The post about William Young reminded me of the way my son Johnny has recently spoken of possibly traveling around the world when his stint in the Army is up. His plan -- if he doesn't reenlist -- is to take the money he's saved and travel cheaply, staying at hostels and the like.
Johnny read a lot about military history when he was growing up, but also had a fairly steady diet of adventure books, most of which were set in exotic locales. Two of his favorites were Aztec and The Journeyer, by Gary Jennings. Aztec was about the adventures of an Indian who lived at the time of the Spanish conquest; The Journeyer was a fictionalized account of the adventures of Marco Polo. Both protagonists traveled widely.
Johnny enjoys talking about the places he'd like to visit. He has mentioned Europe, South America, and Asia in particular. He'd like to see a lot of the historic sites he's read about. (Alaska, where he's been stationed, no longer seems as appealing to him as it once did.)
Wanting to travel like this indicates a romantic view of the world. The working assumption underlying such a desire is that the world is full of wonders, places worth seeing and people worth meeting. It is the opposite of a jaded, been-there-done-that attitude.
The instinct to want to see what's around the next bend also bespeaks a certain intellectual curiosity.
If Johnny takes such a trip, I hope he's not disappointed. I convinced him to drive to California with me in the summer of '07. Unfortunately, we were on a timetable. When you stick to the interstates, you see pretty much the same 11 motels and same 15 fast food restaurants the entire way. It's hard to tell New Jersey from Tennessee from Louisiana. When we drove back via the northern route, with his mother and sister, we saw more beautiful scenery, including Redwood National Park, Gifford Pinchot Wilderness, Mt. Rainier, and Glacier National Park.
One of Johnny's ideas for his world trip is to sneak into Mecca during the Hajj. He had read about Sir Richard Burton (the nineteenth century explorer, not the twentieth century actor) doing it, and wants to try it himself. When I told him that could be dangerous, he replied, "Dad, that doesn't exactly make it less appealing to me."
I had thought that if he survived Afghanistan and didn't reenlist, I could stop worrying so much about him. Evidently not.
At the moment, of course, I'm just hoping he has the opportunity to take new risks in another year or two.