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Monday, December 16, 2013

An Ode to the Traveler

Why does the traveler choose the violent dislocation of bone and body from tender loved ones? Why do they caste themselves into strange, septic environs, where the joints and soul will ache; where they will be diagnosed with that debilitating disease called “Homesickness”?
To my friends wandering in the fields of medicine, if you don’t find “Homesickness” listed in your medical journals, please, petition, with the urgency of an epidemic, to add this ailment to your AMA Physician’s Guide.  Otherwise, you may come across a patient who is melting at the bones and sucking the air out of the examination room with deep, quivering respiration and be absolutely puzzled as to the cause and be equally hopeless as to finding a remedy. 
As one who has suffered paralyses from more exotic strands of the disease, I have earned the title: The Notary of Melancholy.  As such, I offer a recommendation for how one could characterize this strange disease:

Homesickness  A condition affecting a person who has moved away from their home and domestic structures.  The infinite details that constructed the habitus of the infected are gone.  This loss causes a psychological shock.  The person, perhaps now your patient, may have intense visual imaginations of family and friends who are suffering, and, on occasion, dying.  This symptom has yet to be distinguished between a self-important projection of the self, or, the mental manifestation of the dying habitus of which that “suffering” person use to sustain.  The behaviors that a person previously solicited from the infected are dying through asphyxiation, and that trauma is visualized in an imaginary suffering.  Naturally, an emotional desire to return home is surging through the infected body, with the aim of protecting the psychological status quo and the familiar habitus.  The experiences of your patient may be as frustrating as this definition. 
The patient, an alien of sorts, has been placed in a foreign space and is obliged to bring order to the universal chaos known as life.  The task is exhausting.  Despondency brings tiredness and loss of appetite; appetite loss will lead to a vitamin deficiency; headaches follow any deficiency; headaches amplify the despondency.  The cycle is as ruthless as your patient is rootless. Usually severe cases are coupled, hardly coincidentally, with jet lag.
Best known treatments:  Moleskines, coffee shops, postcards, books, lonely plant, travel forums, tourist spots, spots without tourist and learning the language of wherever the infected has been transplanted.  Please don’t confuse Moleskine with moleskin, because the traveler, though blistered, will find no relief with that fuzzy tissue.

The characterization above is, superficially, negative.  But, what exists past these troublesome symptoms is the developed condition which is regenerative and comprehensively positive. The opportunity to be reborn exists in the state of travel; to start anew. The psychological constitution is ready for amendments and the daily habitus will be reorganized.  The grand canvass of your life is becoming visible. 
If you have ever wondered what it was like for Adam to open his eyes and see everything in grown splendor—to see the molten hearth resting on Earth’s mantle—then buy a one-way ticket. 
And please don’t think these effects are solely emotional or spiritual:

.he is in the thick of travel and the certainties which anchored his being are distant relics, the archaeological remnants of his personal civilization, one he may return to, or may not.  Even his physiognomy is being renegotiated.  As he discovers new places and warehouses new experiences, he finds a new shelf to rest his brow in curious anticipation, or a steeper ridge to slant an intimidating glare needed to parry menacing scowls.  His luggage of facial expressions was inadequate; he has to create new faces:  a face of sheer bewilderment; a face of utter humility; a face of fear.  New facial muscles are flexing, old ones relaxing, and after a week of travel and surprises, our friend, to some, would be unrecognizable. 

Put simply, traveling is the greatest reminder that you are living.

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