Ordinarily at this time of year, I’d be getting ready to go back to a new academic year at the institution where this would be my 31st year of teaching. Instead, I’ve just finished watching a film that gave me hope for the future by reminding me of the past (The Post, about the Pentagon Papers published by the Washington Post in defiance of govt orders, that spelt the beginning of the end for Nixon’s presidency)–as I fly over the Atlantic to get to the Arabian Gulf, to spend a year teaching undergraduates at NYUAD
I wonder why some of us seek to leave the comforts of home, the reassurance of routine, the illusion of safety that the familiar facilitates; what inspires us to wilfully veer off into travel mode, and confront the illusions that lull us to sleep in the beds we claim as our security zones.
I think traveling away from the homestead is an important feminist act that proclaims a woman’s independence in a way few other actions can. It signifies the courage to face the world on her own, an acknowledgement that she can survive in spite of ( because of?)–having to rely on her own instincts and judgement-as Katherine Graham of the Washington Post does, leaving the comfort of her housewifely role. And it requires skill. The skill to figure things out, make new friends, conquer fear of strangers, smile at the world, be at peace in her own company; and learn to sleep in a strange bed; no easy task!
To embrace a traveling state of mind is to accept the truth that all states are temporary abodes, that the heart is not where home is, but rather, home is an uncanny place, the stranger within that the heart seeks to embrace. It is the abode of the Sufi whose wanderlust gives meaning to life’s journey.
I can’t fly. I must fly.