I am convinced that fear of the unknown is something that has developed in human beings, probably through plain old mathematical calculation of how often what you don't know or can't control turns out to be that scary thing. For what is real about the unusual is never been as bad as what we've had time to sit around and contemplate anyway.
Journeys just bring these conundrums into high relief. I wasted so much time and money going places by myself when I was young; unable to speak the language—not very motivated either, as I imagined I could never have as deep an understanding and control of anything but my own poetic version of English—just to go. I would take on any mission as long as it involved a plane ride and ended up in a destination that held to a not very high standard of exotica.
Whereas I had previously been almost unable to find any differences in humans, now all I could see were the differences. What was wrong with these people in California that they didn't want to eat foie gras? Instead, they wanted to plant their own multi-colored bell peppers and make soup out of them?
Yes, I went through the middle stages of the life of travelers where everything at the other end of the destination was something I knew as well as the parts of my garage that needed cleaning or that I was going to get stuck on another group vacation on somebody else's idea of a fun shopping excursion to old downtown San Juan, when I would rather be reading my email.
My settled existence these days consists of having been enough places, within driving range, that change so often now that even going back a year later creates a new experience different and comfortable at the same time. My dread is built around how this place will be overrun with day trippers by this time next year, that I had better savor the discovery while I can, because next time it will be all about how can we ever find a way to park this car. But the other side of it is that something new and brilliant is about to happen here and there is no excitement that equals the aesthetic of sameness like it's adherence to the thrill of the new.
This year for my big getaway I will be traveling to New Orleans, where my daughter lives, for the second time and I know about some things I will find there. I will stay in the same hotel that I stayed in the first time I visited over a decade ago but the hotel is different now. It's still around the corner from the miracle church of the Sacred Heart, either much affected by Katrina. (My daughter has a friend there named Katrina, who knew?) But I also know that I will discover and explore wonderful new things—last-time it was cold-pressed coffee and hand-made soap—and delight in the fact that there is still music everywhere and used book stores and big, glitzy oddities like the World War II museum built by movie stars seeking an authentic experience too.
Let us know about your adventures this summer, when we are back next month we'll share them.
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