Lately, I’ve been daydreaming about getting on a boat and travelling to places like the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, or some other remote place to find respite. It’s all relative to one’s place in the universe, I suppose. You see, I feel alien in my own country. I live 70 km from the place where I was born. I’ve never lived more than 280 km from my birthplace. Yet, I studied many languages and cultures to prepare for life abroad. I use the metric system, and I have worked to promote its use and have the US recognize it officially. (It comes down to money, of course). I stand out among my neighbors. In another post, I talked about Geoguessr.com, a geography quiz I enjoy, and I am pretty good at, if you will forgive my conceit. I sometimes feel that I could fare well enough if I were dropped on the earth someplace like in that game. I like to imagine living – for a few months only – in places like Cinque Terre, or Como Lake are beautiful, and I certainly understand why they are so popular, and have been, since the time of the Etruscans. This means they are likely crowded with tourists, all trying to capture the beauty of these places using their iPhones. By the way, nothing irritates me more than everyone capturing stills and video by holding up their phones at concerts and other events. All this aside, I still think about becoming a resident, even for a short time. People live there, I say to myself.
It more than irritates me that I am stuck here. I shouldn’t really complain: I know that most people in the world are not able to travel. I mean, some of my friends who have travelled to the poorest places on earth have told me that in a place like Malawi, they struggle to send bicycles there for the locals so they can get to work and other places. They not only do not have cars or the money to buy fuel for them, but there are few paved roads in that country. It’s just not practical, since there are more pressing needs to keep people fed and to halt the spread of HIV. So, I am grateful to have travelled as much as I have. We’ve been to California many times, also Oklahoma, Arkansas, and places in the Deep South. I’ve been to Florida a couple times, and last year, we camped in the Great Smoky Mountains last year.
It’s pretty clear to me that travel is something very important to me, and it has been so all my life. I can remember road trips with my parents and my brother when I was a kid, and I loved every moment. I’m sure my mother would have a different recollection of these events. Maybe I did ask, “are we there yet?” Who knows? But I loved it, and I still do. I subscribe to the notion of being an ambassador for one’s country when abroad. “When in Rome,” and so forth. But often people can be welcoming of the stranger in their midst. I think I just paraphrased Jesus of Nazareth; I’m not sure. Anyway, when you go to another country, it might be polite if you try speaking the language and following some of the local customs.
Do I know any Italian? Not enough to converse. I think I could negotiate a café and a train station. But I daydream about going to Tokyo or Seoul. There might be signs with Roman lettering, but I’d probably be completely lost. And these are among the Western-friendly cities in Asia. Yes, Singapore and Shanghai see lots of American travellers, but what about Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia? Tbilisi looks interesting. I’ve never seen “Amazing Race,” but I’ve heard it’s pretty good. If the show entertains and somehow educates the viewers a little about the rest of the world they live in, that’s good. I don’t usually approve of so-called reality shows, but this one seems better than most. In any case, perhaps with better education my countrymen can dispense with the concept of the “ugly American” sooner rather than later.
If you want to go somewhere outside your comfort zone, here are a few suggestions from my travel wish list: