We can enjoy many kinds of travel beyond the usual beach vacation, cruise, or European city jaunt. We have eco-travel, ancestry travel, photo safaris, trekking, adventure travel, and many other flavors. But I want to put in a plug for what I call mythic travel, which so far as I know has not yet emerged as a travel genre. When I travel, which is a lot, I try to make it as mythical as possible.
Why? Because travel is not only educational and mind expanding. When it is truly mythic, we tap into those areas of our psyche that produce our sense of awe and of the sacred, where time seems to stop and our own sense of both self and parochial identity melt away. It takes us deeper to the level that produces the myths and their symbols in the first place. It is a spark to our creativity and spirituality.
Of course, we can achieve this without travel, such as by lying in our backyard taking in the night sky, or even solely within our minds. Thus, in his conclusion to Walden, when advising to “explore thyself,” Thoreau famously wrote, “It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.” But he added, “Yet do this even till you can do better.” Travel can be empty or it can be made full and rich; like all things in life, it is up to us. The more ways in which we can approach and access the mythic, the richer our Selves will be for it, and mythic travel is a great, fun way to help achieve this.
Mythic travel takes us to the very places we have read about in myths since our childhood, and it allows us to reacquaint ourselves with these myths and deepen our understanding of them. This is not merely educational: We not only “learn,” but we also better experience what it is like to be human (or godlike). We can put ourselves in closer touch with the ancient cultures who wrote the myths. And we will never read or discuss their myths the same way again.
Sometimes mythic sites can be mildly disappointing, as when only nondescript ruins remain or when modern civilization intrudes too closely and the myths can barely be felt, but one can do one’s homework about the sites first and then decide whether going there will be worth it. And in my experience the wonderful surprises, discoveries, and profound experiences far outweigh the disappointments.
So where to start? Start with some favorite myths, and then see what places are associated with them and what travel is practical. When I was a lawyer, I usually tried to take days (or a week or more) off in connection with my business trips to venture into myth. Or simply make it your vacation. The key is to make it a priority, and then things just start to happen.
My suggestions? Over the years I’ve had the good fortune to visit many mythical places, including Greece, Crete, Cyprus, Italy, Israel, Turkey, and Egypt in the Mediterranean; the Far East including Japan, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Kazakhstan, and India; Mexico and South America; and in Europe key mythical places like Arthurian sites in the UK (such as Glastonbury and Tintagel); Rosslyn and the Orkney Islands in Scotland; Languedoc including Rennes le Chateau of Da Vinci Code fame, and Germany’s castles and the Black Forest. On the Mythic Travels part of my blog, I’ll be posting accounts of many of past mythic travels and providing some tips and ideas based on those experiences, as well as reporting from my new travels. I hope you enjoy them and that they will give you some ideas, and I look forward to hearing about your own!
© Arthur George 2014