tastefully vagrant

why I hate itineraries

I’m never caught up, really. On sleep, on work, on postcards… I think it’s the tax of living everywhere and having a plan so little of the time. I read a questionably attributable quote once that said something like:

“To do great things you need a plan and not enough time.”

I’m not sure if I have much of either. But in the spirit of trying, I plan to catch up on my writing and put it somewhere. Some things I intend to share are long after the moment has passed, and have simply been collecting cyber dust on my google drive. People seem to get confused when what we share isn’t congruent with what we’re doing right NOW- the poison of instantaneity. But some of the best things I’ve ever written come after I’ve had some time to digest... You should never run a marathon after eating.

The worst creative block I’ve ever had came during my first five months of living in China. The experience was too foreign and too harsh for me to be able to translate what was happening to anyone back on planet earth (no, China is not planet earth). The heart of what I learned came after my return West.

Travel writing is a hard game to play, anyway, because many things aren’t worth sharing in the age of information saturation. Sadly, giving the play-by-play of my earth-shattering trek through a no-name village will likely fall upon deaf ears, even if it meant everything to me. But if I can somehow mine the ore out of these experiences and make it relatable to others, maybe that is worth sharing.

No-name village, Laos.

A ramble of iridescent word vomit about sunrise at Cambodia’s Angkor Wat, for example, is not worth sharing, and sounds more than globo-hipster babble than anything else. Plus, it omits altogether the part about how many other people with SLR cameras were doing the exact same thing. It’s not the sunrise over Angkor Wat, it’s getting lost on your bike in the dark, missing sunrise altogether and realizing that what you were fighting to see was really quite trite. And that thousands of photos of Angkor Wat at sunrise already exist. This is the plight of the modern wanderer: information in abundance- readily available to cheapen your experience in a fraction of the time it takes you to brush your teeth every morning (depending on your dental hygiene routine).

Missing the sunrise at Angkor Wat

A bit sad, yes. But it’s also why I have such a peculiar mix of abhorrence and love for a place like China. Jumping the Great Firewall to use normal websites here is a real pain in the ass, especially when you’re trying to research your next destination. There is also a heaping, China-sized pile of bull shit and mis-information on this frustrating-as-hell country. From the government, the media and Lonely Planet alike. The truth is, no one knows what’s true about China. Not seasoned expatriates, not the Chinese, not BBC, not Chinese government officials themselves.

From a traveller’s perspective, the mystery is just the fun of it. Because really, what’s fun about knowing the end of a movie before you’ve seen it? I don’t want the answers to China’s many riddles, I want to find them myself. No matter how disgusting the sound of my pollution-induced hack in Chengdu is, being back here forces me to be more improvisational and presents me with a new challenge everyday. Which is something I value.

Hitchhiking Yunnan Province