Travel to me is a portal to self-understanding, to empathy and to an education that is unattainable in any classroom setting. It’s not about itineraries and postcards; it’s about taking on life from an entirely new perspective. It’s about culture and language and art and getting lost in a German train station after days without sleep. It’s about the person that helps you find your platform in broken English, and you attempting to thank them in their native tongue. It’s about giving up and just smiling at them. It’s about experience which is the best teacher.
The only way to travel is to travel where you’ve never been geographically and existentially. It is imperative that we try new things or we should all die of boredom. It should be a journey from the norm. I’ve traveled some. By the time I was 13, I had lived in Virginia, Oklahoma, Illinois and Wisconsin. I once bought a car in Virginia and drove it to Wisconsin, a few years later I drove the same vehicle to Los Angeles and then back 3 months later. I’ve seen a very good portion of the United States through my windshield.
I lived in Central Europe for a time and while there I ventured out, mostly West. I visited the head shops of Amsterdam and the historic Van Gogh museum–in that order.I’ve spent nights in the over-priced pubs of Camden in London with the mad artists starving for nothing more than drink and inspiration with their raucous music, their beautiful light-haired women, and their bad Bob Dylan impressions.I’ve tasted doughy French bread in Paris, and walked from the Louvre to the Arc De Triomphe. I’ve bought cheap red wine from street peddlers and drank it on the grassy patch near the Eiffel Tower while the tower lit up as the sun fell burning in the sky behind it. I’ve sampled the incredible foods, and engaged in a political protest that I didn’t understand in La Rambla Square in Barcelona. I’ve looked out at the most incredible view of the impossibly blue water of the Mediterranean while violently throwing up off a balcony in the Spanish island Ibiza while fighting off food poisoning, exhaustion and a hangover. Then later that same day, after a short flight and still feeling the effects, I hauled a 40 pound backpack around Rome for hours in search of a Hostel that had any vacant rooms for less than 30 EU. I wanted to go home, I wanted to rest, I was sick of sleeping in airports. But I kept going because the thrill of the unknown is so alluring. The next day I was standing in the coliseum. The fucking coliseum.
Travel is about testing your limits.
It’s hard to pick just one place that I want to go before I die, but if I had to it might be Machu Picchu in Peru. I am descendant of Hiram Bingham, the American historian widely accredited with bringing the “City of the Incans” to the world’s attention, and consequently making it a largely traveled tourist destination. My cousin, Robin, told me that when she was there she decided best to not make a fuss about her relation to Hiram because the locals curse him for bringing tourism and taking ruins away to museums outside of Peru. I have also read that “Indiana Jones” was loosely based on Hiram’s exploits which brings to mind visions of angry natives putting voodoo curses on me. Nonetheless, I think traveling to Peru would be a great adventure, and Macchu Picchu would, of course, be a big part of that. I’d like to make friends with some locals and then tell them who I am to see their reactions and maybe I could smooth over his reputation with at least one person. I’d like to learn more about the effect of his ‘discovery’ had on the people there. I would hike the mountains surrounding the ruins and look down at them from above if I could find the right spot, and imagine I was my relative seeing it for the first time back in 1911. I’d buy a hat just for the occasion.
Then I’d probably quote Raiders of the Lost Ark.