Day 7: Joining in a local festival, holiday or special event is a great way to learn more about a local culture. Share the story of a celebration that meant something to you on your travels.
It wasn’t a holiday or a festival, but it was a vibrant space where those of us without wads of cash could air our grievances and talk amongst ourselves in a way that got people listening. It was a city within a city, a place which demonstrated what we’re capable of doing even when all the channels of power are actively working against us. It was an inspiring place, and the NYPD can burn in hell for what they did to it.
Day 8: Travel and learning go hand in hand. Travel teaches us not only about the world and the people in it, but also more about ourselves and our own ideas and values. What has travel taught you this year?
This requirement that I have to draw from stuff that happened this year is starting to grate.
You may have noticed that all the wonderful stories are from 2009 and 2010—and what I’m planning on writing for tomorrow’s prompt is from that time period—and that not a lot of those stories are from 2011. This may be because during those two years I went to places that were new and exciting. You can’t really say that about, say, Cleveland (sorry). So I’m gonna be a huge downer here and say what travel taught me this year was how to deal with disappointment.
I’m not talking about Paris syndrome here, I’m talking having stuff fall through on you left, right, and center. (Especially the India trip and the California/Hong Kong summer thing, those stung. Myrtle Beach almost went the same way had the stars not aligned at the very last minute.) It’s like, yeah, it sucks—even if it’s a long shot—but, y’know, this too shall pass. The grieving period will run its course and we’ll dust ourselves off and move on. And, sometimes, having one opportunity collapse will open up another one down the road. The only reason I can go someplace this spring is because having India fall through motivated me to scrape together the money necessary to go someplace in the spring, and I so very badly didn’t want to sit at home and not go anywhere in 2012. [As it turns out, part of that money’s going toward the move, and part of it I’m saving for 2013.]
Cheesy? Maybe. But sometimes things are cheesy because they’re true.
Day 9: Travel helps us better appreciate the present moment instead of always looking to the next thing. Describe one perfect day you had while traveling this year. Where were you? What were you doing? And what made it perfect?
The perfect day in question actually happened last year, but it is the best travel day I ever had. I speak, of course, of the day trip to Nishinomiya, an otherwise nondescript city of half a million sandwiched between Osaka and Kobe that just so happens to be the setting of a certain anime franchise. I’d known the route the viewpoint character takes to school, and here my one friend and I had an opportunity to walk it in real life.
But the Pilgrimage itself was not what made it perfect. It was the discovery that the Japanese are better at building walkable, human-scaled cities than pretty much everyone else. As it turns out, this human-scaledness can be directly attributed to pretty much everything Americans consider lousy city planning: narrow streets with no discernible pattern and no sidewalks (so cars are forced to drive slowly and—shock horror!—share the road), and houses that are all smooshed together with miniscule or nonexistent front yards (which, lest we forget, are evil). The oft-forgotten upside of all this is that, since everything is very close together, you can walk pretty much anywhere. We, with our culturally-ingrained mantra that Bigger is Better (and also our comparatively low housing costs—but tell that to the Manhattanite living in a walk-in closet), are still having trouble figuring this out. [Check it out. I really don’t think the argumentum ad spaceum is a good excuse for not building towns like that here.]
This was also the point where I discovered I enjoy traveling slowly. After Nishinomiya, we decided to take a walk around Kyoto so I could locate one of those wooden katana things. We’d visited two shrines before calling it a day and going back to the hotel empty-handed, but I, at least, still think it was a walk worth taking because I got a better feel of the old capital right there, wandering through its streets, than I ever could going from shrine to shrine. [There is no better way to explore a city than wandering aimlessly around it.]