I was talking to my young friend Richard on Sunday, sitting in the house by the sea, waves dazzling blue behind me.
"I've found a great way to travel!" he said. "Totally carbon neutral! Did you know you can go almost anywhere by cargo ship!"
I looked it up: he's right. The website said: "Whether a Cargo ship has 1 or 101 passengers onboard, it will still sail and use just as much fuel, making your journey almost completely 'carbon neutral'."
More to the point, it's the old-fashioned way to travel. It takes not five hours, but eleven days to get to New York from Liverpool; it's a journey. For Richard, it's the adventure of it all.
I thought of my recent journey to see a friend in Antwerp. My husband had offered to take me to the airport, but I had declined. I enjoyed trundling my little case down to the bus-stop, taking the bus to the railway station, catching a train to the airport. Yes, it took longer, and it probably cost more, but it made the trip to see my friend much more of an event. I enjoyed the whole journey.
As a writer I must plan my books as journeys. After all, "once-upon-a-time-lived-a-beautiful-princess-she-married-a-prince-and-lived-happily-ever-after," is not a story. If you analyse almost every successful story, whether a book or a film or a play, it follows a journey. The hero has a life which is disrupted in some way. He receives a "call to action." Very often he refuses to act until forced to. He then embarks upon his adventures, meeting various characters who will help him or hinder him. He will meet the villain, gain a small victory, then find the tables have been turned and he is facing utter defeat, before the final triumph and his return to what was his old life – except he has changed, so it is a new life after all.
The journey is not just that time between starting place and destination. It is the development of character and preparation for what will be found at that destination.
We know, from the moment we are born, our destination is death. Our life is the journey; and the journey is all we can know.
We might choose to believe our life is a preparation for what happens the other side of death, and – while it does no harm to cover all our bases there – none of us can really know what is the other side of that dark door.
We cannot necessarily choose our method or speed of travel. We cannot necessarily choose the manner of our conveyance. We can however, choose what we look at, or at least how we see it.
You might think travelling by cargo ship would be boring. But – as one reviewer says on the website – "The most amazing thing is the ever-changing colour of the sea."
Today the mists rolled in and the sea was grey. Still beautiful, though.
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