Finding l.u.x.u.r.y in the little things (and smirking at all the r.e.s.t)

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"I travel alot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine."

Her name isn't all that exotic, but her job certainly is. Samantha Brown is the host of The Travel Channel's Passport to Europe and all day I have been unable to change the channel. Today from my cream-colored vintage style couch, I have traveled with Samantha to Bologna, Italy, Helsinki, Finland, and Stockholm Sweden, and anticipate the next journey starting at 7:30pm to Barcelona, Spain (where my Spanish lover Jose lives, if you recall). I am not sure, yet, if watching this show is a good thing, or bad because although supremely educational, I can't help be tempted by my own inner passion for travel, relentlessly beckoning me to make yet another trip to the Philadelphia International Airport. Travel, to me, is not a vacation but rather the most fulfilling anthropology course in which one could enroll himself. It is not the luxurious beaches, umbrella drinks and dance clubs, but it is the people, their culture, ideas and ways of life that bring meaning to any traveling I've ever done. And it is that for which I long still. I long for the thrill and excitement that nothing else but stepping foot off a plane in a foreign land can bring to me. I crave the unfamiliar territory to be explored, and the people whom I will befriend. I daydream about the fool I will inevitably make of myself at one point or another (being largely ignorant to their traditional day-to-day customs), and the added knowledge and confidence that will ensue once I return home. Most consider traveling to foreign nations outside of their comfort zone. But for me, that is where I find my own.

The idea of a mundane monotony, no more exciting than the average American's life, scares me more than anything else I can think of. When debating the educational value of travel with a new friend, he was firm in his thinking that he prefers to only travel within the continental United States, stating that he would be bored in a foreign country, unable to speak the language and unfamiliar with the lifestyle. I was forced to bite my tongue. I felt like yelling, screaming...calling him an ethnocentric American idiot, especially after encouraging the Bush administration. Yes, that's right. I just brought politics into it. But I maintained my composure, and couldn't help but wonder how many others felt similarily. However, I chalk such a thought-process up to never having traveled internationally previously. I find it almost impossible that, after going abroad, one could discount is as educationally valuable and/or as a means of self-teaching. You not only learn about another culture and people, but you are forced to learn about yourself. You see how you react to different circumstances, learn how you cope with new and strange circumstances, and learn to become quite resourceful. You learn what you like, what you don't, and you find out how to please yourself in other ways than the conventional manners you may have been used to before. You learn to be adventurous by default, sampling a whole new type of food and developing your palette. You learn to communicate better nonverbally, and exercise your creativity. You learn that not only your way is the only way, and often times, another way might be better. You learn to love and appreciate people of another mind-set, and hence are more receptive to a difference of opinion. To say that one learns a lot is an understatement of sorts.


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