Sunday, October 11, 2009

Día de la Resistencia Indígena

Yep, I like the sound of that better: Día de la Resistencia Indígena, or Day of Indigenous Resistance, which is the term Venezuelans use for our Anglo-centric celebration of "Columbus Day." Now I'm not ganna get all PC on ya here. In fact, I fully believe that if members of First Nations want to license their tribal names out to college football teams and open up a casino on every reservation, they should be able to do so. Heck, the least we owe them is a slice of the capitalist dream.

More interesting to me, though, is a continuing fascination with travel to "exotic" locations over 500 years after Columbus first set foot on foreign soil. There's something about getting away from what we know that continues to fuel human travel, and the travel industry. This might sound odd coming from a person with no passport, who immediately recycles the Travel section in every Sunday New York Times, and whose idea of travel begins and ends with a day trip to Manhattan. I'm not saying I understand this desire to travel, but I acknowledge that it's there. These days, if you haven't solo climbed the Himalayas, backpacked through the former Eastern Bloc, or snorkeled off the coast of Costa Rica, you haven't really lived. Well guess what? I'm living just fine without any of these things.

Why don't I like to travel? I think in large part I'm afraid that what's on the other side of the journey simply won't live up to expectations, won't be "other" or "exotic" enough. David Sedaris writes, "I thought back to the previous summer, and my twenty-three-hour flight from London to Sydney... spend that much time on a plane and you’re entitled to a whole new world when you step off at the other end—the planet Mercury, say, or, at the very least, Mexico City. For an American, though, Australia seems pretty familiar: same wide streets, same office towers. It’s Canada in a thong, or that’s the initial impression." That's not the moral of the larger story he's telling, but I found it to be one of the most astute observations in the essay. As least as it pertains to my life.

I didn't ride an airplane until I was 19, and even then it was by accident. A freak snow storm had closed off all train travel in and out of Chicago, and driving back to college was equally impossible. The only alternative? A 27 minute flight to Midway Airport. Alone. Oh well - there's a first time for everything. I can't even remember the flight, it was so uneventful. And on the other end was a cold, tiny dorm room and mounds of icy snow. Meh.

So even if it's not all about the destination, at least the journey should yield something meaningful, right? I've travelled more extensively by train than any other form of transportation. And having covered 2/3 of the distance across the US in an Amtrak Coach Car, I can say again...meh. Maybe it's because train tracks tend to snake like tendrils throughout the less desirable vistas of small towns and big cities alike. Have you ever wanted to catalogue the back sides of used tire lots, the broken windows on abandoned warehouses, AND the rotting wood ghosts of train stations past? Then Amtrak it is! Sorry if I sound so cynical, but unless there's a sightseeing car and you hit that perfect spot of daylight while traversing mountains or something, it just ain't that grand.

So, if given my druthers on a holiday like today, I choose to stay home. Alone. And I think there's nothing wrong with that. I'll be celebrating with my own form of resistance, thank you very much.


Markus Stocker on October 13, 2009 at 9:20 AM said...

Perhaps we are on the same, or similar, line in a sense that I think traveling is overrated. However, I believe in moving. The experience of living, studying and working somewhere else than one's own home country is valuable, I believe. In fact, this is a complete different experience to traveling. Typically, at least in my experience, the more valuable experience starts when traveling ends, i.e. the euphoria "what a cool place this is" usually lasts a few months, after half a year, you get into the details which, however, are not always that great, though, they are what makes *moving* interesting.

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