Tuesday, October 09, 2007

community and travel and ethics and and and (this is a rant)

so we are about to move away from all we know and have known as a family to pursue our dreams. but i have so many issues with doing what we're doing. i have so many issues with travel in general.

there was a day that it dawned upon me that the premise of travel (like much advertising) is that to travel will make you a more interesting person- that of course is playing on your existing feelings of inadequacy in terms of your 'interestingness'. The day I realised this to be false was when I went to visit a couple who are hugely interesting (normally) who are in their 60s, have been activists for most of their lives and have done amazing things for women and workers’ rights.... BUT they had just come back from a holiday in Europe. we should have known what we were in for when they pulled out their laptop with their photos and said 'we'll just have the pictures flicking over while we eat dinner' but of course the conversation revolved around the pictures and the tales of their journeys in Europe.

Listening to these stories and being bored shitless made me wonder why I was bored.... and then it hit me- we've been sold a lie! We believe that travel will make us more interesting, we’ve seen particular sites or been to particular cities and colonised the world with our travels. We take much and leave little - but not in a good way.

But how original or unique is it really to say, "Oh I saw the Eiffel tower"? What is really unique in that? What is interesting about trekking a well-known track that millions have done before you?

I wonder if when we boast about our travel are we really boasting about our wealth. My guess is that the majority world may dream of travel in terms of opportunity and better quality of life but we of the wealthy world dream of travel so that we have stories to tell of seeing things and going to places that... lets face it... millions of people have seen before. My hunch is that by travelling - we are hoping to set ourselves apart from the 'untravelled' and also to share stories with the elitist 'travelled'.

My guess is that the conversation that goes "oh I loved Paris, did you make it to blahblahblah while you were there - wasn't it amazing!!!" is really a modern day keeping up with the Joneses...

And then there is the carbon footprint of travel - of the petrol, of the air travel of all the general consumption.

But there is also the cost to community which is what I'm currently most concerned about. If you are going somewhere for a length of time no matter what your agendas and purpose you leave a hole in a community and you take that hole with you as you attemot to make and reenter another community. Your travles convey that the people that you profess to love and cherish are actually not as important as the particular reason that you have to travel.

You create a fracture of discontentment in your community with your pretence that what you are doing is SO interesting and what they are doing.... well isn't as interesting. What a load of CROK. I know for a fact I felt this most acutely while I was staying at home with Oscar. I felt that I couldn't stomach another travel story while I was washing nappies and trying to get a baby to sleep.

But really raising a human being - bringing into the world a new life- mothering the next generation - what can trump that? and all my teacher friends who put so much work and effort into not just teaching but moral guidance and pastoral care - another type of raising the next generation....

the most interesting people I know are not interesting because they've travelled - but interesting for so many other reasons.

We are definitely going on our journey but I hate to think that I'm contributing to a culture that I despise, that plays on people's inadequacies and lack of wealth or oppertunity.

If travel stories are the new capitalism I hope to not contribute to this. but I also want to share MY stories.

have you ever felt this conundrum?


byron smith said...

Thanks for letting us know it's a rant - in case we missed it! :-)

Seeing the world is a good thing (and I speak as one who has followed the footsteps of millions across Europe) - but it does come with a high price and it's certainly worth asking "Is it worth it?"

Rachel said...

thanks for reading my thoughts out loud that aren't really thought through... just trying to work out what I think about travel and why and if it is a good thing and for whom...

why do you think it is a good thing Byron? or is this opening a can of worms.....

byron smith said...

Why is it a good thing to see the world? Because experiencing other cultures opens you up to new ways of thinking. Because seeing the depth (history) and breadth (global diversity) of humanity makes you stop assuming your little world is normal. Because there are wonderful places that God has made. Because there are wonderful places that people have made. Because family and friends sometimes live a long way away. There's a few thoughts...

Christopher said...

In response to your comment on my blog:

That would be great if you can make it and I am glad that you are enjoying our songs.

Your plans to move to East Timor sound very exciting and not boring like travel stories.

Anonymous said...

Let's for a moment **imagine** that airlines ran on Polywell fusion reactors (rumoured by techno-optimists to be up and running in 5 years ;-) and that there were no concerns about Co2 or peak oil. Imagine it was still about the same price to travel. What motivates us to travel?

It's all about motivation.

If it's just to keep up with the Joneses — as is so often the case and as becomes INCREDIBLY boring to listen to — then the people involved may as well have been buying little golden statues of themselves and asking you to polish them every time you visit. But if it's part of learning more about God's world and helping our fellow human beings in other countries and culture's, then as Jim Kunstler says: "It's all good".

I wonder if our boredom detector explodes into life when someone's rabbiting on about their overseas holiday, if we've suddenly picked up that this is another boastful "look at me look at me look at me" moment. But if on the other hand we find ourselves caught up in their story, and inspired to see other cultures in a new light, and understand other people as our brothers and sisters on this planet — people we might previously have harboured suspicions about — then isn't such a paradigm shift a good thing?

Anyway... we've yet to see a fully functioning Polywell reactor, and until then, airline travel's going doooooooowwwwwnnnnn.

(There's some online reports of biofuels suped up to high octane jet airline fuel that doesn't freeze at high altitudes... but as Ted will point out, what quantities?)