Sunday, March 28, 2010

Why travel?

Today, I was talking to a dear friend and it prompted me to write about one of my favourite things in the world: travel. I don’t consider myself an avid traveler; People who take years to wander around the world explore places, different cultures as they search for themselves. I am more the selective, yet generous traveler who lives for the experience and falls in love with the process. I feel the same way about traveling as Carrie Bradshaw felt about shoes: Love them passionately, cherish them till death do us part and consider for what they are - a lifetime investment. Each trip creates its own story, brings along its own special memories invokes emotions and feelings same way the aroma of your grandma’s favourite soup will always bring you back to childhood memories of spending summers by the lake, doing your own laundry (yup, no washing machine) and suntanning as if you had never heard of skin cancer. Love to travel! Reminds me of a specific phase in life and has carved me into the person I am today.

Frances Mayes states the following in her book A Year in the World:

"When traveling you have the delectable possibility of not understanding a word of what is said to you. Language becomes simply a musical background for watching bicycles zoom alongside a canal, calling for nothing from you. You open, as in childhood, and -for a time- receive this world [with fresh perspective, distinct ideas and better understanding]."

When you travel the world begins to shrink and overtime you do not notice limits but rather possibilities; the world becomes your backyard where its your for taking and exploring and enjoying.

Because my family emigrated to Canada when I was thirteen, I learned early on that in essence all people the same. Regardless of economical conditions, culture, religion we all want the same things. We yearn and work and love and complain and then we wake up to do it all over again. But you’ll never realize the core of that unless you wander the world for a little while and talk to a few people that at first glance seem very different from you. Travel gifts you that perspective.

My sister and I were in Prishtina,Kosova looking to catch a cab. It was a hot humid day, there was plenty of people in the streets and we had way too much luggage. A clear sign that we were foreign, spoiled and had money to spend. As we approached the parking lot where much taxi drivers wait in the scorching sun for customers we were the perfect prey. Just for a moment let me define the taxi driver for the Albanian standards: Men of all ages, looking to support their families by driving strangers in their private cars. You see the unemployment rate is 40% in Kosova and when it comes to a minority groups its even higher. People resort to desperate means to earn a bare minimum living and provide for their families. So needless to say when my sister and I approached the area, we had barely set foot in the designated parking area where they had all parked 7-8 men flocked around us with questions and bombarding us with their best rates. This is not uncommon: Something very similar occurred in Barbados. As my Canadian friends and I stepped out of the "Serenade of the seas" looking for a fun-filled-day in the city of Bridgetown we were greeted by the local men and women, carrying posters advertising their own tours, various flyers and a some strong vocal cords yelling the different "Best spots to see in Barbados". The screaming, self-promoting and the determination reminded me of the vendors of St. Jacob’s Farmers market in Waterloo, Ontario early on a Saturday morning.

Coming home and going back to work is always hard to do after a vacation. In fact, I wont lie; Monday morning consists of a few tears as I try to adjust to the drudgeries of the day to day demands. But as the days go by and I soak up my the experience of another wonderful trip I am once again reminded that I am exactly the same as Murat, the taxi driver, and a proud father of two, the young lady who provided us with a beautiful day of sailing and Dalia who sells me fresh fuit every Saturday morning. I wake up to go to work earn a living but I can do it less determination, less effort and perform "ok" yet still get a paycheck by the end of the week. Most importantly I am compensated enough not only to earn a good living but save up for travel. It is good dose of reality and a bittersweet reminder that I am one of the very fortunte people living in an overcrowded world who has the privilege to live the life I want to, make any choices I please and live the life I was meant to. That thought alone is certainly worth trying my harderst each day and doing my very best.

Photographer: Paul Idasz

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