Why I travel

Take me back.

Dead rat in the food market, third world

moldy mattress, travel

Take me back to rotting garbage on dirty streets, where water is a luxury and stink a certainty. I want to feel unwashed and threadbare sheets on hard beds, and pay more than I think I should for it. I want suspicious food, where I savor every bite, knowing it might be the one that ruins the next day. I want to take nothing for granted, be vulnerable and love everyone who shows me kindness.

I want to be concerned about bed bugs, so that I remember their absence. I want to see the malarial menace of mosquitoes so that I notice when my ankles are unblemished.

Mandalay StreetsI want to be foreign to the irritation I felt on the BART train yesterday, β€œdelayed” a couple irrelevant seconds by the guy who was too busy talking on his phone to put his ticket in correctly. I want to feel only incomprehension for the ambient discontent of the spoiled and comfortable, knowing that they are me. I want to stay shocked that people complain and grimace while they wait a few minutes for delicious, safe, nutritious food, prepared by people they won’t even bother to thank, unmindful of the insane miracle that brings it to us, every single god-blessamned day.

 

I want to look at those wrinkles everyone here has between their eyes, the scowl of the perpetually concerned, the mouths of unspecified tension, and feel a wash of gratitude that cleans my face and lifts my lips. I want to be aware of the masses that have so little, every country on Earth. I want to remember how scarce and precious food was for all of human history except the past tiny sliver, invisible on the timeline, and how horrifically we will return to that state…probably sooner than we realize, so that I can stand in awe in a grocery store again, unrushed, uncritical, reverent.Poor laborers in Myanmar

 

I want to move slowly.

I want to disconnect.

I want to be away from screens. I want to read a book.

I want to talk to strangers.

 

Here I have friends, but move among the distrusted, suspicious without reason, fearful until proven innocent. There is little danger here. Screw the newspapers, the evening news is a betrayal.

There I will know no one, but might move among possibility, alert and careful, but accessible and listening. The danger is much higher there. The intimacy with human brutality and human kindness, experiential and firsthand, the latter outnumbering the former, despite brutality’s instant potency.

Cute kids in Myanmar, Burma, Inle Lake, Nyaung Shwe

Here I can go in comfort. I can pass my day easily, accomplishing tasks in virtual reality, e-living in binary code that I can never touch, my life erased by a magnet.

There every hour will be uncertain, the world so foreign, so unknowable, that it might touch me at any minute. It will be under my fingernails and between my toes. Present on my skin and stained into my clothes. It’s possible I will bleed. It’s possible I will help, just a little. It’s possible I will reach new magnitudes of suffering, or experience joy so visceral you’d have to pay a fortune to chase it.

 

Take me back. I want to travel.