Monday, July 02, 2012
Two years in Shanghai, China, population 23 million! The most populous city in the world! What an adventure!
Invoking older brother prerogative, I'll tell you that although packing up and moving across a vast ocean to an alien world is a terrible hassle, not to mention a bit intimidating, in the end it'll be worth it. A recurring acknowledgment in conversations I've had with other world travelers (Bobbie and Paige most prominent among them) is that travel is best in retrospect.
Travel causes disruption in one's life. Before the trip, arrangements must be made. Funds put in order. Then, there is the commute to destination. Long lines; unforeseen expenses; terminally monotonous waits at terminal gates. When you do arrive, you're exhausted, jet-lagged and frazzled. But then there's the touchdown scramble to orient yourself, arrange transportation and exchange currency. It's a frantic melee made all the more complicated by communication problems.
Frustration mounts when all those things that were so easy at home are suddenly very difficult. Ordering food off a menu, for example. Calling someone on a telephone, for example. Finding a drug store or giving directions to a cabbie, for example.
When you're away from home on a trip like this, nothing is easy.
I remember coming home from Chile as the year of our Lord 2004 was coming to an end. I'd been 3 weeks on the road, and had wandered all the way from Santiago down to Castro, a journey of some 800 miles. I made the trip alone (¡Que valiente! una mujer me dijo;); I was at the desolate (even desperate) end of my financial resources, confidence in my Spanish language skills had been shattered by that notorious Chilean accent, and I was afflicted with a nasty respiratory infection. One big hassle, let me tell you. But on the 15-hour bus ride back to Santiago I looked back on the previous 3 weeks, on everything I'd seen and experienced in that time, and I was gratified and awestruck. I recognized that this enormous ordeal I had been through, was in fact still going through, was one of the richest and most rewarding experiences of my life.
This trip will change you. You'll come back to Oregon a familiar stranger. You'll learn things and know things that you'll never be able to relate to anyone else. In the light of this new knowledge you'll see everything --Oregon, your friends, your family, America --differently. You'll have a depth of wisdom outside the purview of everyone that you know today. That's another gift that travel gives you.
So I'm green with envy. Not because of the frenzy and fuss that you are, at this minute, experiencing, but because of the epiphany that is in store for you when you've finally cleared the hurdle.
I refer you to a quote I found by one Regina Nadelson:
"Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage."