My head is pounding. I have a cold, a surprising turn of events because I haven’t had one since 2010. Sure, I’ve complained about a list of ailments I suffered from in India, but a common cold? Ghastly! It’s so… well, “common”. At least when I bled to death, my writing was soaked in drama.
My headache grew worse upon discovering something shocking in my world. I use the term “my world’, because truly, travel writing, blogging, and ‘living the dream’ is really what I do all day long now.
What I discovered this week was bad behavior. Travel bloggers pitting against travel industry people. Articles were written, which inflamed people and ruckus exploded. With social media, you post opinions, respond with a cheeky comment, which is returned in kind. Soon, low blows and nasty comments are being flung like poo in a monkey cage. Then, everyone storms off to stew in their corners.
I won’t cite specific incidents or rattle off names. I don’t even know how it started exactly. The fact is it did, and I’m sure you can relate. Maybe the association of engineers you belong to has a few misbehaving members or that new guy in accounting really isn’t a team player.
Right now, I act alone in the world and all this hoopla nudged me to ask myself, who do I answer to?
Going beyond a mere typed comment, which can be rightly understood or horribly misunderstood, is the real world of travel, of movement.
As a solo gal, I meet many long or short term wanderers.
Each group shares stories, tales of first person or third person, and I’ll be honest, some of these stories can be shocking. Just like I was shocked this week.
Yarns unfold of foreign guys inappropriately grabbing local women, because they can. Accounts of travelers cheating a shopkeeper or not tipping at a restaurant are told with glee. Even my own eyes observing “sex tourists”, prowling the streets of Saigon, seeking pleasure beyond reason or respect of another human being. Or sometimes, I meet people who are belligerent, angry or just plain miserable. I often wonder how you could be that miserable in paradise.
When you leave home and stay away for a long while, your behavior can change. Whatever moral compass you obeyed, whether grudgingly or happily, can be easily left behind or explained away in a foreign country. What was asshole behavior in Omaha is fascinating or unchallenged in Korea.
I then question what the hell I preach. Uttering pat statements like: “It’s a new kind of freedom!” Am I giving you permission to trample through a whack of countries and remold yourself as the worst, not the best?
Realizing this disturbs me. Especially being alone. I really have no one to stop me and casually mention, “Uh, Jeannie, what you said, what you did, so uncool.”
Then, I return to the beginning of why I chose this lifestyle. What is tantalizing about travel is its sheer power to pull you up like a weed and turn you into a blooming tulip. It’s intoxicating that I can possibly change, be a new person.
And in being this ‘new’ person, you might have to ask yourself some difficult questions. Have I become better? Is this who I really want to be? Is this the legacy I want to leave?
Whether we want to admit it or not, sometimes we are in fact running away from something. Could be ourselves, or just a place. It’s still running all the same.
As I jump up and down with pom-poms to cheer on the benefits of traveling and internal transformation, I also sorely missed something else. In changing, in anything, there is always a positive and negative side. It’s integral to decide, which side do you want to end up on?
See, that moral compass slips into your pocket with ease, and you can shape it anyway you wish, it’s a self-monitoring responsibility that can go sideways if you don’t watch it carefully enough.
So much to ponder, to think about… Oh, my poor head.
Can someone get me a Kleenex? My nose is running.