Beyond Brushstrokes


Now that the world is shedding the shackles of the pandemic lockdown, people are suddenly free to do “revenge travel.” Many families are making up for lost time, having reunions, and going to exotic places like Iceland to see the aurora borealis and the Krypton-like icicle mountains and frozen waterfalls, or Africa for wildlife safaris, or the Sahara Desert expeditions, or the Dead Sea after a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, or the Sakura cherry blossoms in Japan. Others visit our own country’s best powder white beaches to watch the glorious sunsets or meditate in the cool misty mountains amidst the pine tree forests.

A few introspective individuals stayed home to reflect, pray, create, write, paint, compose, dance, and dream.

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) once said, “Like all great travelers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen.”

Our personal memory plays tricks sometimes. We tend to remember what we want and forget the rest. Or we enhance our recollection of an event or a place. The memories get whirled and spun around the mind’s eye.

Taking a journey after a long time is always exciting. It is a new exhilarating adventure. The anticipation and anxiety increase as the day approaches. The thrilling feeling is the same — a slow boat ride on the sea or a midnight flight to a distant continent or a bullet train to a quaint village on a mountainside.

It is fun to travel — despite the hassles of jet lag and bouts of seasickness, and stringent airport security measures. The itinerant traveler learns to grin and bear it. One must endure the painstaking luggage search, countess body scans and some indecent gropes, temperature scans, walking sans shoes through X-ray machines. However, the safety of the majority cannot be compromised.

One shrugs off the wearisome conveniences — cancelled and missed flights due to assorted terrorist threats and extreme weather disturbances. Take it with a grain of salt, as seasoned travelers say. The rewards are worth the snags.

It is safe to travel with masks, but one can shed part of the psychological protective armor. There is a sudden sense of freedom, a feeling of restored privacy.

Travel is not only an escape. It is an inner voyage of self-discovery, an expansion of one’s outer horizon and perspective.

The best part of being away is the novelty. After isolation, one can see new places, interesting people, and learn new things. Returning to old familiar places — after a few years or decades — allows us to rediscover and appreciate things with a new vision. The lens of wisdom and maturity. The bonus is having private time to nurture one’s inner self.

The worst part of traveling is being wrenched from one’s comfort zone — one’s own bed and bathroom, and the taste and smell of home-cooked meals. It is tiresome to have restaurant meals and microwaved airline food trays. Keeping tight schedules, sprinting to catch a train or a bus or a plane or a ferry.

Being away for long periods of time, one lives out of a suitcase and learns how to adapt to the changing seasons, the environment.

When one starts to miss so many things, blame it on homesickness and travel fatigue.

The outward trip always seems longer. It takes almost forever to reach a destination. The opposite effect happens on the return flight or sea voyage. The trip seems to be over as soon as one boards the plane or ship. It’s a psychological thing, one surmises.

Back home, in the familiar turbulent or stressful environment, the urge to escape creeps in… too soon. The cycle begins anew.

The American writer Paul Theroux remarked, “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”

One yearns for pleasurable things and feels guilty about having them. The paradox is the more happiness we derive from something, the worse we feel. The inverse is true of righteous pain. For example, the worse we feel while eating a romaine salad without the zestful dressing, the better we feel about eating it. Either way, we feel awful.

It is the agony of the ecstasy and the ecstasy of the agony.

Researchers in the field of psychology say that everyone has a personal mechanism for survival — to cope with feelings of anxiety. One turns to comfort food or an outdoor activity that produces endorphins for good feelings. Travel is one of the best activities. It enriches the spirit and mind, and it is a rejuvenating tonic for the body, the heart.

However, one must suppress a twinge of guilt when a luxurious activity — such as dinner at a star rated restaurant — is considered by some people as self-indulgent or frivolous. (They are probably miserable kill joys.) And to that, we exclaim, “To each, his own!” Whatever works is a valid reason.


On a personal note, April marks this column’s 30th anniversary. Time flies.

My first article was about St. Mary’s House, a haven for young girls (the innocent victims of incest and abuse). Child protection remains the main advocacy of this column.


Maria Victoria Rufino is an artist, writer and businesswoman. She is president and executive producer of Maverick Productions.