Riding a horse is a way to experience exhilaration and peace and connectedness all at the same time. I rarely feel more me than when I am on a horse.
Joni Mitchell wrote a song that used the phrase “rev for stride” to describe a running horse. It is one of my favorite song lyrics because refers to an impetus for momentum — the way energy builds to sustain itself. I love momentum and at times I get a visceral fear of losing it. As a child, I didn’t like Sundays — there was too much relaxing going on.
Unlike Sundays, travel creates momentum with all of its opportunities for learning and having my mind blown — whether by 10,000 candlelit lanterns floating through the sky, or an 80 foot reclining Buddha made of gold, or the the sun coming up through the Nepalese Himalayas. Travel has taught me that moving doesn’t only mean forward. It also means closer and deeper. I have felt joy watching a child look out over a rice field.
I have been back from my travels for five months. I have a really nice place to live in Marin County and consulting work with great people on issues that are important to me (also related to energy — the kind that keeps the lights on). But when things are predictable for too long, I get restless. I sit too much. I want to buy things I don’t need. I worry about silly things. I feel like I am in a box. “Too long” is a relative thing but the days are shorter than they used to be.
Reflecting on this a couple of weeks ago, I decided to call my niece Melissa to ask her whether she would like to travel with me, anywhere in the world. As I picked up my phone, a text arrived from Melissa with a photo of our trip to Italy in 2006 with Gabe and Meredith and Devin. Her text was the answer to my question before I asked it.
Nobel Peace Prize recipients do not agree on its name. One of them, President Barack Obama, calls it Myanmar. Another, Aung San Suu Kyi, calls it Burma. They each have good reasons for their respective choices, but one of them thought about it during the 15 years she was a political prisoner in her own country. So I call it Burma.
The excitement of travel begins the minute you decide to go. I read books and research itineraries and talk to friends who have been. But my favorite way of preparing for a visit to a new place is to find connections between where I am going and what is already familiar to me. Somewhere in the back of my mind (for all of my education and reading, I am not very literary) I remembered someone (it was Rudyard Kipling) wrote a poem called “Mandalay,” which is our first stop in Burma. The poem is about a British soldier’s longing to be back in Asia after arriving home. I think I can relate.
By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ lazy at the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay! “
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can’t you ‘ear their paddles chunkin’ from Rangoon to Mandalay ?
On the road to Mandalay,
Where the flyin’-fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay!
There is more to the poem but you get the idea and you can find it online easily….
Fast forward from 1892 to 1953 when Frank Sinatra put Kipling’s poem to music, which Kipling’s daughter, Elsie, did not like. She enforced the poem’s copyright so that Frank couldn’t include the song on one of his most popular albums, “Come Fly With Me” on copies that were sold in the British Empire. Frank was no shrinking violet so he made a point of singing everywhere he went that wasn’t the British Empire.
Now we have a three-way — the connection between the British and the Burmese and an American who my mother loved so much, she used his name as her password on an account I had to access in an emergency. And I guessed the password.
An unconnected but interesting fact: Frank couldn’t come up with a good ending for the song — be sure to check out how he handled it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=np4PHKn2PzQ
And then in 2000 Robbie Williams wrote a new song called “Road to Mandalay” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KohurXfPb7s Almost 3 million people have viewed this youtube video and yet the song has somehow escaped my notice for the past 15 years.
There is also a 1925 silent film called “The Road to Mandalay” that the critics didn’t like.
Our upcoming trip to Burma has gotten me revved up and thinking outside my box.
Round the curve and a big dark dark horse, Red tail lights on his hide, Is keeping right alongside, Rev for stride.
From Joni Mitchell’s song, “Night Ride Home.”