Wednesday, September 16, 2009
On the constant traveller
So, I arrived in Vancouver this morning, some 4,500 kms from Toronto. And I've covered more ground if you include the bus and car trips through the Rockies and Manitoba. Upon leaving the train station, it promptly started to rain. Since I'll be in and around Vancouver and the islands for the next week, I'd like to take the time now to digress from my regular round up of activities.
A few days ago, I arrived in Banff and, as much as I like that spot, whenever I head into a tourist town I get this deadening feeling, like the fun's over. There's no more trying to blend, because everyone's a tourist anyway. Also, it's guaranteed that you're going to encounter the constant traveller: people who travel not as a treat or a break from daily life, but have turned travel into a lifestyle. I'm curious about these types. How do they feel when they're home? Are they running from something? Do they really enjoy the transience of rooms, friends, bars, lovers as much as they seem to? I have a lot of trouble relating to these types, because I always wanna know what their real life is like, what their plans are, what they wanna do when they stop travelling, where they want to live. And, for many of them, they can't answer these questions because, for them, "real life" is travel. This all came to my attention as I was working on this project for Unlimited Magazine, interviewing working professionals across the country. Almost immediately I realized I couldn't speak with any of the people on the train, the bus, in hostels or in tourist towns. I had to meet the locals.
Something else is nagging me here. What's the point of being a constant traveller if travel is no longer a struggle? The biggest challenges are where to blow your cash or what to fill your day with. As the railway worker who drove me to Banff put it: for the vast majority of people "travel" means a Lonely Planet guide and a credit card. (I cringed as he said this as I have a Lonely Planet guide in my pack.) For me, this trip was about discovering Canada and finding out if I could buck it alone. Even so, travelling across this country is stupid easy. There are some limitations without a car, but following a train or bus line makes it even more brainless. This is not to say I'm not enjoying myself, but in fact I'm enjoying myself too much. I want to struggle. A lot of the inspiration for my trip came from a piece in the New Yorker by Ian Frazier about his travels through Siberia. Now that's struggle! I'm almost embarrassed by how easy this trip is in comparison. I'm not surprised by how I'm feeling. Every trip I go on I find out what I want my next trip to be. Next time , I need a car (sorry, environment) so I can veer off into the smaller towns and explore for days or weeks if I want. I guess I'm always one trip behind the one I want and that's okay, because I'm sort of scared of what situation I'll put myself in next.