Why do I need to travel? Why do some places appeal to me more than other places? Why don’t I want to go to “normal” destinations? Shouldn’t I want to bask on the beach or go drinking at bars in sunny tropical locations? I seem to gravitate toward the locations that are more likely to produce a moderately entertaining challenge/story over those that might make me look rich, pampered, and witless. The idea of a resort is a total yawn to me. Beaches conjure images of fat people baking in their skimpy clothing and taking unintentional naps (which I could do at home on the couch in front of the TV). I’d rather don a backpack and set out on foot from here to there in India or Kenya than take up residence for a few days on the sandy beaches of Cancun. But I struggle with the idea of responsibility and doing such crazy things, especially with a kid.
Sometimes, John and I see homeless people and buy their signs (and their stories) just to keep ourselves entertained on weekend outings to big cities in the United States. Some might think that such behavior is cavalier and irresponsible. We have a child in the car for God-sakes. Some of the homeless people we encounter are substance abusers or mentally ill. Sometimes they lie to us, but their stories are always interesting (true or not). Some people might regard the act of buying signs from homeless people as potentially enlightening for our offspring (and ourselves). I have to turn down the volume on the voice that evaluates these social experiments that I concoct for us or else I end up just watching shabby sitcoms and an occasional documentary for entertainment instead of being alive. My default excuse for almost every interesting thing we do is, “We get bored easily.” Is this enough? Is it a good enough reason for doing…anything? I don’t know and I think ultimately, that I also do not care.
Would it be wrong to go to Israel right now with the bombs and volatile political situation? What about Jordan? Could we compromise and go to Jordan and maybe just do a land-crossing into Israel for a couple of days? Would this be irresponsible or should I stick with someplace “safe” like Peru? The last time we planned a trip to Peru a big mud-slide killed over 15 people and damaged the railway leading from Cusco to Machu Picchu (the area through which we planned to hike). Another mud-slide killed 10 or 11 people in October, 2012 (recently). So is Peru really safe? Safer than Israel? I don’t know. The more I look at potential destinations that we could travel to and look back at the United States from the outside, I see that violence and tragedies are everywhere. The U.S. has them too. And my involvement (or lack thereof) might not be “random”.
Here at home in my sleepy little town in Nebraska, I have young friends battling health problems as a form of entertainment. They have arthritis or asthma or other health problems that may not be quite so noticeable or worthy of conversation if there were better stories for them to tell (Get off your ass, for crying out loud, and stop complaining about your aches and pains…go do something that gets your own attention! I think to myself). Do I sit around waiting for impending death or do I embrace life and just go where I want to go and do what I want to do? Somehow, despite the rhetorical qualities of the question, the answer isn’t entirely clear when there is a child involved. Decisions should be made with caution, much thought and research. Right?
Nonetheless, where we go next has more to do with these obscure philosophies about life and death than world events, political upheaval or world tragedies that make the front page. I can escape death narrowly or by a wide margin. Does it matter? Isn’t the result basically the same? John and I have a broad stroked rule that as long as we don’t die as a result of blatant, flamboyant ignorance or stupidity then death is probably a respectable end to an adventure and, in fact, unavoidable. Circumstantial accidental death is acceptable according to this philosophy. We shouldn’t go to Iran or Iraq right now, for example. We should probably avoid Somalia for the time being. But I could die going to the premier of Batman in the United States or simply be at the post office at the wrong time when a Christmas gunman decides to let loose on everyone in queue. I think I would rather die in the Congo at the hand of savages or militant extremists or on a hike through the Amazon as a result of some tragic weather-related event simply because I would at least die challenged and entertained and people would at least have worthy stories to tell of my life and existence.
I could go anywhere, whenever I want for as long as I want. We can stay for a while or we could go tomorrow. It doesn’t matter in the practical manner of thinking about such things, but cosmically, I think these decisions are life-changing. I believe that I’ll die when I’m supposed to die, whether I’m here or abroad, but in the end, when I finally buy the plane tickets, that Voice of Reason will inevitably have a powerful say. I never know where we’ll go or when we’ll go until the internal Forces That Be have thoroughly duked it out on my behalf…