Where to go on holiday?
Going travelling is one of the most exciting pastimes of all. It’s up there with love in terms of the happiness it can bring – though, unlike love, it is generally assumed to be a straightforward process entailing no big theoretical or philosophical issues. To follow the travel pages of magazines, the chief hurdles seem to centre around how to identify good hotels, find things to do after dark and learn the whereabouts of small and authentic restaurants.
But to derive the true benefit of travel, we need to go deeper. We need to make sure that the outer journey aligns with, and reinforces, the inner one. Without anything mystical or woolly being meant by this, all of us are involved on what we can term ‘an inner journey’: an innate dynamic that exists within us to evolve constantly towards a better version of ourselves, to mature towards certain qualities of character that we admire but don’t as yet reliably possess. We may – for example – be on a journey towards greater patience or wisdom, forgiveness or curiosity, playfulness or sensuality.
Before going anywhere near an airport, we should get clearer in our minds where we are on this inner journey and then think very carefully about how we could match the inner destination with a place in the world that would assist us in appropriating it more successfully.
Every location in the outer world contains echoes of qualities that could support some inner journey. From a purely material perspective, these are 200-million-year-old stones in America’s Utah desert:
But looked at psychologically, the scene is something else entirely. As an inner destination, it is an emblem of perspective, an aide to a move away from a preoccupation with the petty and the small-minded towards a terrain of greater calm and resilience.
Or, to take another example, this villa exists in the real world, just near Rio de Janeiro. It is a place in the geographical realm:
© Time & Life Pictures/Getty
But, it is also somewhere in psychological space. It is a location that speaks of a harmony with nature and of an ease with physical sensuality. This outer destination would be a place to head to if one was, inside, at risk of being disconnected from one’s bodily self; if one needed to be reminded of one’s skin, of the wind, of certain kinds of exposure, even danger, and of sex.
Unfortunately, we generally don’t quite know where we need to go on our inner journey towards psychological evolution – and rush out to destinations that have been foisted on us by the travel industry or some accident of logistics. We say – somewhat casually – that we’d love to see a desert – but we’re often not clear why desert scenes ‘move’ us. Yet to be moved by an image of a destination is, in essence, to recognise a congruence between a place in the world and a destination on our inner map. There is something in the scene we see outside that our inner eye knows we need inside.