Voyage Out

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.

– Sir Francis Drake

Drake may have been dreaming too little because he felt too pleased with himself; I have not been dreaming much at all lately  because of Covid 19. I’ve been trying to break free from some bad habits I’ve picked up during my time of covid.

The first is lethargy. All those months of finding small ways to amuse myself, of jigsaw puzzles, reading and mindless TV watching, have created a habit of whiling away hours with the only goal being to while away the hours while staying out of trouble.  Unfortunately, doing nothing is now a habit and my dreams of adventure have disappeared.  

The second is fear, anxiety and the desire for safety. I fell into a trap of only looking at the risk, the problems, the downside; I am too-much driven by the negative. The positive side of venturing out has blurred, it’s out of focus.

Oh, and that mindless TV watching – it took over my life for a while. And not in a good way. I’ve been captured by the ‘what if?’ anxiety of news reporting – aimed at raising questions that cannot be answered definitively, concerns that cannot be resolved, fears that cannot be put to rest. It makes me timid, anxious and risk adverse – in the covid environment the world became a scary place.

I forgot how to adventure. I lost the joy of possibility.

What greater delight and wonder can there be than to leave the straight lines of personality and deviate into these footpaths that lead beneath brambles and thick tree trunks into the heart of the forest where live those wild beasts, our fellow men? That is true: to escape is the greatest of pleasures; street haunting in winter the greatest of adventures.

– Virginia Woolf

It has been a struggle to find my equilibrium, to focus on the joy of adventure, to savour again the before-times. 

My first tentative moves as the covid crisis lifted, enabled by my two vaccination shots, seem almost laughable now. I ventured out to see friends again, although mostly outside. My circle widened slowly. I actually hugged someone for the first time – leaving us both a bit red faced and skittish. It seemed so strange. 

A few weeks ago I flew to Ottawa to see Blair, for the first time in some 18 months. Going into an airport, getting on a plane, traveling across the country; all things I never gave a moment’s thought, now seemed edgy, risky. 

And then they weren’t. 

I’m now standing on the precipice ready to leap off into the world. I have unfinished business that requires a conscious choice to take some risks and venture out. 

I’m off to Italy to finish my walk on the Via Francigena. The Via is an epic pilgrimage, replicating the walk Sigeric made in the 10th century from Canterbury to Rome (and back) to receive his vestments and become a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church. 

My pilgrimage has taken some time.  Thru-walkers do it all at once, from start to finish. I’m not so driven. In 2017, I managed to make it from Canterbury to Reims with Kristen part of the way. In 2018, I walked from through France from Reims, part way with my friend John, to Lausanne. 

Blair joined me at Lausanne; we crossed the Great Saint Bernard Pass into Italy and meandered down to Ivrea. So far, I’ve managed 1200 km, with about 800 km left to go. (You’ll notice I didn’t say I walked 1200 km, there were trains and automobiles involved on occasion). 

I feel a strong desire to pick up where I left off and finish this. 

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

– Mark Twain

I’m not sure I have twenty years so the time is now, not when the world is risk free. It never was. But I’m not into foolish risk-taking, at my age that is unwise. This is not my first rodeo and I think I’m clear-eyed about the risks. 

Italy’s vaccination rates are high and moving briskly to cover more of the population (70% have the first shot, 60% have both). I am assured by people who have already traveled to Italy that my BC immunization card is recognized proof by Italian authorities. I will be in rural areas with minimal contact with others; no more hostels, I’m going upscale to my own hotel room! I’ll wear a mask and carry the equivalent of my weight in hand sanitizer. I have some new electronics that offer a communication and information safety net and a real live on-the-ground person (Bless you Shannon) who has volunteered to be my guardian angel should I need it. Needless risk is not smart, minimizing risk is.

So, I’m off.  

Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.

– Anthony Bourdain

Anthony Bourdain is right. This will not always be pretty. I’ve been walking like Forrest Gump for a while now trying to get in shape but I expect much pain along the way. I also expect moments of pure joy. Whatever happens, I’ll be out there again, open to the possibilities. 

Hark now, hear the sailors cry

Smell the sea and feel the sky

Let your soul and spirit fly

Into the mystic.

– Van Morrison

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5 Responses to Voyage Out

  1. suzy venuta says:

    Lovely to hear of your upcomng adventuer Bob. I look forward to hearing about it. Yes- these have been strange and interesting times, and the majority of us have felt exactly as you described. When we are trying to survive or get through tough times- its like our brains have less ability to dream of the futuer. Its all about survival. Its been a long time and I know folks who are more anxious now about going out and about- then they were during the pandemic. Glad to hear you have reached the point that the adventres await you once again. I have been thinking about you and wondering how you have been doing through all this…safe travels my freind, be safe, be well and please keep us posted ❤

  2. rwmccaskill says:

    Bob

    Magnificent! Inspirational!

    Is there time for a meal before you catch the evening tide?

    B

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Bob, I leave for Florence on Tuesday. Going to be with my oldest son and family. I brand new grand baby, a 23 month old and a 5 year old who I will reacquaint myself with. Who knows, maybe someday our paths will cross again. Save travels friend

  4. joanne crozier says:

    Beautiful and inspiring writing, Bob! Good luck on your voyage!

  5. blair williams says:

    We’ll Bob I just had an opportunity to sit down and read your adventure e-mail and it’s quite wonderful. We just got home after our one week trip to Toronto and southern Ontario. It was a marvelous experience and I’ll talk to you about it later.
    Do keep in touch, and have a wonderful trip.
    Salut! Blair and Jeannie.

    Sent from my iPad

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