As any literature teacher will tell you, there are several things that make a quest, a quest: a) the person taking the quest b) the place where the person needs to go c) the challenges that keep the person from getting there, and d) what the quester learns in the process. The real journey in any quest is ultimately the road to self-discovery.
People can take all sorts of quests. Sometimes, even a simple trip to the dentist’s office can become a quest when a situation arises. But oftentimes, the more interesting quests are the ones that do not happen in our usual workaday haunts. In this day and age of budget flights and accessible travel, it becomes easier to find quests of our own.
I have always loved the experience of traveling to new places. Granted that I do not like the actual traveling part, as in physically getting from one place to another, but I do love the experience of being some place new. (My ultimate dream is for someone to invent a functional teleporter that would save me from plane rides and boat rides.) But the discomfort of traveling is a small price to pay for experiencing first hand cultures local and foreign, sights familiar and unfamiliar and people strange and recognizable.
Traveling keeps me open-minded. I am more open to trying new things, tasting new food or meeting new people when I am in a different city or town. At the back of my mind there is the awareness that the experience is temporary and so I must make the most of it. I am bolder, more open to possibilities. And it’s these experiences that I look back on when I am once again in my familiar world, to remind myself not to be afraid of something new, something different.
Traveling keeps me patient. Since challenges are expected in any quest, I am more able to cope with them. Flight delays, incorrect directions, misread maps, language barriers, and all sorts of mishaps that happen in any travel experience (even the most perfectly planned) are all dealt with one at a time. Since I am outside the confines of my daily routine, I am more willing to let things take their course. Even getting stuck in traffic can be a worthwhile experience when I am in a different city.
Traveling keeps me in touch with myself. With every new trip I take, I get to know myself better. I’ll know what pushes my buttons and what I can live without. I find aspects of myself that I hadn’t really gotten to know. There’s always something different about the “me” at the beginning of the trip and the “me” at the end. The changes are never drastic, but they’re there.
The older I get, the more I’ve learned to appreciate the difference between being a tourist and being a quester. I’d like to believe I’ve grown to be more of the latter. I’ll still do touristy things—take lots of photos, maybe even post them online, shop for souvenirs. But I’d like to go through the experience, not as a bystander who’s come to take only the good and shiny parts of any new place, but as a student, opening myself up to take everything in, allowing the place and people to reveal themselves to me in the manner that they wish, and listening to various feelings and insights that all these evoke in me. In the end, the quest is as much about the place as it is about the quester.
[Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo]
About Nancy Unchuan Toledo
When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.