She looked at my passport and flipped, and flipped, and flipped, and flipped. “Wow, you’ve been to a lot of places,” she said with fully disclosed jealousy. Which at first I thought was odd. Four years ago her accent alone would have seemed exotic, enticing, other. Now she appeared to be just another worker trying to get by. I glanced up from my Twitter scanning on my mobile and said without a pause the above reflection may suggest, “yeah, I’ve been to lots of the world’s shit holes.” She laughed, and I felt sheepish at the arrogance which the comment may have implied.
[![Photo courtesy of Tiki Pop @ Tumblr]]
OK, I know where all the smoking bars are in Schipol. I’m no longer surprised by the ridiculous, inefficient Heathrow monstrosity. I’ve seen the super-efficient Germans’ achievements in process engineering at their militant, rule-loving best (that is, airports). And don’t get me onto the shit holes where you step out of the secure area (if it exists) into a accosting of a wave of heat, humidity and noise – so much clammer and “taxi.” I cannot tell you my mobile number at any given moment, but I can tell you my passport number, its issue date and its expiration date. Along with my social security number and my best friend Joe’s parent’s home phone number these are the only strings of digits I seem to care to recall these days.
As I packed my bags this time to return “home” to Somaliland I sighed and realized consciously, for the first time and perhaps temporarily, that I am dead fed up with traveling. It isn’t so much the hassle of it all. Even flying to Somalia is more or less straight-forward these days. Carrying briefcases around airports isn’t vastly different than carrying them to the office. I didn’t really turn the why over in m y mind too much as I was a bit hurried getting out the door. The answer, now that I have had a bit of time, or at least part of the answer may be found here:
I walked down the stairs not really paying much attention. I like to walk around airports with my headphones noise-canceling and L O U D to hear only the soundtrack to the assorted visions of ridiculosity that are most airports. My personal montage bereft of gate change announcements and banal banter. PSYCOLGIE – it screamed from its red perch on a glossy white background. A magazine on psychology given prime placement is an oddity wherever you go. ”Maybe I should get that for Brian (aka @worldliness).” ”What the hell would he want with that?” ”Maybe he’d like it since he is into psychology and it is from elsewhere.” “But he can’t read it. What’s he going to do with it – hang it on the wall?” “True” I conceded to my sarcastic self while striding along past, another in the varied imagery of the montage.
Here’s the rub: foreign crap is still crap. Somehow, and I blame the subjects of Mad Men’s brilliant meanderings, we all have mostly had this fascination with travel. The glamor, the otherness, the newness to it all. But everywhere I go, I find people that are more or less the same as many of those I’ve known back home or in other places I’ve lived. Indeed, I have increasingly come to the conclusion that any group of 5-10k people will have (within obvious allowances) about the same mixture of personality types and if transferred to an entirely new environment and given an entirely new set of problems and collective history – the groups would more or less act in the same manner (again, within allowances).
Which reminds me of a Scooby Doo episode which somehow always terrified me as a youngster where the gang awoke in a place that looked exactly like the place they went to sleep in, except it was haunted! Zoiks. Therein was my introduction to parallel universe theory. Indeed, for most of us we want the same things. A family, friends, and a community we like, love and respect. Good health. Stable lifestyle. The illusion that things will be “better” for our kids (although I’m skeptical of the latter, and wonder often what “better” really constitutes). We want to laugh, to each, to hug a partner, to do our thing – whatever that may be.
There is nothing particularly exotic about any place I’ve been. There may be beautiful vistas but those I’ve seen in any country I’ve been to, and some of the best are back home (but, of course, I’m biased). There may be beautiful people – but there are always ugle people too. At the end of the day, it boils down to this: see id.
Does the dystopic flattening of the world into a melancholy riff on the khackiness mean that I’m done? That I’m off the crazy train I’ve been on since I left home at 18 to my first new place and new environment where I knew no souls? Doubtful. I still love to see new vistas – wherever they may be. I’m still seeking good food, good wine, laughter, romance, and the elusive new experiences. But I’m trying to settle the part of me that feels I’m missing something. The part telling me if I don’t do more, go more, be more that I won’t have enough stories to tell my grand kids. Live in the here and now. Be present – wherever you are. This is what I’m trying to remind myself of these days.
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