I'm preparing a personal legacy journey: to a land of friends, teachers and students, the heady aroma of jasmine blossoms, the musty odor of camels, the sound of the muezzin calling Muslims to prayer, Harissa, blood oranges, Safsaris, souks chocked full with all the necessities of life, the awe of ancient ruins -- Roman baths, a coliseum, mosaics and aqueducts. These are the memories, sounds, sights, smells and way of life of a people who welcomed me to Tunisia where I served in the Peace Corps 44 years ago.
A section in "Women's Lives, Women's Legacies," describes the purposes of such journeys:
"Many women travel not just for fun and relaxation, but as a way of linking the present to the past; they might trace their family histories and stand in the very places where their feminine ancestors once lived. Others travel to learn about the world, to experience global citizenship, to appreciate the beauty and rich variety of cultures, art, food, and nature...."
"We [22 family members from all over the world]
traveled to the Polish shtetl [village] of our ancestors:
not as tourists, not as travelers, but as pilgrims."
~ Carla Vogel, Certified Legacy Facilitator and Professional Storyteller
All of us may not be able to travel to reclaim our roots, re-experience a transformative period in our lives, or capture family memories to pass on to future generations.
"The only journey is the one within." ~ Ranier Maria Rilke
The next best thing is to use the magic of media technology to call up any place on the planet in seconds. We can see images and maps, have history and traditions recounted and verified, the next best thing to being there. Traveling via technology, you still may recapture your experience and be inspired to review the period, place, and life-learnings to share as part of your history and legacy.
Preparation: If you can manage a journey in real time, use technology to jog memories, clarify purpose and prioritize what matters most to see and do before you leave.
Preservation: Consider the myriad of possibilities to capture, gather and remember experience during the journey: Will you take still photos, shoot video, or write in a journal? Perhaps some combination of all three.
Some prefer fewer photos so the trip doesn't devolve into, "what's the perfect shot?" limiting the journey as proscribed by what can be seen through a camera lens. Perhaps a daily postcard with a memory or feeling recorded on the back while enjoying a coffee on a cafe's plaza is enough to capture the experience each day. Maybe it's sending a tweet or a photo accompanied by some words to Facebook as you rest weary feet and back in one of the wifi cafes that dot the landscape worldwide. Or maybe it's an old-fashioned journal inviting your reflections and feelings at the end of each day. Whatever your choice, think about how you can best capture your experience to recall after you return home for yourself and for future generations. The anticipation and preparation is part of the legacy of your journey, whether your purpose is to reconnect with your roots, to know and accept your past, or to open to a new perspective about your life's meaning.
Staying open and present: At a certain age, we realize that savoring the journey in the moment with our older and wiser eyes may be most important.
It is good to have an end to journey towards;
but it is the journey that matters in the end.
~ Ursula K. Le Guin
Remember, legacy is a vital part of a life well-lived. Whether you travel by foot or by heart, honor the journey as an important part of your life and legacy.
Some Suggestions for Action:
1. Begin with a list of places you've visited or sojourned, whether countries far away or the town next door.
2. Choose one place to write about. Gather photos, ethnic music, travel mementos, and use the web to evoke and enhance your memories.
3. What did you find deliciously different and comfortably common? What personal strengths and challenges did you discover about yourself on this journey?
4. Consider a return journey and how you can plan to make it happen.
5. Write a legacy letter to share your experience, story, learning from your journey.
"The journey is the reward." ~ Chinese Proverb
Look for your next Legacy Post in November after my journey. You can find out more about communicating and preserving your legacy (ethical will) at www.Life-Legacies.com or email: Rachael@Life-Legacies.com
Rachael Freed has published several works including "Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations" and "Heartmates: A Guide for the Spouse and Family of the Heart Patient." She is currently working on "Harvesting the Wisdom of Our Lives: An Intergenerational Legacy Guide for Seniors and Their Families."
Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and legacy consultant. Her home is Minneapolis, Minnesota.