I could say that I’m jealous, or that I wish I could just drop everything and travel the world, but I don’t think that would be completely honest. I think when I am imagining a world tour, I am suffering symptoms of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the mountain” syndrome. It’s a condition we all battle at some time in our lives, and typically we get over it and move on with the lives we’re living (the lives other people are probably envying!). No, jealous is not the word. I’d say it’s more like I am in awe, and humbled when I think of the journeys my friends dare.
Traveling in this day and age is not necessarily spent in isolation from family and friends. Internet Cafés are everywhere, even in the most humble of villages. My friends blog regularly. Theirs are not the philosophical stories about society or culture, or the perennial favourite: politics. No, what they have to say is far more rudimentary; they blog about what they’ve seen, no more, no less.
He does the writing and she does the photography. Stop yourself if you are imagining blurry overexposed photos without an obvious subject or any spatial sense. Her photos rival those of National Geographic. And, if you consider their itinerary, you must keep in mind that she is not lurking in the tall grasses of the Serengeti for the “right shot,” equipped with professional grade cameras and accessories, and accompanied by a team of assistants (he’s great, but a photography assistant he isn’t!). No, her equipment must pack into a backpack and her shots are on the fly. On Safari in the Serengeti she caught a lioness take down a wildebeest, a boy shimmying up a banana tree in Micronesia, a woman porting a pot of water on her head while her arms swung freely by her sides in Myanmar, and a girl “inside kick” a hacky sack in Nepal.
His job is to articulate the life-changing experiences she has caught on camera into short stories that satisfy our curiosities, along with their need to share. He writes: You are walking down the street and all of a sudden a loud band starts playing and people start rushing into the building in front of you. What do you do? Go in of course. They find themselves at an engagement party of 400 guests, most of whom were craning their necks to check out the “Wedding Crashers” (his term, not mine). Picture a tall, shapely, blonde woman with a tall, dimpled, brunette man who turn heads in Canada let alone a private dining hall in India! Now imagine what you would have done.
I can tell you with authority, that I would not have even considered entering the building let alone sit down and stay for the ceremony, which is why this is not my masterpiece. This moment, this choice they made, this is what sets them apart. Their sudden and unexpected arrival was not greeted with hostility, just curiosity that grew into an invitation to a smorgasbord of homemade rice, curries, chutneys, and desserts served on banana leaves. They made their mark on the canvass, and the picture grew out of it beautifully.
My position is that their art does not lie in the talents of their story-telling and photography (as impressive as those may be), rather it is the culmination of the paths they take, the foods they try, the people they encounter, it is the choices they make that are the expressions of themselves. In the sense that art too is an expression of oneself, their journey is itself their art; like painters choosing each colour of an emerging picture, or dancers setting steps to music as it beats in their ears. Theirs are not tours Kontiki could put together, not even a personal travel agent would want such a daunting task. They do not travel on fixed schedules or with reserved lodgings. Each destination, each experience, each encounter, each taste, each photograph, each story contributes to their mosaic. I suspect they are like artists in other ways too. I suspect they will never quite be satisfied, that they will try over and over again until they have created their masterpiece.
In the meanwhile, we are privileged with glimpses into the galleries of their travels, tantalized by the possibility that we could paint, dance, or travel just as well, if we would only try.
Live within limits without limiting life
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