Ryokoudo: The Art of Travel – An Introduction

artoftravelI’m coining my own word in the spirit of Japanese martial arts in regards to travel. Those that understand Japanese better than I will know this isn’t a perfect term. Most of those people also know there have been worse Americanized versions of eastern concepts than this. I’m calling it “Ryokoudo.” Roughly translated, Ryokoudo is the art of travel or the way towards enlightenment through travel. I feel that travel is an art and art’s nature is to help create a transcendental experience. Every art must be continuously studied, practiced and occasionally tested in order to grow into something that really achieves so lofty an end. Every musician practices scales and songs until they can send their hearts hurtling through their instrument with ease. Every martial artist practices form and competes until they can move effortlessly in any manner they wish at any moment. Every art form will come down to study, practice and the navigation of crises as a means to achieve something beyond ourselves. You don’t have to be a Jimi Hendrix to be changed forever by the guitar. You don’t necessarily even have to be able to play that well just to entertain a group of friends. You don’t have to be Muhammad Ali to enjoy the benefits of practicing boxing. The point is that even if you are just getting started with travel or have yet to travel as much as you would like, you too can benefit greatly from the practice of Ryokoudo.

I’ve been studying martial arts for almost all of my adult life. Even in those times when life is not agreeing with my attempts to get into the dojo, I’m still always thinking about it. I still practice on my own and the thought of never going back is unthinkable. So too it is with travel. There have been whole years when I have barely gone 20 miles outside of my own postal code. There have been times when I have traveled non-stop for months on end. Part of me is always thinking of these things. I have several ways that I undertake making myself a little more than I was yesterday. Travel and martial arts are key among them for me personally. Therefore, it was only natural for me to look at travel through the lens of martial arts and vice versa.

Miyamoto Musashi, Japanese master of Samurai arts who penned the classic Book of Five Rings, said, “There is a rhythm to everything.” I will stand on the shoulder of this giant as I have just started to really think of travel in the sense of a “Ryokoudoka” (student of the way of travel). I have begun by thinking of this in terms of key principles. One key principle that seems to apply to absolutely everything in life is timing. At least one aspect of timing can by understood in the idea of rhythm. For example, stocks rise and fall and the better you are at buying low and selling high, the richer you will get. It’s an art-form as I understand it. In martial arts, fists, kicks, and grapples can come at anytime, but if you’re ready to move at just the exact right moment, the deftest attack can be easily neutralized. In music, there are a myriad of notes to play and countless ways to play them, but picking the spaces in between is how you really start to hear the benefits of long-term practice coming to fruition. So, how do you use timing when traveling? The aspect of timing and rhythm will be the first way that I will observe the Art of Travel in the context of a “Do” or, in other words, as a way to make one’s self grow.

I would like to thank Jun Akiyama of Aikiweb.com for helping me find a Japanese term that connotes the Art of Travel as a means towards enlightenment in a way more readily recognizable to the western eye.

IMAGE VIA: justaslice on Flickr