Above is a picture that I have taken of the Saône, a river in eastern France that connects to the Rhone in Lyon. In all of my dreams of my youth, I never once anticipated that I would end up here, taking in the beauty of the urban landscape in one of France's preeminent cities.
I grew up firmly in the mid-to-lower middle class of western Pennsylvania. My high school didn't offer much in the way of options for life in the area, as the two largest social clubs in the school at the time were either the Future Farmers of America, and the Future Homemakers of America. If you weren't destined for the farming career, you were either put on the vocational track or, if your grades were good enough, the college one. The amount of resources spent on the kids in the college track were spotty at best. My high school wasn't the place where one discussed Plato, Socrates, or Aristotle. It was more pragmatic than that.
This isn't meant to lament my youth, but rather to point out that the system I was ensconced in wasn't designed to set one up for life beyond the region. One might be lucky enough to realize that they weren't meant for the life of a farmer (or homemaker) and seek greener pastures elsewhere, so to speak. For the most part, school was designed to keep the students feet firmly on the ground. If a student was curious as to the world beyond their immediate environment, they often had to rely upon themselves to satisfy that curiosity.
I had such curiosity. I always have had it. But back in my youth, the country that stirred this feeling was England, specifically London. Watching episodes of Monty Python's Flying Circus, Benny Hill, and Dave Allen at Large, showed a world familiar enough that it was recognizable, but exotic enough that I felt compelled to find out all I could about it. I read Dickens, I studied English history, and I became knowledgeable about some aspects of English culture, especially in regards to its humor. As I graduated High School, I knew not what the future would bring to my life. But I did know that I wanted to visit London at some point. Because the meager steps I had taken to understand the English culture simply were not enough.
"Wanted to". Heh. "Had to" was more like it. Everyone has a different relationship with curiosity. Mine is to bring it the forefront, and relieve the pressure of "Not Knowing".
It is here that is the genesis of my wanderlust. This sense of "Not Knowing" is excruciating. It has only one recourse - to know. Twenty-two years after graduation, I finally made it to London. I had experienced the city first hand. I had knowledge of this city of city. And it was not enough.
Because the truth of "knowing" is understanding that it will result in more questions. What influenced London? Certainly geography played a part, and all of England's neighbors played a heavy role. The Netherlands played their part in England's development, so I found myself in Holland, trying to figure out their culture. France's impact on England is well-know, so thus I found myself in Paris, trying to understand how their culture influenced the world's history.
It is this path that eventually led me to a bridge in Lyon, taking a picture of a river on a chilly December morning. This insatiable need to understand the world in which I live has provided some answers. but not nearly enough. Every time I get on an airplane, I am amazed that a person of my background has seen enough to know that the world is beyond all of of us. It's simply too big. But I've also been around enough to know that one of the better joys in life is found in making our world smaller, albeit in minuscule amounts. This is accomplished via understanding.
My impetus of travel is the realization that the world should be open to all of us, regardless of background. We all should have the right to understand other cultures, and press them up against our own in order to challenge our notions. In other words, I desire context, in order to understand the "why" of the world.
This is why I travel.