On Travel: Be Patient, Dear Paddington

By Michael Patrick, Ph.D.

I know, Paddington, I know. We’ve just gotten home, restocked the fridge, and that overwhelming feeling is knocking on our door again. That sense that it’s already time to go. Be patient, dear Paddington, because I feel the same way.
Two hours on the phone this week with Beijing. New clients! Shall we have dinner there tomorrow? Sigh.
The news once kept me moving, but what we left behind has turned into such an dirty circus of quarrels, and we’ve seen too much of it before.
Paddington, let me get a few more things done, and I will pack in a whirl.

I know you’d like to stop and see her on the way. Remember, dear Paddington, you can’t chase a memory because it has gone long ahead, and staying even an hour too long here becomes the most painful thing.
Be patient, my dear Paddington. I will be ready soon.
In the meantime, here’s a poem for you.

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

—John O’Donohue

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