Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Some months ago, whilst patronizing the local Big Mak burger stand, I became involved in a conversation about traveling. Leia, one of the young clerks at said burger stand, had never been out of her country, just like most of her fellows (and mine). We discussed the places in the world which we’d most like to visit – Southeast Asia for me, and Africa. I told Leia I wanted to see more cultures, learn about how the world grinds its gears. I wanted to climb to holy places, listen to a hundred varied tongues, watch the sun set over deserts and mountains and oceans.

After which she professed a desire most of all to go to Australia because “I know they have many kangaroos there!”

I felt a kind of pity for naive Leia then, an amused and friendly scorn. Of all the fantastic places in the world, all the mystical unknown things to see, what she most wanted was to glimpse an animal already overexposed on nature programs and popular advertising. How sad! How unworldly!

It was only after a bit of reflection that I realized her desire was every bit as legitimate as mine. Maybe more so: too often what I think of as traveling is really about achieving goals or milestones. If one of your goals is to visit a Tibetan monastery, and you achieve that goal and leave with nothing other than proof of visiting a Tibetan monastery, you’ve got nothing but a checkmark that you can show off to other people.

But if you’re really, really excited about seeing kangaroos, what more reason do you need to book the ticket?

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