Thursday, September 11, 2014

Travel Writing of the Interior Sort

Before you had the built-in directional applications on your iPhone, your list of necessities included taking your car in for a lube and oil change, checking the air pressure of the tires, and insuring the presence of at least one map detailing your route and your destination.

The road maps were unnecessary because you more or less knew where you were going, which is to say you were driving northward to the San Francisco Bay Area, or beyond that to Seattle.  Otherwise you were driving north north east to Virginia City or east along what has become I-40, leading you through Arizona and, on occasion, into New Mexico.

To be sure, there were other destinations, many of them one-time, or what you still like to think of as whim destinations, places you have no particular reason for visiting other than liking the name of the place or some real or imagined romantic aspect about it.

Now you have the GPS, which you use in tandem with Google Maps.  The ancients used the stars; you use the satellite.  Your journeys are often even greater adventures than you'd intended, subject to vagaries in accommodations and meals taken along the way.  One stop for a genuine Navajo fry bread taco produced a disastrous four or five hours of an uncomfortable tummy.  Another stop at an Arby's on Andy Devine Road in Kingman, Arizona, brought similar chaos to your GI tract.

These last situations were the luck of the road.  Most of your road experiences have been characterized by the best of fortune rather than the worst.  Even a bout of trying to get snow chains on the wheels of your VW Bug, while uncomfortable for an hour or so, led to a happy outcome.  Don't even bother much detail with journeys to San Francisco; you could make that trip in your sleep; it was never less than inspirational of something or someone.

Those journeys were of a different sort, they were combinations of a journey through the dregs of young and unsure, into the landscapes of coming-of-age and yearning.  They were necessary preambles to another kind of journey, the kind for which the travel sections of The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times and Travel and Leisure have no dominion.

The journeys of which you speak now are inner ones or, in the broadest sense, trips in which individuals come to know, understand, and interact with one another.  There are some maps for such journeys, but when reduced to bare bones, these prove to be psychological or sociological generality.  You more or less leave your iPhone and its attendant GPS at home or turned off for the travel of which you speak.

Your motives for taking such trips have something to do with whim and curiosity, which become satisfying answers up to a point.  Another term or concept, self-knowledge, sneaks its way into the waiting line and, after some hurried consultation, you decide to allow the term to stay.  You do wish to know more about you, sometimes to help you decide why you did a specific thing or, with equal specificity, opted not to do another.  

Other reasons to learn more about you have to do with the resulting knowledge serving as a data base from which to create characters who will populate your completed stories, your stories in the works, your fantasies, and your daydreams.  Such self-knowledge gives you a quality related to confidence, which allows you to continue your search.

While a traveler on such trips, you are best served with no maps, no GPS, no full tank of petrol.  Rather, you are at best under these circumstances in a condition you like to think of as running on empty.  When you are thus, you are not relying on experience, only trust of your aggregate resources which, admittedly, you do not grasp.  You are going on the belief that you will soon arrive at a direction, a strategy, perhaps even that curious goal of most traditional travelers, the ETA or estimated time of arrival.

Pretty neat trick, isn't it, when you consider that you do not know where you're going.  This confidence in the face of having used all one's tricks, of having a hidden reserve tank of fuel somewhere, will, you believe, produce a new result you've never used before.  This result may not be as qood as some of your previous successes or a nuanced as some of your earlier ideas.  You'll have taken the risk of being caught out, a total naif or, worse, unsuited for the job.

Wonder of wonders, in recent years, you've come to realize this risk of being caught out, or not having the bon mot, the mot juste, or even a sly, mischievous answer, is attractive to the point where now, the joy of taking a risk carries with it the greater hope of being caught.

Imagine the mischief that might produce.

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