‘Profound Travel’

I’ve been dragging my feet on writing this post because I knew it would be a hard one. But, in for a penny, in for a pound, as they say.

One of the things this blog is designed to do is to reacquaint myself with the world and with readers. I think I got too far away from that once I stopped focusing on my old blog, Back-to-Iraq.com. (It turns 10 years old in September! Cake!) I’m not saying it’s bad to work for mainstream publications such as Time Magazine or Reuters. Quite the contrary: I think the Big Guys are the only ones that have the resources to properly cover big stories such as war, a financial meltdown or a tsunami. I also think having a big institution that at least takes a stab at neutrality and objectivity is valuable. I still trust the New York Times over most bloggers, for instance.

But I can’t begin to tell you how free I feel in my writing since I’ve left Reuters. Not that there’s been much to write about. Dubai is not the most inspiring place, despite its obvious plusses as a base or a hub from which to escape elsewhere. And I’ve reconnected with some old friends and even already gotten some freelance work. It’s nice to feel valued so shortly after leaving my previous job.

But detailing Dubai and the travails of a freelancer is not what this blog is about. While my previous attempts in the online space were aimed at bringing to news to a hybrid public-private readership, this blog is not about news. It’s about discovery. It’s about a way of looking at the world as a connected whole rather than an isolated collection of stories, facts, tweets, etc.

This brings me to the point of Truly, Nomadly, Deeply, which is what I like to call “Profound Travel.” It’s travel, but not to get somewhere; the goal is to simply move, breathe, see and taste. Feel. Live. (Cue: “the journey is the destination” traveling music.) And that brings up the how of the journey as well.

I mentioned I would be circling the globe, but only using surface transport: cars, buses, donkeys, kayaks, whatever. At first, the idea came to me mainly as an adventuresome gimmick. But much as Back-to-Iraq was a bit of a journalistic gimmick — pay me to cover a war just for you! — which turned into something much more profound and important, so Truly, Nomadly, Deeply may do the same in some way.

Personally, these days I need to be grounded. Literally. Too much travel via the air has turned the world into a series of punctuated moments, with only the bland continuity of hours inside a metal tube in uncomfortable seats to link them together. It’s like traveling New York via subway. Yes, you get to where you need to go, quickly, but you miss out on the weird shit along the way that makes living in the city so worthwhile. And at least the New York subway has its own ecosystem of artists, musicians and mole people.

That means keeping my feet on the ground — or in the water. In a conversation I had a while back with a good friend, the very talented Matthew Green, who will join my old bureau in Islamabad on June 1, he noted that I once had a spark that had propelled me out into the world. But apparently, somewhere, I had lost it. Writing about the world for other publications, for an audience that was unseen and largely uncaring, was no longer good enough and it had dulled my sense of excitement and wonder.

So this journey, once it begins and I leave Dubai for, probably, Delhi, is as much a spiritual quest as it is a rambling roll around the world trying to do good deeds. It’s a pilgrimage, and as such, there are protocols to be followed.

So, no planes.

Ultimately, the goal of this journey to stitch the modern world into a connected whole, to be able to trace A to B to Z. To see how boundaries exist, and also how they fade into zones, defined more by their fuzziness than bright lines on a map. Whether these boundaries are geographical, cultural or social, the point is to stop seeing the world as disconnected pieces and grok it whole — profoundly, truly, madly and deeply.

Why, you’d almost think I was trying to capture something about the human soul and using the world as a metaphor.

Finally, I think a big challenge for this new venture is what you guys want out of it. What attracts you to it, what’s the value-add? I mean, everyone always likes to hear tales of derring-do, new places, interesting people, but I confess I’m still a bit light on the commercial aspect of this whole project. I’m curious if you guys have thoughts; it would be great to hear them, so please drop ‘em off in the comments below. (Or email me.)

Until next time, fellow travelers.

Image courtesy of Chris Allbritton