Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Reflection on Travel

So here I am on the train from Florence to Venice, and I've got myself a nice little plug in the seat, which means I can laptop to my hearts content without having to worry about an ever draining battery. This means that I can type, and type, and think. I think best with a pen in hand, or with an open text file in front of me. And while normally I write to convey my experiences of the day, there have so often been times that I would like to just reflect on my travels.

And I haven't really done that. Mostly, the reason being after I'm done typing up my day, finding pictures, and getting everything uploaded, I'm just not in the mood to write any more. Mostly I'm in the mood to throw my laptop against the wall, and not have to worry about it every again.

That really connects with my original idea of bringing neither the computer nor a camera with me. My plan was just to travel, to travel and experience the world. And the lens that I would have seen the world through had I done that would have been a very different one indeed. But, ultimately, I decided against that. And I will keep spending the hours typing up my day, because I'm very aware of what a fantastic digital scrapbook I'll have waiting for me when I get home.

Videos, pictures, and text all filed in order, waiting for me to relive experiences, or better yet – try to remember just what it was that I was doing out here – will be more than worth the trouble I've gone to to put it all together.

Plus – if someone ever steals my camera, or my memory card, I'll still have about five pictures per day uploaded on the site. Someone I met yesterday, in the hostel, had his camera stolen. And, you know, the thing is – it's not the loss of the camera that hurts. It's the loss of the memory card. So, honestly, if you're the type of person looking to steal something for instant profit – at least be kind, and leave them the memory card, alright? And if we an all agree upon that then the world will be a slightly brighter place.

I'm almost two months in here, an I am ready to admit it. I'm growing tired. I just wrote this in a letter to my Grandmother, and as much as I hate to “reuse” material from emails in the blog, I felt this was a point that I really did need to communicate.

For two months I've been travelling from city to city, country to county, and it's starting to take its toll. I'm ready for a vacation. I'm ready to relax. Spain seems so long ago now; the beach, and nothing but reading in the sun, feels ever so far away. This is no doubt, in part because of how hard I hit Rome. But Rome's the type of place that you just really need to attack if yo want to do it right.

The thing about feeling tired while you travel is it never lasts. I know the second I get off this train and find myself in a new urban playground, I'll be back on my feet looking to take on the world, and really get out there, searching through all the alleys, and behind every little statue for whatever things I can find. But then you're in bed at night, or stuck on transportation, and everything just comes back and hits you.

At the same time you start to think about everything you've seen and done. This is the strangest part for me. I tend to forget where I've been, and what I've seen. The people out there reading my blog probably have a better idea what I've been up to than I do (this thought is poached from the e-mail I wrote to my boy Matty about an hour ago. The train is good for that – giving you time to do these things. Hi Matty!)

The people reading the blog get nice little (o.k. not little – often thousands of words long) descriptions of my day. But it's just like any travel show – it's all pared down. My day has long stretches of nothing. And there are days when I am quite bored. But if on one of those bored days, I also happen to – say – see the leaning tower of Pisa, I can write about that, and that one fantastic hour. And that's what comes across.

Travel – it's not always exciting. In fact the guy I met yesterday who had his camera stolen, is just about done with travelling by himself. That has never been a problem for me, thankfully. But three months from now, we'll see how much I like it.

Still – when you're reading a travel blog or watching a travel show (Departures) you're getting the best of. In my case, it's the best of a day crammed into one post. In the case of Departures – is season three on tv yet, back home? - you get two weeks all compressed into forty five minutes. That's enough to trick anyone into thinking that travel is all fun and exciting. You never have to deal with being hungry – or getting into a strange city late at night – the occasional fear that arises when you get into a stupid situation.

But that's fine. And at the end of it all, those become the stories that worm their way into the best of recaps.

But, again – the people reading my blog probably have a better idea of what I've been up to than I do. I'm so focused on the here and now that the past is all a blur. I know I enjoyed Helsinki – to an extent – but I have no idea what I really did there. And I know I saw geysers in Iceland, and that was cool – but what did I really think of it at the time? And where was I before Spain? Paris? How did I fill seven days there – I remember that not being enough time, but what did I do?

And then you start thinking of all the things you have done. I mean, I SAW geysers in Iceland! I walked through the sculpture garden in Oslo. I climbed up the Eiffel Tower! I watched a bull fight in Madrid! A bull fight! In Madrid! I did all those things – me. And that's really hard to comprehend. It seems like these must be experiences that happened to someone else. Because I would never travel the world. I would never be able to obtain all these experiences for myself.

But I have to remind myself that, no, it was me. I really did all of these things, and I'm only a fraction of the way into my trip, with so much left to go. And every day, when I think there can't possibly be anything new to surprise me, there always is. God, Calvin – with his little stuffed tiger – was right: There's treasure everywhere.

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