Sunday, January 27, 2013

No Strings Attached

If there’s one group of people I don’t meet on the road, it’s Americans.

South African-turned-Aussie.
Here’s the list since I jumped the pond:

A bevy of Brazilian college students who took me into their home, cooked for me, made my birthday something special after knowing me less than two days.
One South African-turned-Australian conducting our Great Ocean Road tour.
Four English boys I shared a hostel room with.
A German-turned-Irish girl working in said hostel for her keep.
Two Scottish Gals, a German boy, a Swiss girl, and Chinese girl road-tripping.
A Dutch policewoman taking the night bus to Melbourne from Canberra, backpacking for her holiday.
A Korean girl backpacking to Apollo Bay.
Australian-Asian woman traveling to Hong Kong to visit her sister who watched the tennis with me at the airport.
Four Canadian girls who were mortally offended when I asked if they were Americans.
A German girl on working holiday here in Warkworth, just north of Auckland.

Spend the night for $10!

Why are Canadians appalled to be mistaken for their southern counterpart? Why are folks from every other continent besides ours, getting out and about? Why are their young people so much better traveled than ours? They have courage that Americans don’t have, practical knowledge and practiced wisdom honed by months of uncertainty and flexibility on the road.

Spend time in parks. Places that aren't America have amazing park life.
For instance this one, Federation Square, where hundreds of people
camped out for hours to watch Federer and Murray slug it out.
They travel alone; they travel as couples; they travel in groups. They study abroad; they hitch-hike, they do a working holiday[1]. They live between cultures, learning quickly to accept others’ oddities and the ambiguities of this and that (see what I did there?). They’re young, they’re brave, and they’re open with themselves and with others.

Where are we, America? Holed up in our lovely little U.S. of A. I admit—it’s a great place. I love it; it’s comfortable. I know well that comforting familiarity should never be undervalued, but is it worth the price we pay for becoming, somewhat arrogantly if unintentionally, isolationist?

Time to grow
I don’t mean to deify travelers. To some extent, you’re quite right, you who think we’re wasting time, avoiding careers, slumming it. One of the English boys I met—he was only eighteen—vows that he will always hate work. The German-turned-Irish girl had worked a number of dead-end jobs before her current one and didn’t have much motivation to go anywhere from there. Yes, some people are wandering—but they are very honestly doing so, while many people who wander (Americans, I’m looking at you) keep it buried in dead habits and empty goals.

As Bonheoffer wrote and as a friend of mine reminded me of recently, we ought to “Bravely take hold of the real, no dallying now with what might be. Not in the flight of ideas, but only in action is freedom. Make up your mind and come out into the tempest of living.”

Yay dumb pictures! I'm still not sure what is inevitable in this picture, but I hope it's not
talking about ageing or grey beards but more about the inevitability of me one day picking
Brad Pitt's nose. If wishes were fishes, amiright?

Brighton Beach!

 P.S. I fudged a little. I’ve also met two American girls—one of whom lives in Oz married to an Aussie and the other who works at a coffee stand in Auckland, NZ. But the point still stands—an overwhelming number of Americans utterly fail to travel with no strings attached.

[1] How many Americans actually know what this is?

1 comment:

  1. Your blog has officially become my very favorite one out there. :) I'm glad for inspiring people like you.