Departure, Arrival and The Movement of Travel

To travel implies movement between fixed positions, a site of departure, a point of arrival, the knowledge of an itinerary. It also intimates an eventual return, a potential homecoming.
— Iain Chambers, in Questions of Travel by Caren Kaplan

What is Travel?

Onboard before take-off at LAX. Italy-bound.

Onboard before take-off at LAX. Italy-bound.

The last time our family was in Italy together was a year ago. I flew from LAX into Rome with the kids. Renato was waiting for us there. He had gone ahead in September to make the most of mushroom season in Garfagnana (more on mushrooms in future posts). We stayed for a season and at times forgot it would ever come time to leave again.. 

Taking off on a journey is part of my health. I understand this puts me in a category with others who crave movement, change, and perspective. There are a lot of us in this group. I don’t think we always need to move to the same degree or distance to satisfy our appetite for adventure. We can earn ourselves a perch that overlooks new territory by escaping into a book or spending time with someone who has a different story than ours. We can learn a new skill (or enhance one). When we taste a native dish that has been passed down for generations in a culture that is not originally ours, we depart from what we know. We can meditate. These experiences are opportunities for travel, for moving into new space toward fresh discovery, added understanding.

Light-based learning

 Whatever teaches us, open us up, or grows us in some way, is travel. 

This blog falls into that category, because as I write, I explore ideas such as movement, home and wellbeing. I move from one question to the next, exposing my misunderstandings, my joys, what troubles me. I open up - to commentary, criticism and new questions. I realize that this is the point: tying together a string of good questions or curiosities that shoot beams of light out ahead, suggesting one or more new paths.

Landing in Italy never fails to move me on the inside. Light reliably pours in. I learn something. I imagine the longing for Italy we experience while we are away is a gravitational pull toward the physical places we know and love. 


Jet-lagged and taking in some afternoon Roman light on our first full day in Italy.

Jet-lagged and taking in some afternoon Roman light on our first full day in Italy.

The emotion of touching down in a place that the heart calls home is undeniable. Coming down on the tarmac in Italy closes a void. It releases the taut connectivity of nostalgia into a pool of reprieve that spills over as we settle into a life that both moves us and keeps us present.

At Fiumicino Airport we are greeted by Papa' Renato and Zio Giorgio. After a short and restful visit with family in Rome, we head to the Garfagnana, where our heart is anchored.

The train ride from Roma Termini to Barga-Gallicano takes about 3 hours. The kids stay pretty entertained by looking out the windows, climbing over seats and stumbling down the aisles. In the image below we were only one day into our arrival, jet-lagged, train-spun, (but well-fed already from our visit with Zia Margherita) and waiting for Zio Gigi to fetch us from the train station in Mologno and take us and our trappings to Via del Turello in Barga.


Arrival in Garfagnana. Barga-Gallicano Train Station.

Arrival in Garfagnana. Barga-Gallicano Train Station.

The movement of being at home

What I found there on the lower plateau that stretches out beneath Barga was a sanctuary of sorts. The view never ceased to make my blood speed up even as it grounded me. I must have taken a thousand different versions of this photograph for the pure love of trying to capture something I know I cannot . The green that lay between us and that backdrop gave us a playground for many afternoons and mornings of being in the open and feeling free.

The inward movement that I experienced in this place teaches me. I go back to the photos and they bring up emotion of departure and arrival. They remind me of the movement that happens on the inside when we allow ourselves to be in a place.


Those hundreds of images I captured against the Alpi Apuane are similar to the light that pours in on arrival - they evidence the connection I have with a particular place. Having journeyed through the challenges and victories of another year, the desire to keep moving toward that special place is still ours. We will get there by fueling our inward movement and allowing ourselves to be at home wherever we are, traveling native.


View from Via del Turello in Barga.

View from Via del Turello in Barga.

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.
— Wendell Berry, The Unforeseen Wilderness: Kentucky's Red River Gorge
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