It is a particularly cold July morning in Den Haag, weather that makes you put on a sweater and dream yourself off to distant places. I am at the shop and the people coming in have a sense of urgency about them; No, they cannot wait for the order, they need their bag now, since the flight leaves in less than 24 hours. Stuck at work and stuck in Den Haag with the master thesis occupying my time, it is a bit strange to see the place emptying. Currently, my summer plans involve not much more than submitting a paper at the end of August and my eventual move, though that will hardly count as a vacation.
Yet rather fittingly, I have been running into all these people lately, which have seemingly spent the last years of their lives exploring the remote nooks and crannies of our planet. Doing so seems to be a part of the generation I am fortunate enough to be part of, yet somehow, I have missed the boat; missed being part of that movement to the places exotic and really far; that window of opportunity to go to Southeast Asia, or Australia, where I would swim with the sharks (or them with me) and eat scary-looking dishes composed entirely of things I have never seen before. So talking to these people feels a bit like hearing a song for the first time, one that everybody seems to know and wondering how in god’s name you might have missed out on it. I have a similar feeling about all these travel destinations that somehow I never made it to- it is not like I never wanted want to go, but somehow the opportunity never presented itself, and now it seems to be fleeting. What that leaves me with is the notion of not having seeing anything eastwards of where I live, and it makes me want to drop everything and catch a flight with those people who don’t have the time to wait.
In the grander scheme of things, though, all this has been an interesting insight in the way places are perceived, particularly those we have never been to. My friend Christoph went to Cambodia and upon returning recounted this story about a little round lake in the middle of the jungle, that was somehow only reachable by bus. Dirtroads and all. Chickens on the bus. Screaming locals. So when people mention Cambodia these days, I have the image of that little lake in my head. Mind you, without ever having laid eyes upon as much as a picture of it. The brain does interesting things.
So with the globalization reaching all the way into my head, does it add or subtract from that sense of adventure? I wonder that when these places in Cambodia, hell that very lake I curiously treasure without having seen it, suddenly become included in the Lonely Planet, what places remain that are effectively off the map? Where does one go to see a path that isn’t yet beaten, where hordes of tourists have not yet trampled down the jungle and created a market for souvenirs? I have been wanting to go to Iceland for years now, and it will in all likelihood happen later this year. Yet in the meantime I am having the hardest time wrapping my mind around the fact that even people I know have somehow reached that remote island, which in my mind had always been so far off the map; on the metaphorical edge of the world, dangling by a threat. Will it be a beaten path by the time I arrive?
In the search of authenticity, where do we go? Or should we stay where we are and realize that the real authenticity is right here, ironically embedded in this moment of reading someone’s blog, despite the fact that we wish it were different?