I have been planning The Trip for so long it has achieved mythic proportions in my imagination. It is both escape and anchor, inspiring great cubicle daydreams and capping the potential of the present. It looms in my future like a great peak. I sit in the shadow, and peer up at the top, and dream of the summit to come.
I apologize for the melodrama. The essence of what I’ve written above holds true, though: The Trip is an abstract force that shapes my reality in the here and now, months or even years before the (as yet unknown) departure date. Fortunately, I do have some concrete ideas about what I want The Trip to become:
I’m going travelling by myself. I’m a rather solitary person to begin with, and I have some very abstract personal growth planned for my voyage. I want to exploit and suffer through the consequences of solitary travel. Personal freedom is one factor, of course — the ability to see the world in the way I want to see it. But I also want this trip to be a challenge, and I want to travel without the security blanket of a partner. I expect to feel lonely, ostracized, scared, overwhelmed… and I want to learn because of it.
There’s another way to form the “who” question: who do I want to meet? I don’t have quite as firm an answer for this one. I want to meet everyone, I suppose. I learned an amazing amount from the people I met just in the last week of my Amazing Bike Trip. I learned the value ofdifferences, and I learned to let go of the prejudices that, in the past, had kept me from meeting some very interesting people. As I wrote in The Traveler’s Life: Waikiki: it’s the people you meet, the strangers who call you friend, that make the travel experience worthwhile.
My ideas about where have evolved over the past few years, but one item has remained constant: I want to start in New Zealand. I really have no firm idea why, but I do have a few guesses. First, it’s about as geographically distant from home as I can possibly get. Second, I imagine that it’s a good place to get my travelling feet wet — language and culture are easily understood, and the more exotic locales of southeast Asia are relatively close. Last, but not least, I hear New Zealand is a beautiful place to visit.
As I said, the rest of my destination list is a little fuzzy. Several years ago, I had absolutely no desire to visit Asia. It was at the bottom of my list, just below Africa, and South America was my prime destination. Now, it seems like everywhere is on the top of my list. My travel ideas aren’t so much centered around destinations, but experiences — I want to trek through these mountains, visit these temples, shop in these markets, eat in these restaurants. I want to experience the highlights of the earth and her people, wherever they are.
That, my friends, is the big question. It’s one to which several people at work would love to have an answer. My manager knows about this trip, as does my manager’s manager’s manager. They, like me, have no idea when I’m going to go, and they’re probably much more eager to know. About all I can say right now is that I’m commited to stay in Seattle until August, 2000, when I climb Mt. Rainier. I’ll most likely stay longer for financial reasons.
This seems like a good place to talk about some other timing-related questions that are on my mind. Like: how long do I plan to travel for? Or: what about Christmas?
The first question gets answered with another all-encompassing vagary — I’ll come home when I’m done travelling. I expect to travel for at least a year.
The second question requires more responsible attention and comes with no attendant answers. My family, for generations, has held onto the importance of strong Christmas traditions. To spend Christmas away from family is easily the most foreign notion I’ve encountered in all my pre-trip pondering. On the other hand, I’ve romanticized the idea of a long, unbroken stretch of traveling — and the longer, the better.
…do I want to do? I want learn how to surf. I want to hike to Mt. Everest’s base camp. I want to eat curry and pho and couscous and pheasant. I want to meditate. I want to watch cricket, soccer, and sumo wrestling. I want to meet people who will change my life. I want to change the lives of people I meet. I want to learn about the world.
I’m tempted to write this question off to human nature. Most people, if presented with the means to travel anywhere, for any length of time, would unhesitatingly sign on. That’s just the way we humans are. But I can come up with more personal motivations — skepticism about my cultural perspective, for example, or a desire for a deeper life experience. Most important, perhaps, is that I yearn for raw, first-hand knowledge about how the world really is.
I believe in developing a style of travel — a set of rules, customs, ideas and opinions about how to bring about the best travel experience for me. I don’t have much in the way of preconceptions about what my travel style is — except that it’s in development, and probably always will be.
Although I hope to have the means to travel in style, I don’t plan to. I imagine the best (i.e., easiest) places to meet people will be the cheap hostels that all travelers like to call home. I’m not particularly demanding about luxury accomodations, so I’d rather save my dollars for the unique (and occasionally expensive) offerings of my current locale.
I plan to travel slow. I envision spending a weeks in places, letting the culture sink in. I don’t want to just get to know a country — I want to know a city, a neighbourhood, a street corner. I want to sink down into the reality below the veneer that’s presented for easy consumption.
I hope to document as much of my traveling as possible. I’ll keep a personal journal, definitely. I’ll probably maintain an online version as well, although how often I’d update it isn’t clear. I’d love to travel with a laptop but worrying about its security could hinder my enjoyment. I do believe very strongly in this: to travel, and to not share what you’ve experienced, is an ultimately futile endeavour.