Monday, April 11, 2005

The Importance of Travel

"The trip [to Europe in the 60's] was an experience that has informed the way I look at things. There is a world out there, and people don't look at everything the way we do. That trip taught me that everyone should get out of the country and see other parts of the world.

It's pretty sad that President Bush the Junior never had the intellectual curiosity to go abroad until he was in office. I still wonder how you can elect a leader of the free world who has never seen the world. For God's sake, the man never even made it to Canada. That's almost impossible. Even drunk on a bet you can make it to Canada.

If you don't go and see the rest of the world, you don't realize that they have something America does not---and that is culture. We don't have that. We are too young a nation to have a culture. The closest we come is when we leave yogurt in the fridge too long."

-Comedian Lewis Black, "Nothing's Sacred" (via a DailyKos' Cheers and Jeers post)

Heh. I especially love the reference to getting to Canada on a drunken bet. Over the course of this year, I've read two travel-oriented books by Tony Hawks, an English comedian. In the first, Round Ireland with a Fridge, he endeavours to hitch-hike around the circumference of Ireland accompanied by a fridge in order to prove the island's hospitality. After betting a drunken 100 quid to do so, of course (hilariously, the purchase of a suitable fridge itself costs him 90 pounds).

The second, Playing the Moldovans at Tennis, emerges out of Hawks desire to prove an argument that gifted athletes could not necessarily beat him at tennis, a sport he played reasonably well when he was younger. At the time, Hawks and his friend are watching a football match between England and Moldova, so the bet becomes whether Tony can play and beat all 11 starting Moldovans. And so a truly modern quixotic quest begins.

Both stories are marvelous examples of the power and glory of randomness. I am actually learning to row on the river Thames this week, a rather miraculous bit of randomness in itself. It is glorious.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank-you for these words about traveling abroad. At least one year abroad...anywhere..should be mandatory. Even when I explain and show the pictures I've made while living elsewhere to someone who has never been, they still, somehow manage to put their own Americanisms on it. You have to live, become, participate in another country...and be sad about leaving your new friends...before you can get a good sense of what is going on here.
Thanks again....

5:26 PM  
Blogger James MacDuff said...

Cheers, LK.

It was altogether fortunate that I ended up spending the 3rd year of my undergrad on exchange to Scotland, and subsequently got to backpack much of Europe.
The desire to return never left me, eventually culminating in this year at Oxford amidst fellow students from every continent. As these months come to a close, I find myself increasingly thankful that back in 1999 I ended up taking the plunge. It was the smartest move I've ever made, and has done more to shape myself and my worldview than anything else. I honestly don't remember what it was like when "Europe" was just another place on a map.

Do read those Tony Hawks books if you get a chance. You'll find all the magic of "living, becoming, and participating" in a foreign culture.

5:47 PM  

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