.
Of course there are many "little things" and hassles that we have to face when traveling as we get older. I take my sensitive stomach and my fussy nose with me wherever I go, but I force myself to handle these things and work around them, because there are always a million excuses I can make for why I CAN'T do something. And I find that I can usually have a marvelous time in spite of having "myself" there--myself that is tired from the time change, or grumpy from the crazy cab drivers, or feeling bloated from eating strange cuisines. These issues don't compare to the wonder of walking the streets where Gandhi walked, or the thrill of seeing the sunrise over the mountains of Cappadocia. As long as I have shoes to carry me places, I'm going to keep climbing aboard cars and trains and planes, and continue to get out and explore the world.