BASED ON A FEW REQUESTS and the desire to spend these next few months quasi-usefully, I’ve decided to write and self-publish a travel book based on this four-month round-the-world trip. It won’t be just these blog posts — they’re frankly too lazy and short independently — but will instead be an expansion and detailed account of what it means to be an aimless twentysomething traveller in this skeptical modern world of ours, as part of a generation so consistently disenchanted with politics and economic opportunities that we’re mobilizing across the world to find new experiences.
It’s like this everywhere, actually. What I’ve learned is that the whole world over is in roughly the same state of mind: the Serbian graduates who struggle to pay rent or the Indian silk vendor whose brilliant mind can’t buy him a ticket out of the slums both resonate strongly with the collective Occupy Whatever/Yes We Can mentality of the past few years.
And while many feel trapped in their exotic home countries, those who can afford modern travel may be undertaking more of an almost altruistic redistribution-of-wealth quest than they realize. Take two polar-opposite countries, Iceland and Cambodia. I met people in both whose lives and families have been literally saved by a boom of tourists in the past 20 years. The Cambodian entrepreneur who is rebuilding his house with funds from a home-grown cooking class is not so different from the Icelandic helicopter pilot, single father of a 10-year-old girl, who was only able to quit his terrible job as a long-distance fisherman and monetize his pilot’s license investment because the Icelandic recession suddenly enabled tourists to afford the country.
It’s the same in Jordan, Brunei and Laos; there are people everywhere for whom tourism is not some soul-sapping industrialization and demolition of cultural authenticity (although, yeah, it is sometimes that), but rather a transformer of lives and a prominent export.
Those are a few ideas I’d like to string together, underscored by the personal journey of a kid who feels restless and wants to find a country he can call home. Hopefully the actual book will feel less tangentially explosive than this blog post was. Work in progress.
Though the journey is over, I’ll keep this blog around and update it every so often with personal notes or columns about international travel news. I really appreciate everyone’s support during these last four months, and hope you’ll consider reading the book this spring.