Wednesday, June 05, 2013

I travel because ... Google Earth and iPhone are useless!

"What country are you off to next?" asked a neighbor as we both approached the mailbox station at our street.

I laughed.  For somebody who blogs a lot about various personal stuff, it is strange that I don't seem to always want to give direct answers when I am asked about those very issues in the real world.  It is difficult understanding myself. And I want to understand my fellow humans?  Especially the female kind?  What a Herculean task!

I asked him whether he had been abroad recently because I hadn't seen him for a while.  He and his wife are way past the retirement age and they often travel to different countries.

"We went to Utah" he replied, and we both laughed again for the foreign country that state is, especially when contrasted against this part of Oregon and Southern California from where he and I had moved.

Some day, I will visit that foreign country that is next door.

For now, I need to prepare to meet with my love.

I sometimes wonder how and why a lot more of my fellow humans, particularly those with a lot more money than what I don't have, aren't anywhere as peripatetic as I am.  As much as I intellectually understand that we are individuals with our own likes and dislikes, I can't help wonder why people with more disposable incomes than me don't travel way more than I do.

I would have thought that the photographs and videos that people share on the social media will make them want to travel that much more.  But, does the abundance of those images and sounds end up dulling that desire to go experience new places?  How can that be?  Maybe that is enough for some, as much as my small television set is enough for me?  Different strokes for different folks, yes.

In the age of social media, how does the traveler-extraordinaire, Pico Iyer, adjust to travel writing?
I have to find things that prose can do, that no iPhone can do better. This usually has to do with memory, reflection and the silences between things.
Yes.  That's it.  In my versions of travel and travel-writing, that's exactly what I engage in: "memory, reflection and the silences between things."  Damn, these writers can convey the ideas so well.  No wonder they are the writers and I am but a reader!

Travel is not merely to click a few photographs as some kind of a modern day conquest.  I find travel to be humbling in so many ways.  It is such a humbling experience when I am a nobody in a strange place, especially when I know not the local language.  No special treatment because I have a PhD. Nobody cares. I am like anybody else.  Travel is a phenomenal way to understand and appreciate how insignificant I am in this universe.

As I noted before:
यस्तु संचरते देशान् यस्तु सेवेत पण्डितान् ।
तस्य विस्तारिता बुद्धिः तैलबिंदुरिवांभसि ॥
- सम्योचित पद्यमालिका

He who wanders various countries and serves wise men there 
will expand his knowledge just like oil on water.
- Samayochita Padyamalika

The same idea reflected in the old adage that travel makes a man wiser?

And then when I re-enter the US after a trip abroad, it is truly wonderful to appreciate what G.K. Chesterton wrote:
The object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one's own country
 Yes, to set foot on one's own country--hopefully all the wiser.

And that wisdom, I am confident, can never arrive via an iPhone.


Ramesh said...

So so true. There aren't many more enriching experiences than travel.

And yes, the quote from Chesterton is so true. I have appreciated India much more when I lived abroad.

As a complete aside, its really nice to renter India after a trip abroad. After a few border crossings when I am usually made to stand in a queue a mile long, yelled at to stand straight, not use the phone, not talk, fill forms correctly or else, fingerprinted, photographed, and generally put in my place as a sub human being from the Fifth World and potential illegal immigrant, (hint hint, US immigration :)), when I come back to India, almost every booth is manned, and I am whizzed by in literally a couple of minutes.

This is one place at least where India leads the world. I've been to many a country. Few match India for immigration efficiency.

Sriram Khé said...

it appears then that the US immigration folks did their job really really well--their goal was to make sure you appreciate India and not always criticize the Ramamirthams there. No wonder that these days you have been blogging so fondly about Ramamirtham!

Yes, it is awful how the US immigration people deal with passengers these days. If it makes you feel better,we citizens too feel the difference. Not the old friendly system anymore. I have been so close to mouthing off some smart alec comment, but the fear of imprisonment ...

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