Has it really been this long? We think a new post is long overdue since we returned from Mexico, were welcomed with a wonderful wedding celebration for two dear friends in Austin Texas, and revisited some of our favorite spots (and people!) in Santa Fe and New Orleans.
Hannah and Mz KK have made it safely to Germany. Hannah has been planting seeds and chipping away at a large art project. Michael caught up with work and is working on the trailer in preparation for some exciting adventures to come. He will be joining Hannah in Europe very shortly, so stay tuned for the explorations of some legendary and mysterious places in the Palatinate Forest in Germany, Budapest, and Prague.
In the meantime we will leave you with some thoughts:
The curse of tourism:
As a recent article in the New Yorker ‘The Case against Travel” by Agnes Callard, has pointed out quite uncomfortably, traveling is more likely to change the place that is visited- the visitee, than it tends to cause any significant changes within the visitor, or tourist. More highly styled, and stylized, airbnbs and coffee shops pop up, followed by raising rent, and a loss of neighborhood mentality, eventually leading to all places becoming so similar that it doesn’t even matter which city you are in. Lonely planet and other travel guides have been replaced by Google maps and countless online travel blogs listing- usually the same repetitive 10-20 Things to do in.… So, why do we travel, and what is the point of seeing those world famous 10 listed items? To snap a picture and move on? Maybe with a slightly better angle or somewhat unique lighting? We become spectators, voyeurs, who want to be seen for what we see. To see or to be seen, that is the question. Obviously, you could go visit somewhere random and not tell anybody about it.
When traveling, we usually get a more or less detached glimpse at a different environment or culture, maybe an ‘alternative’ way of life. One could argue, that similarly to reading, this broadens the mind and maybe even creates empathy. Others could argue that the effort involved in traveling to a distant place does not justify that little bit of extra insight we gain. Like going to a zoo, we already know that zebras and lions exist and seeing them in person is usually less life changing than one would expect. We could seek out the things we truly care about to gain some kind of educational benefit. Extreme sport fanatics go rock climbing, art enthusiasts visit museums, and history buffs wander excavation and war sites. Still, we come back pretty much the same.
So, what can we do? Maybe, like a good relationship you have to let travel change you, at least a little bit. The secret is that you can’t know in advance what that change will entail. And like the unofficial last stage of grief, as you are leaving behind a different version of yourself, it is the meaning you attach to it that will give it value. However, it is unlikely that following the same check list spit up by Google will give you much unexpected insight.
The best choices I personally have made when it comes to traveling, the places that have significantly changed me, were deep dives into the unknown. Somewhere unpredictable, scary, and somewhat insane. I can safely say that those trips were very mixed bags, with experiences ranging from extremely uncomfortable and challenging to serene beauty and life changing insights. When you sign up for a six month house sitting trip by yourself all over the UK, you don’t expect to get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, chase your runaway dog through a herd of buffalos, and not to talk to other human beings for weeks at a time, but you also don’t foresee the quiet beauty of a daily morning walk on a rocky beach, or the inspiration gained from a spontaneously attended poetry reading. When I booked a three month trip, by myself, to one of the most romantic (at least in my mind) but also scariest places I could think of, I didn’t expect to find community and a new home. And when I decided to do a month long yoga training in India, despite the fact that I was fairly new to yoga, I didn’t expect to have my mind blown by a culture and philosophy that is so counter intuitive to everything we are taught.
When you engage with the place and culture you are in, you never know what people you’ll meet and when you get out of your own routine you never know what you might learn about yourself. In the spirit of Pema Chödrön I will leave you with this: Go to the places that scare you, lean into them. Whether this is through traveling, a book, or a conversation. You don’t have to travel to see things, you don’t have to physically go anywhere to learn things, become more cultured or open minded, but if you do: make it meaningful, whatever that means to you.