One day during my winter break, I thought I’d tune in to the Travel Channel. What I saw disturbed me. Most Unique McDonalds followed by Extreme Pig Outs… ?!? But then came a commercial break with an announcement that a new season of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations is beginning on January 11th. A ray of hope and sunshine amidst the Travel Channel’s increasingly dismal programming. The commercial asked whether we’d see Good Tony or Bad Tony this season. I really don’t care, I’m just looking forward to Travel Channel content that is actually related to travel.
I also had the pleasure of watching Up in the Air during the holidays. Destiny was a theme that stood out to me in the film. Whether or not people are predetermined to be restless is something I’ve thought about in my last few years of traveling. It seems like travel has become something you’re supposed to get out of your system early. Go backpacking or volunteer abroad after college, then settle down. But there are those of us who just can’t stop. And some of the most amazing travelers I’ve met have been well beyond their twenties with young hearts and incredible stories acquired from decades on the go.
At a holiday party, I talked to a guy who told me he didn’t like to leave the United States because it’s too much of a hassle to travel internationally. He wasn’t referring to costs, flight delays, or the de-shoeing and de-liquiding airport security process. He was talking about how terrible it is to actually be in another country. Ludicrous. Poor guy, I looked at him like he was insane and spent 15 to 20 futile minutes trying to explain why travel is in fact wonderful. But then I thought about my own life and how others might perceive it to be lacking in stability and some of the comforts people are supposed to require more and more as they get older.
I’m definitely not extremely detached like George Clooney’s character is in Up in the Air, but I’ve realized that as far as the United States goes, my level of need for movement does not put me in the majority. I guess I can’t really fault people for not wanting to deal with certain types of adventure. When I look back at some of the mishaps and unexpected misadventures I experienced in South America, it seems kind of crazy that I wittingly put myself in a position to get into difficult unwitting situations. But often, the most curse word inducing travel moments turn out to be the most gratifying afterward.
It’s hard to describe the elation that comes from new sights and smells and sounds and conquering the challenges of travel. And how what you experience on the road permeates your life at home and allows you to find adventure and discovery around every corner. In my San Francisco life, I typically encounter people who get this or at least have a desire to know about the various cultures of the world and people beyond their immediate surroundings. It makes it easy to forget that many people want a life that’s full of what’s familiar. I can’t say that it’s right or wrong, but I don’t understand it. And some take a need for the expected along with them when they leave home, wanting a change of scenery but not a change in familiarity. Hence all-inclusive mega resorts and “travel” shows such as Most Unique McDonald’s.