Thursday, February 11, 2010

Travel Time

As I was sitting in class tonight, listening to my adorable and probably-gay professor act out religious discourses from Joseph Andrews, drifting between rapt attention and total space-cadet mindlessness, it occurred to me that I will never be a great adventurer.

My godfather is the type of person who will jaunt off to, like, the DRC at the drop of a hat, whereas I can barely muster the moral fortitude to venture outside when it's cold. I like to think of myself as devotedly Canadian, but I've seen far less of the country than some folks, and I definitely haven't approached the wilder and woollier parts of this great nation. Am I a total wiener? Moreover, is my lack of enthusiasm for great, worldly travel some sort of personal failing?

I would have made a lousy Puritan. Not only are those shoe buckles outrageously ugly, but crossing an entire ocean in order to strike out on my own, with only my dour husband and malnourished children to keep me company? No thanks. I totally would have become a courtesan, because even being pimped out sounds good if you're trading sex for the privilege of not being a Puritanical jerkwad.

I am distinctly urban. Oh, sure, I love the beach and the prairies and the mountains and all that, but the truth is, I needs me some community. That's hard to come by in the most remote regions of the world. Sure, the view from Everest is probably pretty breathtaking - literally - but who's up there with you? A bunch of American tourists and some National Geographic staffers? Thanks, but I'll take my surly baristas and my goofy cycling events and the chance to be hit on by strangers at bars. I like the creature comforts that come with a familiar city.

For example, every time I go to Montreal, I feel totally lost. That isn't some great meta statement about the world and my place in it: I literally cannot figure out where I am. Ever. There I am, in a firmly established and totally cosmopolitan city, complete with subway system and a freakin' navigational landmark, and I'm all, "Where am I? Where's Mordechai Richler? Is that a bagel? Who speaks English here? Let me talk to them." I can only imagine how well I'd do in, like, Thailand. As an Echo Boomer, I'm legally obligated to travel there at least once in my 20s, but let me tell you: I'm not looking forward to it.

But let's confabulate for a moment. Imagine that we had been born a scant century earlier. Back when they sold tapeworms as diet aids, before the rise of the car. Back when travel by ocean liner wasn't the sole property of wealthy Baby Boomers who want to see the Caribbean without leaving the buffet option at the Mandarin, but the most legitimate option for crossing the Atlantic. Would some dormant adventurous side of my soul awake? Would I yearn for the glories of the Western plains, the Amazonian thrill of discoveries, the delights of the capes? Or would I be the crankiest potato farmer in Polish history, constantly whining about the cold and the invasions? Honestly, I'm leaning towards the latter.

I wish I was the type of person who just jets off wherever, whenever. Even on a stricter budget, I rarely bus myself anywhere exotic (like, say, Windsor), just the sake of seeing something new. I got homesick in Ann Arbor, for crying out loud. It's a totally sweet college town less than 500 clicks away, and I was freaked out. I guess I should consider myself lucky to have found a town that fits me so well, so I don't have to jaunt around the globe in a fit of uncomfortable pique, waiting to find the places that will settle me down.

1 comment:

  1. Montreal is worth getting to know. It really is a wonderful, world class, bilingual city.

    I also really want to go to Detroit. Although, I'm a bit scared to be honest. And Buffalo.

    Maybe in the summer I should rent a car and there should be some kind of "Lost Great American Cities" road trip.

    Or maybe I'll just buy a van from some travellers. That sure worked last time.