||Turning Stone Press
||July 16, 2012
Barnes & Noble.com
In Travelers: The Meaningful Journey, Régent Jean Cabana takes readers on a soul-affirming journey, making a strong case that the world outside, the one we travel into, responds to the world inside, the world we carry in our hearts and souls.
The idea of exploring, of discovering or uncovering new segments of reality, outwardly or inwardly, is a commanding impetus for movement. While the Age of European Exploration beginning in the 15th century sought to learn about the outside world, more recently the explorers of man’s emotional and intellectual worlds have wanted to learn about the inside world. But the link between these two realities has always existed. No matter where the point of entry is, from inside or outside, establishing the correspondence between the two transmutes each reality and creates a third one, that of synthesis. The synergy of outer and inner realities is found in the contradictory aspects of our lives, and its synthesis ushers us toward a new direction, that of a more wholesome understanding of a reality freshly created with each breath we take. Perhaps the fragmentary appearance of our contemporary lives represents an opportunity to assemble disparate aspects of our lives, to examine them closely, one by one and then together, in order to understand who we are and what we do that is us. This us is also each one of us, the unique individual positions at the center of the universe, the axis mundi, the single individual who knows, beyond any doubt, that life is only possible because of his own unique awareness. Every one of us is invaluable.
"Travelers: the Meaningful Journey" by Regent Jean Cabana is not just an exotic travel narrative. South Sea Islands there are aplenty, with beautiful native girls, hallucinogenic drugs, and dangerous incidents, but here we are talking Travelers with a capital T, and by such persons the author means a sub-culture of young and not-so-young men and women from affluent societies for whom it is not the destination but the journey that is addictive.
To travel in this fashion, one goes it alone. This is necessary if the Traveler is to find his rhythm, travel light, allow things to happen, and understand the Other. It is a time of intense self-reflection, dark nights, and hard exhausting days, during which the Traveler asks himself, "Why travel?" "What is home? "Why do we do what we do?" And seems to find -- regardless of where he is in his internal/external journey -- that there is only one verity: it is always time to leave.
Cabana has several purposes in writing this book. It is a primer of sorts for would-be Travelers; it is a memoir of his own experiences; it is a summation of the ethnographic fieldwork he undertook when writing his Ph.D. dissertation on the culture; and it is -- possibly primarily -- a meditation on what the role of the journey means in human history and society. To Cabana, "the Traveler is the quintessential human being and his journey in the world our journey on earth. The personage of the Traveler is an eloquent metaphor for human inquisitiveness and human aspiration."
At one point the author writes, "People will avidly listen to someone's travel stories, the surface story of unusual or extraordinary events. But no one, except close friends or family, is interested in listening to the inner side of the story." Bookreview.com considers "Travelers: The Meaningful Journey" a compelling introduction to that inner story.
I love this book! The author has accomplished the difficult task of combining a captivating adventure with a deep understanding of the human spirit. I found myself uncharacteristically taking notes because of the wisdom embedded in the tale. Cabana shows both compassion and courage, and deftly addresses additional ways of becoming a fuller person. I found his commentary regarding getting through the stages that all humans must face in their travels to be especially poignant and valuable. There are many who have powerful adventures, but few who are able to convey the experience of those with such richness and texture; this author is able to do just that. It seems like his journey has illuminated my own, and I sincerely thank him for his sharing. I will be telling all my friends about this unique book, and hope to see more of his writing.
Judging from his book, Régent Jean Cabana, the French Canadian author of Travelers: The Meaningful Journey is a scholar, a philosopher and a bon vivant. He calls himself a Traveler. By this he means those who travel on a long-term basis as a lifestyle. Although he conducted a formal study of Travelers which included in-depth interviews and focus groups, this book isn't dry and academic. Cabana also writes about his own life and outlook with a changing perspective that is by turns suave, convivial and wise. He can be a dependable guide, yet he can also be unpredictable.
Cabana defines Travelers as radically different from tourists who rely on guidebooks to shape their travel experience rather than taking chances, and watching for opportunities to contact the local people in order to learn from them directly about their culture.
Some of his concepts can be difficult to pin down. I finally concluded that "finding your rhythm" is most akin to the Navajo belief in hozho which is called "walking in beauty" in English. Cabana likes using the word "passage" for travel. I would associate this word with "rite of passage" which is an experience that is intended to be transformative. Transformation is Cabana's central goal, and he believes that it's the goal of other Travelers that he has encountered.
He also talks about "hitting bottom" which I connect with the process of overcoming addiction. In the context of this book, "hitting bottom" means a time of reflection and self-examination. I read in this book that some Travelers imagine that they will find people in Third World cultures who are purely traditionalist and uninfluenced by Western aspirations. It seems to me that they are seeking iconic representations from the pages of National Geographic rather than the real individuals who actually live there. When these Travelers "hit bottom", they should consider re-examining how they view people in the countries through which they are journeying.
Cabana himself respects diversity. He says that "tolerance" is one of his favorite words. "Liminality" is one of my favorite words. It is the state of being an outsider. I think that Travelers are supremely liminal. They leave their cultures of origin because they don't feel at home there, yet they can never permanently connect with any other culture because they are continually moving on. Some readers who value a sense of belonging may find this very sad, but I have always appreciated the unique viewpoint of those who live on the margins of our societies.
This book contains some observations about theology. I would characterize Cabana's approach as pantheist. He believes that the divine is everywhere and that we are all one while still being distinct individuals.
If Travelers: The Meaningful Journey can be said to have a flaw, I think it's a failure to give enough credit to those of us who stay at home. As a rather cautious individual with very limited financial resources, I content myself with armchair travel through books. A book too can be a journey. Like the Fool of the Tarot, a reader steps out blithely into the world of a book without knowing whether the consequence of this experience will be a metaphorical fall from a precipice. I would also like to point out that if you live in a major city or its environs, you can encounter people from other cultures and learn from them. You needn't travel to another continent to discover cultural diversity and be changed by it. Travel is not the only means of transformation.
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