30-Day Travel Challenge, Pt. 8

Day 22: The word travel comes from a French word meaning “work” and sometimes, getting there is work. Between crowded buses, long airline delays, overnight trains and crazy rickshaw rides, transportation can be stressful, but it can also be a rewarding part of the tip. Tell us about a time when the journey became more important than the destination.

Pretty much any time I’m going someplace new, but let’s highlight a couple of specific examples:

  • That aforementioned time when we went down to South Carolina in that blizzard. The one time the trip itself was more memorable than the destination. (I also credit that particular journey with my lifelong love affair with snowy cities and a rather intense desire to participate in a Times Square snowball fight.)
  • Chicago, February 2007. First time in a different time zone, first time anyplace farther west than Ohio, and it was snowing and it was incredibly pretty going out. The snow sort of gave everything this atmosphere that, while unquestionably Foundry and industrial, wasn’t at all gritty or threatening or decaying (even whilst going through Gary). Cleansed, more like. (Also at night the toll booths and rest stops on the PA and OH Turnpikes are like oases [explains a lot]. It’s the toll booth or the gas station, and beyond it a darkness the likes of which man has never seen before.)
  • Las Vegas, July 2007. First time Out West, first time on a plane, the moment I fell in love with flying. To an East Coast person, Vegas seems like it’s in another country. We flew back to Philly at night, and if you’ve never experienced it before, it’s kind of weird when you see the lights of Vegas down there going on and on all dense-like and suddenly they just stop. I’m over here, and I’m used to a gradual change from capital-C City to suburban areas where the houses slowly grow further apart and the backyards get bigger and bigger to finally a countryside pockmarked with cute little farmhouses and little towns connected by spindly little highways, and having no intermediate step between dense housing development and the Open Barren Desert just did not compute. [Notice how many of those are first-time experiences?]
  • Anytime I’m on the New York Subway, for some reason. Probably because while it may not be the world’s biggest subway anymore, it’s certainly still the most complicated. It’s one of those things about New York that I’m amazed actually exists in real life.
  • And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Japan and the wondrous Shinkansen. What can you say about it, really? It’s a train, and it goes really, really fast, and it puts Tokyo and Osaka, six-hours’ drive apart, within day-tripping distance. Did I mention it goes really fast?

All the other times you could probably chalk up to good old-fashioned anticipation.

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Day 23: Where would today’s travelers be without smartphones, GPS, iPods, iPads, or even the internet? Share one item of tech you can’t live without or tell us how technology has changed the way you travel.

My iPod (Recall how I associate music and places; I’ll base my itinerary on whatever piece of music “feels” like that place (Tokyo/Porcupine Tree), or when I’m at a place I’ll only listen to music I associate with that place (New York/Dream Theater)) and my camera (this old, beat-up thing that’s given me the Photographer’s Curse, how you find that perfect angle and the perfect lighting and the perfect this and that and you can’t help but reach for your camera…even if you don’t have one). Two little things that have a pretty big impact on how I perceive the places I visit. [I honestly have no idea how people can go places without either of those things.]

[Don’t need a GPS, though. I’ve been told I have one of those in my head. Internet’s nice, too, if only for the novelty of posting stuff while away, like, “Hey, I’m in New York! How you doin’?”]

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Day 24: Seeing what others have – and don’t have – around the world often helps us appreciate our own good fortune. What are you thankful for this year?

I think the serenity prayer pretty much covers it this year:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

Yeah…2011 was kinda rough. [2012’s looking up, though. Yay!]

More broadly I’m thankful that I have the resources to go places at all.

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About theoditsek

I like going places.
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