Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How Can I Miss Me If I Won't Go Away?

How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away? is the title of a humorous book about relationships, but it equally applies to traveling with Wi-fi everywhere at our fingertips, instant access all the time. I love it and I hate it. Nice not to scout out the Internet Café with computers powered by hamster wheels, like the one in Greece years back that took 15 minutes to boot up while your paid clock time was running. Nice not to sit next to teenagers playing shoot ‘em up games with bad music playing. Nice to be able to send things directly from your desktop. Nice to write in the comfort and privacy of your hotel room. And except for the high-end hotels, for free.

But now that I’m on Facebook and posting my blog and checking my school e-mail and checking my own e-mail, the addiction factor is creeping in. All these promised fulfillment of those ancient human cravings: “I’m connected.” “I have friends.” “I have interesting things to say that they want to hear.” “They have interesting things to say that I want to hear.” “I’m important.” “I need to take care of this business or else fall behind.” “I need to share the story of the great meal I had last night.” And so on. It’s a powerful force that’s hard to resist.

And yet I traveled most of my life without it and that allowed me to enjoy something called —travel! The chance to really get away, take a break, miss people back home, keep connected with them in my imagination and write them a postcard under a tree. Open myself to the commotion on the street of wherever I might be or the quiet of a park or the wonder of natural beauty and leave that busy self behind, melt invisibly into the crowd and just watch and listen. How I need it! No matter how I value the life I have built and now keep together with the arsenal of hyper-communication, the most beautifully constructed identity can still be a prison if we don’t get the heck out and take a walk in the fresh air. It’s all well and good to become somebody specific, but it’s also necessary to drop it sometimes and be nobody in particular, just a wanderer partaking of each day’s gifts. Not only leave some time and space to miss the people back home, but also leave behind the person I am back home. To paraphrase that book title: "How can I miss me if I don't go away?"

These my thoughts sitting in the park Los Bosques de Palermo en Buenos Aires, in company with two white ducks bobbing in the lake, the nearby call of birds and distant hum of traffic. My daughter Talia is jogging around the lake while I sit and breathe in and out and enjoy a moment’s respite before we picnic on the grass. This the travel I remember, this the travel I need.

Now to rush home and post this blog using Wi-fi!

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