“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we not take a trip; a trip takes us.” —John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley
Every time he left his backdoor, a new adventure presented. In his early years, he was more adventurous, leaving all inhibitions behind in search of the unknown. In light or darkness, he would travel, encountering the most majestic of landscapes and the harshest, depending on the season. He gave new-age traveler types, those who say you only need what a backpack contains, a run for their money. He didn’t need to travel with a single material possession, just his nose for adventure.
Traveling through his backdoor wilderness at a young age caused him to grow up quickly. Bad experiences with coyote-types, those I akin to groping TSA check points making their way on to the scene or a tussle with bad hospitality, hardened him a bit on leaving the comforts of home for the world’s backdoor. And yet, he never complained. He traveled through the good and bad, nearly dying on his adventures along the way. He spoke with fellow travelers and even locals, gathering their stories in small snippets of time. Still, he kept his stories to himself and moved on when he would return home. No one likes a travel braggart after all.
Middle-aged travel brought more hesitation, but an undying sense of spirit. After learning from his youthful errors, he developed his own path for traveling the world. Time after time, he would travel this path, so much so that you could see where he went and how he returned, like the contrail of an airplane. Suddenly, you could track the very steps of his journey. And while a silent type, this was his way of memory, this was his way of knowing where he had been, what he had seen and what he had learned along the way.
The elderly years of life brought fewer trips out into the unknown, but a new traveling companion helped spur youthful adventure in an old man. He was forced to abandon his solo travel ways and learn how to share his world with another at this stage. With arthritic knees, the journey, the adventure just outside the door, was much harder to traverse. So he retreated with dignity indoors, where the comforts of home are best appreciated. When you have seen the world at its best and worst, home is a safe haven, where the constants of reliable meals, water and lots of familiar faces make leaving a life of travel easier to bear. He had so much love in his life, and yet just outside, he could still gaze at his travel memories, his adventurous path and past.
Sadly, the most adventurous traveler I know died today at around 105 years old, in dog years that is. Mr. Shanks was a miniature schnauzer with a backyard dogs probably dream about. Roughly over an acre, he was free to roam, encountering those coyotes and skunks along the way. He did travel in a certain manner in this backyard wilderness, so much so that he did in fact create a path around his world, one you can still faintly make out today. It was his trail.
Travelers including myself bemoan not being able to travel as much as they would like. It could be a job tying us to one location or a lack of funds. But I ask you to consider the lives of most dogs. Most dogs like Mr. Shanks travel very little by human standards, usually just out their backdoor or down to the park. A select few will go on planes and be spooked by what they see in cargo. However, the majority of dogs have very constant lives. They find adventure in small moments outside, even if home is 20 feet away.
The next time I catch myself complaining about a bank account not allowing for as much travel as I would like or a suitcase not filled with enough travel clothes or even a tiresome encounter with bad hospitality, I will stop and think of how Shanks traveled. He traveled just with his being. He stayed true to himself when he left the porch. Joggers or strangers from another world were met with that suspicious eye, and of course, several loud barks. Not everyone liked him and he didn’t like everybody, but he loved the people who loved him. He didn’t trust the world outside easily, but he did throw himself into the experience, skunk spray and all. He would return home and do as most travelers do, sleep until the next adventure. He didn’t brag about his travels. He just chose to remember them in a defining path wrapping around an acre. To a human, an acre is a tiny speck of the world. To a dog like Shanks, that was the world.
Do you have a dog or pet and sometimes find they are far more adventurous in their travels than you or travelers you know?