Wednesday, June 10, 2009

on traveling.

(This was typed at the ATL airport, but I was unable to post it from there, because their wi-fi networks operate through various pay-to-play services. Boo. Edited again because now I've apparently forgotten my power cord. I know this trip is mainly to relax, but my two secondary goals are running and writing! What the hell is the matter with me?)

Traveling is a crazy different experience now than it was a mere ten years ago. And that's aside from the obvious differences like 9/11 affecting how Americans (although I'd imagine many countries already dealt with some of these difficulties that we think are so unique to us) have to go through security in a vastly different way. I've talked with many of my friends in the past about how flying was no long the romanticized notion that it was in the 60s and 70s, which I think is a rather obvious notion, but it's worth expanding (if briefly) upon:

The first time I flew after 9/11, I was going from Gonzaga to Georgia to protest the School of the Americas. (Sure, it's got a different name now but that doesn't mean it's a different place.) There was nothing romantic about the trip or the flight, but it was an important one for me to go on, because it put the next one I went on in such contrast. When I came home for Christmas break from GU after that trip, I was more excited than I'd ever been before to see my family at the airport, to have them pick me up and to have that wonderful reunion scene, immortalized in so many movies.

But when I got out of the tunnel (is there a word for that? The taxi tunnel thing that leads from plane to airport?), I was shocked to see no one there. I was one of the last out of the plane (I didn't care, I wasn't in a rush, I'd be home for a while, so I let the other travelers herd out before me) so I figured there wouldn't be much of a crowd still around, blocking my view of my mom and brothers. Boy was I right. There was no one there.

Now, of course, this seems normal. This is just how it is. You have to go outside of security to have your reunion. And yeah, there's still the reunion, so it's not like it's fundamentally changed, but it has in so many ways, really. It's just different. Now we get off the planes, we go through reverse-security and we all have our reunions there. Or we get picked up curbside. (What's the point of coming in, some people say?) Whatever it is. But it's not this anymore.

And that's disappointing.

But not my main focus here.

Obviously, I'm traveling now, and it's the first time that I've done so in a while. I used to go traveling quite often, either up to Spokane, for return trips to see my friends, a couple times over to Europe, etc. But when I left Albuquerque, I was shocked to think about how different it is. I mean, cell phones have been pretty ubiquitous for the last decade or so, at this point, but the prevalence of laptops, of smartphones, of iPods, etc... Wow. It was a lot to take in.

(When I got to Atlanta for my layover, another thought struck me: I love Albuquerque and I will defend it to my dying breath, but it really is a step below major cities in a lot of ways. Man, the ATL airport is huge! In fact, my BFF told me that it's the most trafficked airport in the world, by volume.)

But just think about the proliferation of technology and what it's done to aid travel. This isn't jut necessarily limited to flight, either. I mean, I make fun of those SUVs with the TVs in the headrests, but I'll bet the mom who takes her kids camping loves those TVs so damn much, it's hard to articulate. And yeah, we can look at things like that, and we can say that it's a bad sign for our culture, that we expect to be entertained at every instant, that we're losing some intangible things that previous generations had that we will never even comprehend, but I'd rather take the opposite tack: I know those aforementioned things are true, and I mourn those losses, even while accepting that I probably don't even know what exactly it is that I've lost, but I'm not sure that it's such a bad thing – think about all that we've gained. The world is a lot more convenient, sure. That's a good thing. But there's so much more available, too. I mean, if you're letting your kids zone out on video games 24 hours a day, you're definitely hurting them. But what about the possibility of putting on Sesame Street, like the President used to watch in his youth on newly burned DVDs? What about all the great things that we can do now? Previously, if someone liked the CD I was playing on my Walkman, I'd tell them to buy a copy. (Unless it was a local band, in which case they'd be screwed.) Now, if I have my computer and a flash drive (or if they have one – even better!) I can copy that song and encourage them to buy the files directly from the artist.

Travel is but one indicator of the world that we're living in now, but I will continue to say, as I have already: the future is a damn cool place.

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