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"Last Travel Journal" part III

This third part of the Travel Journal series concerns some general thoughts on Traveling and Resistance. This section also being a surmise on the idea of Travel contradicting the practice of Travel, after thirteen months of journeying around the Earth; in addition to visiting and experiencing so many different cultures.
New York was more than a final stopover: I was born here and lived here most of my young life. I stayed with old friends, and with some distant relatives that I ignored for so many years, especially while living in Europe. New York City became a further extension of my travels. I was discovering it again, and living a charmed life of telling travel stories; having people buy me beers and taking me out to meals. My last couch surfing gig was at a friend's flat in Brooklyn who I met earlier in Portland before this great traveling period. It was time to buy the final ticket. After around 13 months of Travel, I returned; and I did it: a 360 degree trip circumfrence around the Earth. I still had a little money (although in credit card debt) my bags, my sore backpacked back and my precious health intact; all my sense organs were overloaded and fondled at many turns, and I felt so wonderful about it. I was embraced by the pure ideas of Culture and Humanity - in every region that I explored. I was different from before, and still so much the same. A strange power and travel phantom was upon me - was I more alive?

What was alive were the openings of different realizations - enlightenments - I don't think it was so intense; only the essence of Travel came to light, and with that, the essences of certain other related ideas. The first idea, which seemed so attractive to me was the realm of Exotica. What was this Exotica? It was that mysterious other; the far away; the distant; so more erotic and freer; a kind of drug, potion or funky experience that I desired to partake in - or to control. When I think back to what constituted the exotic experience, it could have been those amulets, charms, statues, tokens and fetishes that were sold in the Asian markets, usually of Hindu-Buddhist-Pagan significance. But as I write, I notice the relation between the Exotic and the Erotic. There is that attraction; there is that mystery of the unknown - but as one becomes more acquainted with the attraction and truly partakes in some form of it, the Exotic turns towards the Acquaintance; what was once mystery now makes relations and connections to the known world. Thus, the Exotic is only a charm - for the unintiated; the point of good travel is to become well acquainted, and hopefully, on good terms with the ambience around one's self; the exotic will always be there in our sentiments; the Way is to experience it for what it really is - on its terms.

One main thought recurred often through my mentality while traveling. I realized that people are truly the same wherever one goes. People desire to survive; they eat, drink, shit and sleep throughout the day. Communication is basically the same throughout the world. People communicate often, and often on similar topics: directions, commands, desires, exchanges, feelings, ideas. Then there is the reality at the moment; most people work; move throughout the day and generally follow the system prescribed for them. How many people have the time and energy to resist all the crap that is put on to them? Most persons on this Earth accept the code - no matter how extreme or fascist it may seem to be; and in the end, it gets moderated by the typical ironic foibles of Humanity. Most people have families, meaning children; and once they have kids they tend to want to provide of them, which signifies putting food "on the table" as is commonly stated. Is there anything wrong with that? This majority of the world probably knows that the system is set against them; yet on the other hand, how can they deny alimentation to their children? Most parents do care for their own kindred. Some of them might sympathize with the resistance out in the streets; however, can they risk an arrest, beating or police/military style murder when they have a family waiting somewhere? This explains why it is usually a minority of young adult people not having dependents, yet having some type of backup money; who are able to organize some type of resistance to the Monster that rules. I think that this is a reality.

Another understanding made itself known to me. I started seeing this in Thailand and then in India it made quite a lot of sense. I noticed that many of the young hip euro travelers in Thailand were walking around the local city in their Indian lunghi outfits; of bright colors and with that funky neo-hippie attire; I just couldn't help myself from thinking - who are these clowns? And then I came to the conclusion, that I was also in this clown group. Here I was with this hippie Australian backpacker look; and man, the local Thai must think we were all a bunch of Freakoids. Was it only the young alternative traveling set that was in this group - what about the air con bus cruising, short wearing, camera slouching fat slob that hits all the historic touring spots from his multi star hotel - those guys were definitely on the list, no? We were all, and continue to be, on the tourist hit list. The difference between the tourist and the real traveler is a fiction. Although we youngens were probably cooler looking than the typical Euro touro hordes - we were still walking wallets (compared to the local who works long hours for for a few pennies) and of course, we all had little or no ability in the local language. We were allowed in these "exotic" worlds only for the fact that we could pay and that we had passports from countries where the people can usually pay for the idiotic luxuries that many of us are addicted to. I also discovered my true ego self: New York Asshole. How many times was I yelling, screaming, copping an attitude on the Indian people; when for example, a homeless Indian driver of one of those bicycle taxis tried to get a few extra rupees off me - when I paid for a train ticket and didn't receive a seat - when the bed sheets in the guesthouse where I was lodging had blackened oil stains on them. I was another first world traveling fool.

This sad, but terribly absurd reality came true one day when I walked through one of India's cities boiling over with its sickening poverty; I viewed a few rotten worm infused dog and ox carcasses; vultures, other dogs and untouchable caste people were fighting over the remains; on the other corner, I spotted dirty ragged, flea seared children collecting garbage from the street refuse, and then I saw a bright yellow sari wearing mother vomiting a horrible yellow and red mess while her baby was trying to suck on an inflated leatherly tit. At first, when seeing such horror, I was shocked and felt scared to roam the streets; but at that moment, I began to laugh. Terrible is it not: what can one do? And really, how many working class Thai or Indian people can just travel to Europe or the States; even if they had the money to buy the ticket, the Customs scum would detain, harrass and reject them back to their miserable lot in those wretched places of refuse Capitalism.

I reaffirmed my hatred for Capitalism and the State - all the evil state apparatuses of this mad world! I knew why we lived so well over here - in the First World - while our first world lying governments piss, bomb, shit, rob, fuck over and train their own bosses to murder them - just so our corporate owners can sell their cheap and superfluous crap in cheap markets all over the world. Not only are their products cheap, but we are all cheap in their eyes. What if we have no work, or starve, or we all end up in prison - what is it to them? And the worst thing I realized, this coming from my study of History, is that most of them get away with their crimes... it is not the triumph of their crimes - history is somewhat more bitter than all their nasty monuments and pigeon shitted brass statutes can afford; but they do escape from their crimes - this is also unfortunately true. The boss of Union Carbide, responsible for all the Death and slow dying in Bhopal, India still lives in his New York mansion; Henry Kissinger (President Nixon's and Ford's Secretary of State) responsible for so much Murder all over the world, still lives in his New York City penthouse. I am a true pessimist on the Human condition: I don't believe that Humans will ever supercede and overcome this sinister Diable that we have created. What, then?

The forms of Resistance that I liked the most were the ones where I had the most fun in. I liked the actions of Reclaim the Streets; resisting cops and cars, and everyone dancing in the streets. The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was great: everyone eating the dumpstered, and donated food that was cooked up in a large skillet; Aboriginal men singing with guitars, and just pissing off the security police by the Parliament building. Staying at the forest activist site was memorable. I met real interesting and engaging people - from various different backgrounds; I was able to touch and feel the ancient Eucalyptus trees; while I learned to cook some vegan recipes listening to some incredible stories of resistance and escape through the majestic forest. This is where I want to be in the Resistance: creative and at the same time, celebrating the Life that I now posses. Demos can be exhilirating, but I am going to diversify my talents from now on. I am free to do as I please in Life - and I will continue like that!

The way I feel now: I understand that I am a traveler for the rest of my life. I have yet to give up the enormous traveling energy that spurts rampant in my system. I like this feeling of inhalation; I am moving and communicating better; I want this to continue. Is it really different to move into an apartment and pay rent, or to travel into a new city, find a hotel and pay the lodging? With an apartment it is harder to chose the right one; I have more things, or crap, to take care of, and that tends to take care of me; yet, where is my home - do I have any True connection to the land around me? Repeatingly, I find that there is truly, a very light connection; I just tend to keep accumulating experiences and knowledge - an insatiable curiosity - to this almost endless journey around and on this planet. I might as well celebrate this traveling life, should I not? I desire that the traveler is the freest of them all; the Bedouin caravan, the hoboing Bohemian, the Gypsy Rom outpost, the cladestine Revolutionary, and many of the wandering thinkers know that they are closer to the freer element: these same ones that are slow to compromise; and in contrast, share some of that interior knowledge of the Way. There is true human dignity in this manner of Living.

As we reach the end, there is one final God or Form that pushes all to its wind swept hard stone altars; it is called by the name, Death. It invites the revolutionary with the state murderer; the boss with the wage slave; the parasite with the victim - none walks away unscathed from its embraces. In India I discovered its wondeful power, the soft entrance to end all suffering. It puts all to Rest. In the first world, Death is put away, imprisoned, drugged and persecuted out of sight; In India it is let loose to find its steps. What was first offense at seeing its languid, cool, pale and marbled face; later became the path to its acceptance. Its winding street is plagued with suffering, but then, quite suddenly, it makes quick introductions. It will even swallow Travel. This ultimate thought tempers the greatest of them.

Thank you 30.Dec.2003 22:52

Migratory Bird

I just read your three part epic trilogy of your travels and they were so wonderful. I have yet to take my extensive journey. I enjoyed your eloquence and your insight. I have so many questions. In asia did you have a hard time communicating. How hard was it to find lodging? In asia and africa did you ever sleep on the streets of cities? There were no dumpsters to dig in, how did you cut costs?

I am glad you are home safe.

thank you migratory bird 02.Jan.2004 03:47

KTLL

I want to thank you, Migratory Bird, and other faithful readers of my Last Travel Journal; even to those who did not comment. Often the lack of comment tells me more than the superflurry of off-the-hip opinions that are generally expressed on Indymedia news features. I would like to answer the three questions posed from the last comment. The first two are based on lodging, really, finding shelter. I NEVER had a problem finding shelter in Asia and in Africa. This is due to the extremely low cost of lodging in most of the world. (I only slept on secluded streets, parks and beaches, and did dumpstering in the first world countries of New Zealand and Australia). For example, the nightly fee for a small room in the Golden Triangle (Thailand side) cost me less than 2$US. This room included a clean bed, mosquito netting, a sink and enough room to lay down a backpack. The reality of doing a trip around the world is that the most expensive items are the plane tickets - this is absolutely true. However, I paid more for a night, in a disgusting room with shower at the Salvation Army in Bombay, India, than I would have paid at a Salvation Army in Portland, Oregon. I found that the worst lodging scams in Asia and in Africa happened in the big massive cities. This is obviously comes from the extreme forms of capitalism and exploitation that reside in those contaminated urban monstrosities. The more off the tourist pack locations, the cheaper and easier it gets to find decent lodging. By avoiding the late night arrival in a large Asian or African city; the trouble for finding shelter diminishes greatly. The third question is about cutting costs. The best way to cut costs is to work in Australia or New Zealand before one goes into Asia. This can be done in a variety ways, the usual way is to do a stint of fruit picking and tent living. One has easy cash to spend the first few difficult weeks in Asia. The other way to cut costs is to do a little work as an English teacher. All one has to do is to walk into the office of a local language school, tell them you are a native speaker of English (make sure you have a ironed buttoned down long sleeved shirt, tie, clean shoes and nice ironed pants on, or for women a nice blouse, and get rid of the punk-hippie look, meaning that you should remove your piercings, jewelry, and tie the dreads, or for men, ponytails in the back) and say you would like to do some classes that don't have teachers assigned to them yet. They will quickly show you to a class of basic English speakers. The pay is horrible. But if you really the need the funds, this is the best alternative. The main way to avoid costs is to take night trains, especially in India. Always remember to chain your backpack to your bed post. Avoid taking night buses in Asia and in Africa, many travelers have not returned from those trips, and those buses are the ones that are usually robbed by bandits. Other ways to cut costs are to ask for camping areas. The prices are usually more than half off. However, I once camped in north Africa during the summer months and the desert sun was unbearable at 5 A.M. in the morning, even though I was under a tree; sometimes, it is worth to take the regular room. And there is always volunteering at a center for street children or a hospice for lepers or the terminally ill, they will probably find you passable sleeping quarters. One can also go to the doors of the local monastery or ashram, tell the monks that you are interested in learning their meditation practices (hopefully you will be interested in their practices) and they will find you a small room to sleep in. They usually set no time limit, and they generally want some type of donation, whether monetary or helping out with local chores. As one travels, so one sees different ways to save on available funds.