It is a well known fact that travelling involves moving from point A to point B. There is some kind of distance that is traversed - something or someone moves around. In the end, there is some kind of change in geography that occurs - where you started is not where you end up. That is travelling in the text book sense of the word.
Packed: It's never about what you take with you, only what you bring back.
If we go according to that definition, then today I will have travelled to at least 800 different places; I went from the bedroom to the bathroom, bathroom to bedroom, bedroom to kitchen, kitchen to bedroom, bedroom to gate, gate to street, street to campus...You get the picture. If we use the normal definition of travelling, I will have visited more places today than some of the greatest explorers of all time. Jacques Cousteau and Sir Edmund Hillary better watch out.
But that is not the case. Travelling is not simple geographic displacement - it is not moving from the the couch to the kitchen to get a cold one or a peanut butter sandwich. Travelling, as I have come to realise, does not even involve moving - travelling is simply the act of immersing oneself in different cultures, social issues, language and discouse. If you have done any of that today, then you have travelled.
The reason I bring up travelling is because I wake up everyday tired without a plausible explanation - it's not like I scale mountains everyday (although some of the hills in Rondebosch do put your glutes through their paces) and the last time I checked, I was not racing in the Tour de France. So why the fatigue?
I think it is primarily because since I became an RA (residence assistance) I have been travelling to Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Baltimore, St Louis and many other places in the United States day in and day out. In some instances, I can go from New York to LA in the space of five minutes. The Concorde and Superman together could not beat me for speed if their mothers' lives depended on it.
So what shady ways do I have of traversing such great distances in the blink of an eye you might wonder? It's called conversation.
It is not expensive and stressful; no booking queues, no worrying about accommodation, no worrying about what creep I will be sitting next to - none of that. Just good old fashioned word exchange. It's amazing - in just two weeks, I have seen a baseball game live, I have been to the Superbowl, I have been to Times Square, I have bumped into Kanye West in a high end fashion boutique, I have had to brave ten feet of snow in Chicago, I have been tackled in a game of football and best of all, I got to go to a high school prom.(I am slightly ashamed to admit that I have always wanted to go to one. I narrowly lost out on kissing the prom queen though...Oh well...)
I did all of this without even moving out of my house.
Direction: The places I have been to when I speak to people cannot be found using all the compasses and maps of the world.
The reason why I have been in and out of the United States without Homeland Security screening my passport is because the US came to me. Literally.
A few weeks ago, the Spring Program of CIEE Cape Town brought students from the US over for a five month exchange program that would see them living, studying, playing and experiencing life on this side of the world. When I was interviewed as a potential RA, I was asked all of the usual run-of-the-mill questions: What are your interest? Are you outgoing? How are you with people? Do you have sober habits? You know, that kind of thing. No one ever told me that I would be travelling each and every day. If they had led off with that, I would have given them one heck of an interview! Suffice to say that I was chosen as an RA and a month ago, my CIEE life began.
I call it my CIEE life because it is so different from anything I have ever done that it deserves its own reference. I think I died and came back as an RA. Boy, am I loving it.
The past three weeks have been what I would call the true meaning of travelling. I have met and bonded with people from a foreign culture with different mindframes and planes of social and cultural reference, I have heard some interesting stories of the US, where they live, what they do for fun, what their dreams for the future are, how the see Africa, what their parents are like, what their friends dress like - all of it. I have been to the US without even leaving Cape Town.
Travelling, or at least the practice and reason for travelling is often misunderstood. Anyone can buy a plane ticket to the other side of the world - most people often do. But it takes an observant person to come back with a changed world view a more intimate knowledge of how other people live and make sense of their lives. Travelling involves moving outside of onseself - not just outside of a country.
Travel commercials often sell countries short - they show the geography, they never show the experiences, the lessons, the change and the thrill that comes with being in a different place. The idea of travelling has in some ways become so convoluted that travelling to a different town or suburb cannot be counted as such. It seems in today's high flying, fast paced world, anything less than 10 ooo kilometres will not count as a journey.
And therein lies the trouble. Because travelling is not about moving; it is about trying out peanut butter on apples even though you think it is a despicable idea, it is about learning the difference between coloured and black, it is about packing a small VW Beatle with a million people, it is about not having internet for three days and still finding other ways to entertain yourself.
That's travelling. I have not been to the US, but I can honestly say that in the past three weeks, I have learned more about the country and the people than I have in all of the articles, newspapers, websites and television programs combined. It has been an adventure thus far...and I am just getting started.
"So forget your passport, honey. Leave the sleeping bag and suitcases behind. Just pack up your mind and let's go. "
University of Cape Town: Postgrad LLB (Law)