This is the first post in quite a while. I made a deliberate decision when I left Israel to leave my laptop until I returned. Part of the decision was to disconnect from work, and another part was to give myself the freedom to explore the place I was in. As a new rule we tightly bind ourselves to our electronics and their needs before our own, and I wanted no part of it while I was in Ireland. This decision led me to think about a distinction many times throughout my vacation that seems to be lost on some people.
While I was in Ireland I would spend some days exploring in very deliberate ways to see places, talk to people, or go to events. I climbed the tallest mountain in Ireland, blog post about that coming soon, I went on a tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and I explored crumbling medieval abbeys in the marshes. Other days I would do the opposite. I’d relax and enjoy a cafe with an afternoon of reading and writing, then go to the pub that evening and enjoy a jam session back at my hostel. My time was spent alternating between traveling and vacationing which are two seperate things.
The difference between travel and vacation, between exploration and relaxation, is an important one. People say they want to travel when what it seems they’re more interested in is vacationing. Instead of getting to know and understand the locations that they visit, they bounce in and bounce out with nary a glance around. When I talk to family, friends, and those I meet when I travel, I am perpetually thinking about the lack of either enjoyment or understanding that people gain from the places they visit and the time they spend there.
This might be a good time to delineate the purposes in my own mind of travelling and of vacation. You should come back from travelling and need a vacation. Travelling should be an experience that causes, or maybe allows you the freedom to explore, to learn, and to change. To change is to improve, to change often is perfection, to paraphrase Churchill. Unfortunately the objective when many people step foot on a plane, train, or automobile to “travel”, is to gain the social status and currency of traveling. To add their destination to a tallied lists of sights and scenery that weren’t seen anyways because those travelers were so eager to look for a place to pull off and eat or complaining about the lack of wifi.
A vacation is a reprieve from the slings and arrows of daily life that harrang us and beat us down. They give us a chance to marshall our resources mentally and physically, revitalize, and prepare to return to the fray. A vacation is intended to give a timeout to us as players in the game of life, travelling is intended to change the games we participate in and how we play them. A vacation can easily turn into an expensive trip needlessly when people decide to travel to a beach 2000 miles away when there’s one just as nice 200 miles away. People flock to the idea of the exotic for no particular reason, other than to say they’ve been there. This isn’t a new phenomenon by any means buy it has become exacerbated to a large extent by the advent of social media in combination with easier travel across the world, where a single picture in front of an object is, itself, the objective.
Perhaps what I’m mourning here is not so much the increase in the numbers of “travellers” that clog the airways, highways, and railways with their week-long jaunt in front of their electronics. Perhaps what I’m mourning is the death of cognisance to an even larger extent for where we are at any given moment. The age old song that the world gets smaller every day. Although the boundaries of the map aren’t growing closer, people are just continually becoming more and more unable to appreciate the journeys they embark on after being inundated with images and videos.
The point of all this is a request: Pay Attention. To where you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. If you don’t, the thousand dollar plane ticket may as well be a ten dollar viewfinder for all the good you’ll get out of it.