In these gray days of February, I feel myself bracing for the future and wondering if I should travel less and stay closer to home. Our planet seems more fragmented even as science makes our global unity more evident. What intimidates me so? This sensation has a familiar feel, harkening back to primarily adolescence. Aha. Insecurity is knocking.
As a traveler, I get uneasy with talk of border walls and the closer vetting of foreign nationals. I recall undue delays at border crossings with no access to toilets, guards calling to office administrators to further review my paperwork, and multiple searches of my light luggage. All unpleasant occurrences which at the time, made me nervous.
I am horrified to learn of travel plans put in disarray by last minute ineligibility to land for plane connections while traveling between countries. I recall being alone and far from home and stuck for reasons beyond my control. I am hopeful others, stuck for reasons beyond their control, will be as fortunate as I’ve been to find people willing to step up to help.
I bristle when I hear politicians quip that torture works. (Dehumanization and fear tactics work to do what? And what of it?) I recall blanching at television coverage of police crackdowns at my next day destinations. Police in stormtrooper gear, dogs sniffing luggage, airport guards toting machine guns…I refuse to be lulled into thinking any of that is normal.
I am disheartened to hear Hispanic acquaintances worry they may be perceived as Mexican. You’re a nice person, I’m a nice person, and Mexicans are nice people too. I recall times when I’ve been rushed and escorted by locals as anti-American diatribes started on street corners. I can only hope Mexicans aren’t being faced with such scorn in the U.S.
I try ignoring the internet news and seek out monthly publications instead. Re-reading Robert M. Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” reminds me we are all in this life together and just trying to figure it out the best we can. The motorcycle journey reminds me of the kindly people everywhere. If you look for the good in people, you generally find good.
Considering the many people sharing my reactions to recent events reassures me the world has not become oblivious from drinking the purple Kool-aid. While trying not to obsess, it makes sense to stay on guard and prepared to speak out. Awful things have happened in this world before. Je me souviens.
Thanks for indulging this spate of therapeutic writing. I’m tossing off this blanket of insecurity. I’m irked I even considered hiding out and lying low. After all, hiding is for bandits. I’m going to continue to visit far from home, to weigh safety advisories and to trust the people living in far away places will be welcoming. And if they visit, they will find me welcoming.
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” —Mark Twain
“Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience.” —Alex Steffen from “The Bright Green City”
Buy it. Read it. Let me know what you think. –TMLL