Friday, February 17, 2012

Dialogues with Travelers

      If travel is part of one's life, it surely becomes a significant subject of conversations either on the road or with people one chats with at home. I would categorize the groups of people I have had  discussions with as those who never travelled to unusual locations, those who have done so but with mixed or negative results, and those who are as enamored of the experience as I am. This all makes for spirited and interesting conversation. Each of the groups brings a different flavor into the dialogue. Feelings tend to be high in each case and can even impact interactions much in the same vein that expression of political preferences does. I find each type of discourse worthwhile.

     The most pleasant and rewarding discussions I have had about travel is with folks who share my joy at experiencing the excitement of adventurous, intensive travel and have been many of the places I visited. In these conversations we exchange stories about what was most interesting, what visits we had in common, what places we have missed so far or intended to go to, and other such things. What we share is a personal knowledge of the benefits of exploring places and cultures different from our own. There is lots of agreement in these interactions which usually makes them tension free and lots of fun. Of course, talking to people who agree with you is always a rather pleasant experience.

      The conversations I have with those who do not travel or limit themselves to self-contained resorts or Caribbean cruises tend to be similar to one another. The usual "How do you do that?" stuff enters the dialogue first, the worries about the lack of security or convenient foods or clean water come along shortly and the general fears of unknown settings are sure to pop up along the way. Yet folks who do not travel simply have not traveled yet and most of them show great interest in stories of adventures and rationales for risk-taking. They may not be up for that but they can appreciate it vicariously. Some even measure themselves against what I describe about my trip and are encouraged to try something that stretches them just a little further than they might otherwise have. Aside from the satisfaction I derive in just socializing and having conversations with others, when that occurs I get a little special satisfaction. People I know have tried a few places they might otherwise not have journeyed to had we not spoken about my experiences there. At the very least, they have learned about other possibilities and often something about other cultures. No loss there. In a few cases where friends have just said to me, "We would like to go with you next time," we have travelled together with them and they had an experience in the Third World. That usually turned out fine for them and for us.  Of course, there are always quite a few folks who just tell me I am crazy and they would never go to the place I am describing. A few others resignedly state that, now that they have heard my tale or seen my images, they don't need to go in person. Vicarious experiences are simply enough. Those whose experiences mirror mine but whose reactions to them are diametrically opposed to what I have taken from them provide me an opportunity to look at aspects of my voyages through their eyes. That is also interesting and often enlightening. I find those differences rest more in personality and interests than in the direct experiences each of us has had. For me, for example, Varanasi at dawn was a mystical highlight of my travel; it was filled with wonderment and emotion. For others, I realize that the poverty, the seeming pollution in the water or the cremations alongside the river could well be their  focus and make for quite a different trip. Travel is, in great part, what you bring to it. At any event, the conversations are interesting and I enjoy having them with friends or, even more engaging, people I have just met.

Huli Medicine Man, Papua New Guinea


Anonymous said...

Well done Stan. Good post.

Backpack with Brock said...

Chatting with travelers is a favourite of mine too!

Simon Lee said...

Chatting to a traveler not only give you an idea on the place that you havent been, it also trigger your sense of travel in the future:)


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