there is something weirdly noble surrounding the idea of traveling; the sacrifice of certain pairs of shoes left at home and the inevitable awkward foot tan that will come with it. the forgoing of certain pleasantries so you can afford another museum in new york city. another styrofoam container of steaming dumplings from a corner shop in the lower east side.
a particular book you’ve been scavenging for months in a little university book store, the clerk shocked that any girl is buying a thick poetry anthology in the summer time. the inevitable baby wipe shower you will administer when you know your b.o. is insulting the man next to you on the bus. the fact that one of your mom’s first reactions to your arrival home is that she can see how bad your underarm hair has gotten.
when i told people about my trip, i was somewhat shocked at their reactions. reaction number one= “oh, so how are you getting down the east coast? biking?! “ which flattered me, but my white girl calves could definitely not handle 1,000+ miles. even if i did google-map a bike route for it, i’m not that cool. reaction number two= “white girl, you’re crazy.” and reaction number three= “three weeks of traveling?! who are you doing it with? by yourself? girl, you’re too cool” which made me shake my head.
because… i’m not that cool. holding up your debit card to your face so you can see the numbers to type it into the megabus website does not make anyone cooler. fact: my tickets from bos–>nyc–>philly–>d.c.–>durham, nc = a whopping $43. $43 to get me through five states. i’m not scrooge mcduck over here, dishing out gold from my velvet coin purse. i mean, come on. i just made a duck tales reference.
i read a quote a few years ago that was along the lines of “all those people who traveled the world were just people who bought plane tickets” and it really stuck with me. i don’t think there is any sort of illusion that makes one type of person a traveler, and the other not. i think one group is just used to popsicles for dinner and not opening a bar tab because they know that they’d rather have the money (that might, just might, end up getting stolen by french gypsies. but oh well. it’s a story?) to try fresh ceviche with the cook’s mother’s recipe in spain. or go to a punk concert at an ethiopian restaurant in d.c. or take those trapeze classes off the pier in santa monica.
for me, it’s the ability to string a story after a trip that really makes me see how cool a person can be after travel. not the fact that they decided to take the plunge, but what they did after they did what a lot of people can do if they make sacrifices. jealousy is usually (and thankfully) a foreign concept to me.
but i do find myself a bit envious when i see photos pop up with travels to prague or buenos aires or thailand. because i usually imply coolness to their journeys. but i don’t know how those people live their lives. they might be traveling in “hermetically sealed pope-mobiles” for all i know. they might have napped a lot while on their two week trip to new zealand. they might have said no to things a lot more than they said yes. they just bought a ticket.
you can have just as much fun (if not more) in your own town and have a larger variety of shoes to choose from, and whether or not you are in london has nothing to do with it. or you can travel. but that still only means you bought a ticket. it’s the resulting stories of the old cigar shop clerk in university city with the weird, near-pornographic post cards. and new bus stop friends that gave you a hug and told you “god bless”. and the somewhat-annoying-yet-endearing greenpeace canvassers you talk to for fifteen minutes about brooklyn.
it’s those stories that are noble. not the travel.