Quite a few years ago I had to buy a new washing machine, although I only had limited funds; at the same time, the local book shop had an offer of the two volumes of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, curiously for the same price as the new machine.
I bought the dictionary.
I’ve never regretted that decision, as I get to stumble across words like risus sardonicus, outrecuidance, or worsum (I’ll lend you my dictionary if you like, so you can look them up). There is such a pleasure to be had, to amble slowly and gently through the words of a language and realise, perhaps, how few we use.
Since we have a week around the world on ABC Classic Breakfast, I thought it would be useful to look up the dictionary definition of travel.
As you can imagine, there are a few interpretations…
A journey through
A journey along
A journey around
An intransitive or transitive verb — you can journey stock, or wine, or books.
And from travel, we have the adjectives travellable — able to be travelled along, and travelled – in a new place now from the original site.
The curious thing about travel though, is its link to the word travail — to work hard, which has its own roots in the Latin for torture. Back in Mediaeval times, travelling anywhere outside your own village was potentially lethal, and so the two words are linked.
Travel now is elevated to the Mediaeval level of risk for many, and so we stay at home, or at least within sight of it. Travel has become an idea, a hope, a memory.
For me, travel has always been made up of three parts — the time of planning and looking forward to, the time of actual travel, and then the limitless time of remembering. And perhaps that is the time when travel presents to us its true gift — the gift of growth.
We travel to gain a sense of who we are, through comparison and discussion with other folks from often disparate cultures. We travel to learn our limits, to learn our bravery, our weaknesses, our desires. We may travel to learn a language or to see a certain sight but, after all the sights are seen, and the language is kept inside and the new friends are left behind, in the end we have given ourselves the gift of discomfort, because it is only through discomfort that we can truly change and grow.
So, in these days of staying quiet and still, we have this gift in our pockets, a gift we can open every single day.
Ed Ayres presents Weekend Breakfast on ABC Classic (Saturday and Sunday 6am–9am).
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