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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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No traveller here

FeaturesNo traveller here

by Colin Hyde

In his piece on Friday, “Spreading Your Wings”, Glen — not the 2N Glenn (speedy recovery, Glenn Tillett) – said it “blew” his mind when a middle-aged lady he was used to chatting with about the weather and other mundane things whenever they met at a coffee shop, told him that she had never left the neighborhood she was born in …“never been to a suburb, or out of state, or out of the country.”

Glen said he didn’t believe her at first. He then went on to talk about working with neighborhood kids who didn’t know anywhere but the slums they lived in, how mind-blowing it was for him when he realized “that there are people trapped in this jail without bars, not knowing that there are worlds other than those in their own cloistered minds.” He then threw the insult of insults to home types: “No wonder some people still believe in a flat earth!” I’ll just say to him, if you’re not on the incline of a hill or river bank, it’s flat where you’re standing, Brother!

Aha, Glen then goes on to, ehm, boast that he’s been all over, traveled far and wide. And from his vantage point he said he understands the ignorance that prevails in America (Glen is Belizean-American), less than half of them having a passport. I wonder how many Belizeans have a passport. I’m one who doesn’t. Oh, I had one, had to have one, once. Elaborating on the poor exposure of the non-traveler, Glen said: “If you don’t know, you can assume that there’s nothing better out there on this whole, wide, flat earth!” There, he said it again!

Hey, my seeming offended is made up, almost. For sure I can see the virtues in traveling, the exposure and the fun it brings. Looking at the fun part, a guy in the old movies said that making a trip when you’re young and broke makes more sense than making a trip when you’re old and rich, because when you’re old you’re too feeble to enjoy the show.

True, you want to get on that boat or that plane when you’re young, without limits on how much you imbibe, and without cares. But for people of color, in the traveling business it’s essential to have money in the bank account, or have sponsors. Only if you’re white you can travel abroad broke. Their parents most times have a fortune, so they can wire back home for loot if they get into something desperate. Ah, if you’re white, non-white people always think you have money, so if you’re vacationing in a non-white country, you have a lot of rope to play on before your “brokeness” wears thin, before you’re called out to pay your bills.

I think a personality trait for people with that wanderlust thing is a “me” bone that isn’t too small. That’s an observation, not a condemnation. This is a condemnation: There’s a piece floating around on social media that advises people who are retired – that means you worked for someone/a company in your time — to enjoy every penny they have in their accounts, and not worry about leaving anything for anyone, because those anyones don’t know all you went through to get what you have. I marvel that there are people living in countries like ours who buy into that. Sure, if you live in Sweden, a country where both sides of the bread are buttered, you have no need to care about others, because everyone is covered. That philosophy is a bad thing in a country like ours. That takes the “me” bone to the excess.

I have never been to the USA. But it’s in the back of my mind. I have an offer from my cousin, David Hyde, to visit him in New York, and if I make that trip, I’ll want to link with my cousin, Landy Belisle, who’s in Chicago, I think. I see David, not often enough, and Landy I’ve seen only once since he left Belize, when I was still in high school.

There are benefits to traveling far from home, such as seeing new things and meeting new people, firsthand, and being somewhere where “nobody knows your name”, and being somewhere where you can just forget everyone and everything you left behind, if you want to. And regarding the exposure, which Glen was focusing on, from my experiences just traveling and living in different parts of Belize I can follow his page there. I will insert that I think the juice you draw from short trips goes with your personality. For people who make friends easily, it must be a waltz. For people who don’t, I bet by the time they get into hellos the trip is over. Hmm, when it comes to meeting new people, people like me need a drink.

Despite traveling very little, I’ll argue that I’m not ignorant of the world. I’ve been to many places, in my mind. I have been all over, in books. And there’s not a pretty sight in the world I haven’t seen, because people with cameras go places to record all they have seen, and generous souls, all they have seen they share.

On a close thread, a brother from England said one can never really know a foreign language. So much of language is history, and context, and physical expression. Hn, by the time you learned that a thumbs up in certain parts is a thumbs down, or “boy yu bad” means you’re terrible, you’d already have been shot through the heart, or punched to a pulp. No, people don’t have to know you to shoot or punch you. Remember Huck Finn and the Hatfields and the McCoys, how those two families were in a generational feud and some of the younger ones didn’t know what they were really fighting about? Ouch, people are quick to get testy with you even when you’re in the same culture!

Okay, I think we’ve traveled far enough on this flat page, and we haven’t gotten into any trouble, I don’t think, so why not let’s stay safe and end this journey with this most enchanting meeting of a traveler and a home-loving fellow, and what would have happened if the home lover had yielded to the wanderlust.

No one could have mistaken me for a literati type when I was in high school. I picked up Kenneth Grahame’s Wind in the Willows after I overheard my youngest brother and youngest sister going off because some students from pre-year (I don’t think Belmopan’s Compre still has a pre-year) were complaining that they had to read that boring book. They were being quite abusive, so I had to pick up the book, and read it, to find out what juice that pair was saying my soulmates, those non-literati pre-year, were missing.

I have a single word for Wind in the Willows: delightful. There’s this chapter in which the hero, the Country Rat, “Ratty” to his friends, meets the Seafaring Rat, and the Sea Rat gets to telling Ratty all about his fantastic adventures — stowing away on ships, coming within an inch of his life while scurrying from the ship to some new port where they had docked, encountering blocks of cheese, drinking wine, brandishing his sword to save his life after stealing some dame, living a life where there’s never a dull moment.

You know, after all that, poor Ratty was mesmerized, and for some time all he could think about was shutting his house and heading to the shore, to find his ship and go get a taste of the swashbuckling life. But there were things happening in his wood, things he couldn’t walk away from, things that would soon have Ratty deep, deep in excitement too. Ah, if he had been out traveling, he would not have been in place to bring discipline to an incorrigible, conceited fellow who had become an embarrassment to his family and their wood.

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