Saturday, May 28, 2016

Looking Forward to the "Someday"

As a crazy traveler himself, the author is quite fond of trading travel stories with fellow travelers met anywhere, for short-term or long-term.  Talking about travel stories is especially exciting when the person or people being spoken to has been to the same destinations as the author.  But asking them about their impressions of the same places, the author can gain whole new perspectives that he did not acquire firsthand during his own travels to those places, while giving himself another, second opportunities to savor the beauty and greatness of those destinations, days, months, and even years after the actual travels happened.

Meeting these kinds of fellow travelers, however, tend to be much easier in some places than others.  Unsurprisingly, the richer the location is, the more likely locals will have enough disposable income to making lengthy trips than cover some of the world's most popular destinations.  Moreover, traveling requires a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness to completely foreign matters that is not always present in even the richest of locations.  Traveling can be tiresome matter sometimes, with long transit times and meticulous planning, so without strong desires, trips simply will not happen.

To add on to the individual's propensity to travel, the person's cultural background also plays a role on how much the person ends up traveling, regardless of actual income.  Chinese culture, for instance, is one that sees travels as an integral part of a person's holistic learning, evidenced by sages like Confucius traveling through the known Chinese world to observe and perfect philosophies thousands of years ago.  To travel is not merely a matter of going to see exciting things, but a display of learning in a society where education is so heavily emphasized even in casual social context.

Hence, even when China was a desperately poor country decades ago, people were rewarded (and happily received) travel packages to distant destinations within their own country.  As the country became wealthier, the number of people traveling abroad simply exploded, sometimes with rather interesting consequences in those foreign destinations.  Either way, the point is clear: a people who are socially disposed to travel will try their best to travel no matter how poor they are.  And from these people come the most excited, story-sharing groups that the author is always happy to meet.

Now, back to the author's usual place of residence, meeting those story-sharing travelers become excruciatingly difficult.  Foreigners do go on travels, but the financial limits (not to mention above-average work responsibilities) of a NGO salary makes it so much more difficult to have long adventures in remote, exciting places.  And given the small expat community of a tiny market town, the number of available story-sharing people are quickly exhausted.  Most are more likely to look forward to the next vacation "someday" than reminiscing about past ones.

At least the foreigners have concrete plans for those "someday" vacations.  For the locals, yearning for vacation is expressed as "someday" in a much more indefinite sense of the word.  Sure, the low salaries of the local population does not allow for long travels, and the complicated/expensive process of getting passport and visas make foreign travels all but impossible for the business/political elite.  But even more devastatingly, the very concept of traveling as a form of recreation is a rather foreign and decidedly strange concept that sees no reason for implementation.

The local culture is one that has little tradition in exploration of other geographies as a method of self-betterment.  Instead, the idea of spending one's own money to go to a place without family members or friends just seem ridiculous.  If money was available to be spent, more ought to be spent on materialistic goods for self and family members in ways that improve their lives rather than trips that leave no physical traces of returns on expenditure.  As a result, travel is seen more as some weird habit of the foreigner that they cannot really relate.

"Ahh, so you went to (Place A), your pictures look great!  I will go visit there someday" may be the usual response received from locals as response to travels, but it should be understood as "seeing other people's travels motivated them to save up and plan for their own trips."  Instead, it is much more likely to imply something along the lines of "I am glad that you were able to achieve your goal of traveling to those destinations.  Although I do not understand what is the point of that goal, but I feel happy for you and will try my best to relate to your happiness."  The level of detached politeness is off-the-charts on this one.  

1 comment:

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