Travel

I’ve traveled a little bit. Days after my high school graduation I loaded up my bike with a tent, sleeping bag, and water jugs, and headed westward from New England. I camped out along the way, where ever I could find a spot where I thought I’d be left alone. I made it to Niagra Falls after less than a week of plowing through New Hampshire and Vermont and then meandering along the Erie Canal. I slept on river banks, under railroad bridges, and in the wooded parts of public parks. I headed back home after getting to Buffalo because I wanted to get home and do a few more things before having to leave for college.

I rode my 250cc Honda Rebel motorcycle from Santa Fe to Knoxville, TN, down to Atlanta, and then back again during my spring break of freshman year. At the end of the semester I rode the bike from Santa Fe to New Hampshire. I wiped out over the summer, breaking my wrist, then rode the bike back to Santa Fe at the end of the summer with a cast still on my clutch hand.

I also once took the train from Santa Fe, to Philadelphia, to Boston. The most pleasant way to travel, I think.

I walked across Massachusetts a couple of summers ago.

I’ve done a few road trips to Quebec, DC and Florida with friends.

I’ve visited California several times.

I lived in China for 3 months over the summer after my sophomore year of college. I spent a couple nights in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Shanghai and Beijing. But spent most of time in Fujian and Chenzhou, Hunan.

I’ve stepped foot in 36 of the 50 United States.

I once went to an epic, 36-hour party that began in the United States and ended in Mexico.

And as a boy, some family vacations took me to a few spots in the Caribbean.

I really don’t much care for travel. But every couple of years I forget that, go again, and rediscover my distaste for it. I’m not gone long before I start yearning for my desk, my bed, and my rather pleasant weekly routines, whatever they might be at the time. I don’t think travel is quite as eye-opening as some people make it out to be either. That might be because I don’t think what people rather coarsely refer to as ‘culture’ to be a very valuable thing to know about. So these people bake their bread differently than I do. Or raise their children this way, instead of that way. Or what is considered suitable fashion is different from the fashions of my homeland. So what? I know there are myriad ways to do and think about things. I take that into account when I try to decide how I am going to go about things myself. But I think really, a bit of communication and thought can deliver just as much insight as a ten-thousand-mile plane ride.

For example, it’s fashionable for people in the United States to want to visit the Great wall of China. I remember saying to my travel-mate the night before we were supposed to go that I was considering sleeping in instead because I was so tired. He insisted I go, that I couldn’t miss it. I said, “I’ve already been. I know EXACTLY what it’s going to be like. I’ve seen hundreds of photos of it, I’ve heard people talk about it, I’ve been to similar types of things before. I may as well have already been there. There’s going to be a little welcome area. We’ll walk up some steps. Maybe walk around the wall a little bit. – Look out at the surrounding area. – Talk about how awfully old it is. And that’ll be that.” He convinced me to go anyway.

Turns out I should have slept in. I now call it the not-so-great wall. It was exactly as I expected.

Some people may think my view comes from being too self-centered, believing my culture to be superior to another. That’s not the issue. Though the fact that the United States is made up of various cultures might be part of my apathy towards the whole thing. I could see how it could be eye-opening for a Chinese person to travel internationally since he is immersed in such a mono-culture where everyone is of the same race and heritage. But as an American I’ve been in classes with, worked with and been friends with people from Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam, Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Egypt, Israel, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, and probably dozens and dozens more. I get exposed on a regular basis to people who have come from places with different ways of thinking about how to live. After all that exposure, I think most of the silly stuff people focus on that varies between cultures just doesn’t matter that much.

You may have guessed I’ve never much cared for my anthropology classes either.

That all said, it has been a while since I’ve gone anywhere. I’d say I haven’t left the 100 mile radius around my home for about 2 and a half years now. Once my regularly scheduled obligations are over with in the coming months I do think I’d like to look into RV-ing for a bit. There are some things I’d like to see: polar bears on Hudson Bay, the Grand Canyon, the national parks, some cities and states I’ve missed, some of the massive cave systems in North America, those types of things. I’ve also long thought sailboat cruising on the East Coast and Caribbean would be fun and may give it a go in the coming years.

I’ve been reading about manipulating and juggling multiple credit cards in ways to get free or deeply discounted travel. I’m trying right now to use those offers to arrange a coast-to-coast train ride with a large, private room, about a week of hotel nights, and then a plane ride home, all for free. We’ll see how that all goes. I’m planning it for right after the bar exam as a way to wind down. If it works out I may continue that method in order to visit international locations through the years. Perhaps if I go for short spurts and travel in luxury I’ll be able to tolerate it better.

So in sum, I don’t think travel offers much insight into the world or other people. But I’m going to continue to dabble in it anyway as a way to better enjoy the natural wonders of the world and to break up the monotony that staying in one small area for years can bring on.

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2 Comments

  1. Posted January 27, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    well, no one can say that you speak without experience. :)

    anyway, you inspired me write up myh own take:
    http://jlcollinsnh.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/travels-with-esperando-un-camino/

    cheers!

  2. Jo
    Posted January 28, 2012 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to let you know I really enjoy your writing and your perspectives. Don’t usually comment because I don’t have much to offer, but please know your efforts are appreciated!