Today you may write a chapter on the advantages of traveling, and tomorrow you may write another chapter on the advantages of not traveling.
Henry David Thoreau: Journals. 18th March 1856.
Well, in the spirit of Christmas past – or perhaps I mean the Christmas post – this has ended up being a little late, as follow-up blog entries go. I’m sure you can forgive me for having been a little bit busy with last minute festive fripperies from shopping to baking to the creation of, er, beautiful music. Besides, I’m sure none of you will be reading this until about a week from now, since you will all be far too busy eating and making merry as well. For now, though, where was I? Ah yes, travelling. Forget everything I said last week. It’s a brilliant idea! The thrill of treading where one has never trodden before. Barriers broken down between previously isolated communities. The exchange of ideas. And the wildlife! As I’ve noted in the past, seeing a new species in its natural environment is a more satisfying experience than twitching vagrant birds, for example, though of the latter I plead occasionally guilty. Lists are hungry beasts.
None of this takes away the damaging aspect, the niggling feeling about contributing to runaway climate change. Nor the need, the necessity to learn to live where we are and with what we have. But the odd trip, from time to time? I’m already looking forward to the next one. Some of the places I’ve travelled to have already begun to feel like alternative homes. And where is ‘home’ in our mobile world anyway? Readers of this blog who don’t know me might nevertheless have picked up that I’m married to a very lovely American whom I met whilst studying in Reading. Consequentially I find myself in the eastern United States, Maryland to be specific, at least once a year. There’s still much that I find unusual or difficult about the country – though isn’t that part of the point of long distance travel? – but still the area we visit feels deeply familiar after eight years’ worth of trips, especially since I’ve begun to get a handle on North American birdsong. When I’m out and about birding over there I now feel as though I’m walking amongst old friends, whilst retaining a much greater than usual chance of meeting new ones. A marvellous combination: I definitely recommend having two continents in your life. I feel sure I have done so before.
Now that the world is criss-crossed with connections of this sort – and I count myself fortunate to have one – it would be near impossible, wholly impractical and really quite cruel to start unpicking all of those threads and then to expect everybody to stay within a medieval-style ten-mile radius of their birthplace. For better or worse, we have to keep on moving.
As it happens, this year it’s the UK’s turn at Christmas, so I’m not boarding a transatlantic flight this December and instead only had to move a relatively inexpensive 20-ish miles. We’ll be spending a few days looking out on a garden full of homely robins, rather than more exotic cardinals, having turkey for lunch rather than the ‘post-Thanksgiving-anything-but-turkey’ of many an American Christmas, and enjoying traditional British Christmas weather, i.e. flooding and gales. But our American family and friends will be in our thoughts even more than usual this week. If you celebrate Christmas, then wherever you are spending it, however far away from ‘home’ you may be, I hope you have a very merry one and thanks for supporting this blog over the last year.