Occasionally, on my travels, I meet up with someone who’s journeying to ‘seek enlightenment’. To me, that suggests trekking to a cave halfway up a Himalayan mountain, and spending a few months sitting at the feet of a 150-year–old sage, who will impart all that life and the Universe is about. Or, maybe not?
I don’t really like the word, anyway; I used to work for a guy who’d irritatingly prefix every question with the words ‘Enlighten me!’ … and, since he wasn’t really the sharpest tool in the box, he asked a lot of questions.
I don’t really think it was the right word to use, anyway. It’s not just about finding out something you didn’t know an hour ago; it’s more like discovering something that alters your conception of things. So, using that definition, all travel will give you enlightenment. For instance, you will find:
Sweden is not populated by nymphomaniacs
Australians aren’t all beer-swilling misogynists
Russians aren’t universally paranoid and suspicious, and much more.
Let me finish with a tale of how someone found enlightenment:
A colleague and I were doing some military-connected survey work on a remote Hebridean island. Settling down to our first evening meal, we were approached by the island’s policeman, who peremptorily demanded to know who we were, what we were doing, who said we could do it and why wasn’t he told about it?
We were rather annoyed by his manner. We’d called at the ‘poliss hoose’ that morning, to ‘make our number’, found nobody in, and left a note, intending to return the following day. Maybe the policeman hadn’t seen it?
Our landlord said: ‘Don’t worry about him, lads! He’s new here, and hasn’t yet got the Way of the Island.’
The Way of the Island! I liked that expression. For me, it summed up all that was laid back and relaxed about the place.
We returned a year later, and stayed once more at the hotel by the long, lonely beach, and enquired for Angus, who we’d met on the previous visit, and lived at the croft out on the headland, nearly three miles away.
Angus had been a bad lad, said the landlord. He’d lost his driving licence after running foul of the Law on the mainland a few months before. That was bad news. There was no public transport at all on the island, and you either drove or you walked.
But, he’ll be here later, we were told and, sure enough, shortly afterwards, he arrived at the pub riding his motor-bike. It was quite legal, the landlord explained, … so long as he rode along the beach, below the high-water mark, and stayed off the road.
Our friend the policeman was in the bar. ‘I hope I didnae see you riding yon bike across the road, just now, Angus!’ he said.
‘Aye, I hope ye didnae see me, too!’ said Angus
The ‘poliss’ chuckled, and turned back to his beer. He’d found the Way of the Island! And, hopefully, found Enlightenment.
This week’s contribution to the Travel Theme. More at https://wheresmybackpack.com/2016/10/08/travel-theme-enlightened/