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Travels With An Airhead

Travel Like a Poor Man

— by Notch Miyake

Now that the riding season has opened, it is time to think about travel. There are three reasons to travel The first is purposeful travel, like going to a business meeting or visiting a sick relative. You need to make these trips, but they aren't always fun.

Then there's travel to escape from the reality of our everyday existence, like cruises, or luxury resorts, or Disney World. Fantasy travel. Tourism. It's OK, if that's what you need to unwind. It's better than cocaine and cheaper in the long run.

Then there's travel to experience new places, to meet new people, to learn and grow. If that's what you want, I have a few suggestions.

First, understand that travelers and tourists are different. A tourist already knows what he wants and is sorely disappointed if he doesn't get it. That's why Waikiki is like no other place that ever existed in Hawaii. That's why the music, food and dance in Waikiki are like nothing that ever existed in the Islands. Because, if you don't give the tourists what they want, they won't come.

For example, when I was growing up, we used to go torching at Waikiki, spear fishing at night using lanterns. There was no sand at Waikiki, only a shallow coral reef. The sandy beach was created by trucking-in sand from other parts of the island. Because Waikiki is a sandy beach to the tourists. Hawaii by Disney.

If you want to be a traveler, you must go without expectations, without elaborate plans. Just take aim and go. If you research and plan every move, you'll surely be frustrated. Your trip will turn into an exercise to fulfill your plans and expectations, not an opportunity to grow.

You should travel in the most open and vulnerable way possible. I believe walking is the best, but motorcycles are almost as good. Get off the interstate, off the beaten path, away from other people who are also going somewhere. Find local people in ma and pa groceries, gas stations and local diners. Trust them. If you are truly open and vulnerable, you will need their help. And they will want to share in your adventure. In these cynical times, a trip through small-towns anywhere in the world can be a refreshing experience. The towns themselves might be dying, but the people are still great to know.

Most of us can afford a few comforts on the road. The problem is that these comforts often isolate us from the very things we need to experience. They rob us of the challenges that make for memorable travel experiences. They isolate us from the people who live in the places we visit. Choose to stay at the Hampton Inn next to the interstate instead of a campground in a local trailer park, and you'll miss the sunset. Eat in the fancy Cracker Barrel instead of the Dairy Queen, and the only locals you'll meet will be the people serving you. Travel like a poor man. By that I mean, don't buy your way out of discomfort or trouble. Seek out the least expensive alternative. Allow shit to happen. Don't get a motel room when it is raining, put your tent up instead and listen to the rain drumming on the fly. Have breakfast in the diner suggested by the campground owner. The farmers having their morning coffee might ask you to join their table.

A final comment on risk-taking. Most of our lives are devoted to seeking greater security: IRA's, gated communities, seat belts, maybe even the war in Iraq. Yet we must still cross the road.

Walking through unfamiliar country is risky. Riding a motorcycle is risky. Crossing the road is risky. But across the road is a more intensely lived life. Starting across the road is a choice we can all make. If you are free, you can make that choice.

— Copyright © 2004 by Notch Miyake.

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