Travel is seemingly becoming the new post-secondary education of choice. I know it has been so for generations, but it seems to be becoming more mainstream as the world shrinks thanks to the internet and home sharing and discount airlines and the travel network, among the many other factors. But after reading "On The Road" or any other beat generation work, I grow worried that the experiences are so drastically different that the effect really isn't the same. Over the last few years two new reality shows have really popped up and commanded the (short) attention spans of my generation: SnapChat and Instagram.
Now, don't get me wrong: I use both, I understand the purpose of both and I will continue to use both any vacation I take. My issue is less that they exist and more that people seem to believe their experiences don't exist unless fully documented. As I gear up to head off to Europe for two weeks, I look forward to journalling as much as I look forward to taking lots of pictures, but what is the draw of having a one minute clip of some innocuous event to be broadcast to the world? Especially when each one minute clip is created like the Weather Network's local forecast - every ten minutes on the tens.
I suppose I'm being the old man telling the young kids to get off his lawn, but man, it's so hard to not pay attention to people taking pictures of everything. People standing on chairs for the aerial shots of food; groups huddling together to take selfie after selfie until the lighting/angle/guy photobombing/bird flying past is just right; documentarians looking for the right local citizen or home for their perfectly phrased caption about "living life to the fullest" or some garbage; or everyone's favourite, the "I have to take a picture of EVERYTHING." Kodak loved those ones. Hell, those were all me to some extent - I have an entire external hard drive dedicated to photos I've taken with my digital camera over the last decade. Hundreds of megabytes for thousands of photos that I've reminisced on ones of times. As I complain about other people broadcasting their lives I get slightly embarrassed at my own private collection of beautiful images collecting digital dust, untitled images logged away in folders with nothing more than a date, forcing me to guess what the contents could be.
What's worse is that the journals are no different. Every vacation I've taken over the last five years has it's own Hilroy 80 page, college-ruled, three-hole-punched book, filed away in a filing cabinet, an aggressively ripped piece of painters tape with a scribbled Sharpie title. Memory is a scary thing. That's the struggle, ultimately. Whether we document every moment with a video, a photo, a poem or an essay, we all just want to remember the moments as they are. We watch our elders slip away, fudging dates and times, struggling to recall the places they've been, the things they've seen. But when it gets back to the television we create, the ten second clips that only last twenty-four hours, who are those realy for? Surely not us. Are they for you? Why do you care? Is it escapism for both of us? Do I want to project on you the fun I'm having so you can daydream about the fun you could be having? If that's the case, how odd that we think about everyone else being jealous about the fun we should be having (but aren't because we're too preoccupied creating these mockumentaries), rather than actually enjoying the moment as it is. What's worse is that we all clamour to see what everyone is up to. Double-tapping daydreams.
Every single bit of my being wants to leave the phone and laptop at home. A pen and paper should suffice, but that's not how things are anymore. Thanks to the global threat of terrorism, people are terrified if you don't check in every few hours. If safety isn't immediately communicated the worst has obviously happened. Or so so many of us assume. No one gets lost anymore. Hitchhiking is unheard of - on both sides. Would you pick up a hitchhiker? Probably not, so no one thinks to do it anymore. I'm excited to rent a car while away, using a paper map in a foreign language and see what happens. I hope we get lost. If only to see what adventure comes from it.
What's worse is the haranguing people get from the news watchers about the places we want to go. Terror strike in Nice! In London! in Barcelona! In Paris! Does that make them all off limits? If every mass shooting or bombing made that city off limits, then there would be nowhere left to go. Does this mean I shouldn't go to Berlin? To Hiroshima? To Normandy? Fear shouldn't dictate our travel plans. Then they win.
Speaking of getting lost, I've gotten quite sidetracked and don't remember what my original point was. I guess it's that I'm going away for a few weeks, to explore the physical places I've traversed in so many history books. I'll post pictures I'm sure, because you want to know I'm safe or want to be distracted from your own lives for a few seconds or because the irony of this rant isn't lost on me. It's adaptation to the new normal. The medium is the message and the message is everywhere. I'll be somewhere new and I'll post beautiful pictures to the internet, so that that somewhere becomes everywhere. With any luck, some of the photos will get lost along the way.