Monday, August 26, 2013

Counting Countries

Visiting strange countries is like walking on a roof.  The main thing is getting past your fear of getting there.  Once in position, you acclimate pretty quickly.

But I no longer trust my legs enough to get up on roofs.  After all, at my age it's one fall and it's over.  So, the question naturally arises, why do I keep on traveling to uncomfortable places that no one has ever heard of?

The short answer is that I trust my mind more than I trust my legs.  But that's kind of disingenuous.  After all, I still need my legs (and my back) to lug my luggage around.  Besides, although horribly poor and/or quasi-dangerous places aren't that much of a problem if you have your wits about you, you do still need to have your wits about you.

Which leads into the next answer: I keep doing this in order to see if I can keep doing this.  (Which begs the obvious question, How do you extricate yourself when you discover that you can't keep doing this?)

But I think the most compelling reason I have is that, in this totally insane, all inclusive post-modern world that we inhabit, going to the ends of it is the best opportunity to have at least a moment of clarity about it.

Because back in the Sixties virtually everyone this side of the Young Republicans understood that the System was a failure.  The only argument was what was anybody going to do about it.  Flash forward to nowadays when everybody knows that the System is totally bankrupt.  Yet it is so all encompassing and we are all such a part of it that now we are all victims of the Fear That Dare Not Speak Its Name.

You see, a Facebook user in Kazakhstan is the same as a Facebook user in France is the same as the Facebook user living next door to you.  So going to London, while still nice, doesn't jolt you out of the everyday the way it used to.  It's the same brands, the same fast food, the same internet, except that everyone drives on the left to get to them.

But Tajikistan, that's still pretty neat.  Standing on a train platform in Siberia on a beautiful September day, suddenly gay marriage is not on the top of the agenda.  Spending a sweltering day at the share taxi stand in the slums of Conakry, suddenly Fancy Feast cat food is pretty damn obscene.

So off I go again to some of the Earth ends that I haven't been to yet.  Hopefully my youth will magically return, as it has on various other journeys I've taken in the last few years.

Although, even if it doesn't, I'll at least have added a few more countries to my tally.  Right now, on the list of the club for people who have gone to 100 countries or more, I'm at 198.  On the list of UN member states I'm at 146.  And on my own list, which is way too complicated to explain here, I'm at 181.

And, no, I'll never have the time and money to see them all.  But at this point I've certainly seen more than enough.  And each one has been a total fascination.

Which brings me to the main (and best) reason to travel.  Because, even when I've been horribly ill or otherwise suffered miserably, I've never regretted a single trip that I've taken.

It's always more fun than just sitting around here.

 

2 Comments:

At 6:18 AM, Anonymous sam w. said...

Well spoken! Stick with that explanation...it makes you seem strong and adventurous.

 
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