I am fascinated by those who travel, or, more specifically, those who feel more at home traveling than they do while they are at home. In a world of pre-fabricated lives, many of us are taught to reject the nomadic lifestyle, to shun those who have not committed themselves to the big three assets (car, house and phone?). And yet, while we so frequently stand and debauch the names of those ‘commitment-shy’ personalities, deep in their soles, most people that I have talked to long for such freedom, the lack of major assets and the freedom that can only be afforded by a life of travel.
My girlfriend and I just finished watching that horrible movie ‘Up In The Air’, and I was set to thinking on the realities of such a lifestyle. The ways of a rogue traveler have been romanticized for no small number of years. Kerouac, Steinbeck, Hunter S. Thompson, all of them reveled in the joys of the unbound individual. More than this, though, the worship given by readers further celebrates this nomadic individual, allows them to be the person most of us cannot (or are unwilling) to act as.
I wonder, is it such a great joy to be the one out in the world? Could it be that those who travel are just in search of the seeming experience held by those before them? It has been said that writers do not have lives any bit more interesting than ours, but that they have a way of putting them into more appealing perspective. Paul Theroux, who’s books I have recently delved in to, has spent the better portion of his life living either on the road or established in places that are not his native country. It is evident through his writing that he could not survive any other lifestyle, but at the same time I have had the prevailing sense that he is generally unhappy, and certainly never feels relaxed if acting stationary. It is that perpetual wanderlust that drives such people. As Theroux points out, it is the travel itself, the hours spent sitting on a freezing train, that truly make him alright. Just keep on moving.
And yet I find myself with this same sensation, a need to see the world and to experience it all. I have never really felt that I belonged in one spot, nor have I ever had an inclination to stay in one area for any great amount of time. If I could, I would quickly rid myself of this sensation, this wanderlust as it can be called. There is so much out in that world, and I cannot but wonder at it all, worry that I might not catch every bit of it that can be garnered in one day.
The person abroad is a strange creature. I marvel at those people who feel truly out of place in their own country. In the valley opposite the one I live, there is a remarkable house, widely known as the Tison Estate, named after the individual responsible for its construction. The house, which stands far from what I would call a worldly area, is inspired and built after traditional Japanese designs, holding the serpentine roofline and overhanging eves found in older Japanese buildings. Its gardens are also made to appear as something straight out of the land of the rising sun. Mr. Tison was a longtime professor at the University of Tokyo and brought back many of the visual elements of Japanese culture to be built into his stateside retreat. It is something just shy of anachronism, this display of foreign culture and ancient architecture in the heart of the Catskill mountains, and yet in a strange manner it does not quite seem out of place. It is the inner fascination with exploring the unknown that sustains the traveler. It is the temporality of travel that can be so comforting, the knowledge that there may be no end of mystery and of new things to see. But at the end of the day I still wonder, is there not something far deeper in appreciating the things to which we are accustomed?
In other news, I found the website that I had been looking for. It’s called the China Boom Project, and contains a huge number of interviews. I haven’t had a moment to look at it yet, but as soon as I do, I will review. May the force be with you.