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(Revised) The Armchair Traveler's "Someday..."

Well, it's about time. I finally shared a good conversation with a traveler under proper conditions: sun, no wind, cool temperatures, and elevation. There is something about elevation that makes man rise above the messy minutiae of daily life and look at the big picture.

The Little Valiant One vanquishes yet another peak in the Rockies

Perspicuity. In general it comes from traveling through time rather than through geography. But this was an exception because location made quite a difference. Glenn M. of and I stopped on a ridge and discussed the various syndromes that armchair travelers and the blogs that pander to them are prone to. 

Mesa Verde in front of our conversation.

We concurred that much of what is on travel blogs is not helpful to getting armchair travelers out of their armchairs. Endless discussions of details about a blogger's rig are intended to be helpful, but are they, really? Or do they reinforce the mistaken notion that vast, virtually insurmountable practical difficulties keep the armchair traveler in his armchair? How convenient! An excuse for postponing his liberation for another year. 

Let's look at some quotes from a wise fellow from 250 years ago. If nothing else, it serves as an antidote to the lack of perspective that comes from discussing 'where is Joe parked today,' or, 'how did she improve the storage cabinets in her rig.'  So we go to Samuel Johnson's "blog", that is, his periodical essays called "The Adventurer" (#126).
"Many, indeed, who enjoy retreat only in imagination, content themselves with believing, that another year will transport them to rural tranquility, and die while they talk of doing what, if they had lived longer, they would never have done."
From another set of periodical essays, Rambler #2: 
"It is so easy to laugh at the folly of him who lives only in idea, refuses immediate ease for distant pleasures, and, instead of enjoying the blessings of life, lets life glide away in preparations to enjoy them."

"to rouse mortals from their dream, and inform them of the silent celerity of time..."

"The natural flights of the human mind are not from pleasure to pleasure, but from hope to hope."
These are things to think about the next time you hear an armchair traveler or RV wannabee prattling on with the standard bullshit, "I wish I could live like you. Someday good old Fred and I will finally be living the Dream..."

The reality of living the Good Life of travel is undermined when the armchair traveler becomes addicted to the psychological trick of substituting symbols for reality and future perfection for real living today. Romantic escapism is the would-be traveler's worst enemy. This is the reason I rail against the seductiveness of the postcard blogs. They are supposed to inspire the armchair traveler to get out out of the armchair. But they might have the opposite effect because they offer the traveler an addictive drug of dreamy vicarious experience that replaces action and reality.

People are not willing to face the brutal truth about aging. 

They will not acknowledge how quickly people of standard retirement age have their lives taken over by doctor-appointments and by various limitations and fears. After all, that would be "negative thinking." Positive thinking is what they believe in, and for the most part that consists of sticking their ostrich heads in the sand about the shortness of life.

The best travel blog is one that that succeeds at 'rousing mortals from their dream, by convincing them of the silent celerity of time.' But I doubt that that is the way to maximize Google ad income or win the popularity contest of 'friends and followers.'


Anonymous said…
Why should armchair travelers be "roused"? Are we their keepers? I'm no wannabe guru, thanks. Let 'em sloth into the sunset of old age if that floats their boat. Who am I to judge?

My cure for any blog I think isn't doing it the way it "should" be done: don't read it.
Wayne (Wirs) said…
I so agree with your post Boonie. Mind vs Action. The Theory vs the Experiential. This argument can be applied to so many "teachings," and I am constantly reminding my readers to LIVE their spiritual beliefs rather than just talk about them (or as you point out, make excuses for not living them).

Living by example is a powerful technique, but I wish I could find a more direct one.
In fact, you HAVE found a more direct one. When you discuss getting your van ready to go, your ideas are expressed INDIRECTLY. They are also put into practice. And you wisely do not obsess over perfectionist details.
Randy said…
Well said Boonie---I love when you get in sermon mode. (had to look up the word celerity)
Consider the word, accelerate. The Latin root must be CELER, so you always knew what "celerity" meant.
Allison said…
Can't a blog just be an online photo album? It's good to have a record of where we were, when we were there, and what we were doing. As age worsens our memory deficits, the importance of a record increases.
If you are asking why a blogger needs to be a missionary, I guess there is no real reason why he need bother.
Well, that's not the theme of today's post, but OK: of course there is nothing wrong with a blog just being an online photo album. But it's setting the high jump bar pretty low. Why miss the opportunity to do something more?
Jim and Gayle said…
I started our blog as a joke and a diary for us and our friends who kept emailing asking where we were. We still use it when we need to "remember" something about the place. Gayle took over the writing as I just wasn't posting enough according to her.

So, we take the photos as a reminder of what we saw and what impressed us. I don't believe that we ever gave a thought to what some reader might be thinking about full timing in an RV and in the blogs that I have read very few have that agenda.

In my view we are all just killing time till we are dead so what difference does it make how we spend that time as long as we aren't hurting anyone. For the most part little that we do will make an important impact on anyone else.

We could talk about important topics like...

XXXXX said…
Well said, Jim. Bravo.
"Just killing time until we are dead..." Geesh, Jim. We are the first generation that had a chance to communicate like this on the internet, and perhaps we are the last due to controls and regulations. This should be seen as a precious opportunity for saying something more important than, "Wow, dude, awesome pix of that sunset!"
Jim and Gayle said…
There are times when I would love to engage in "discussions of important topics". That said, as we all know we can't talk about religion and politics without it being likely to offend.

Moreover, I have found most folks poorly informed but will nevertheless hold strong beliefs based on little or no information and who are unwilling to take the time to become informed.

I enjoy a meaningful discussion but seldom find people who will engage and when they do, should you express an idea that violates their own fervently held beliefs wind up turning nasty or disliking you.

In my view, our problem in part is what I call our tribal mentality. I enjoyed this article recently.

So, what will it be religion or politics, but, then again, they are so intertwined we can safely combine them. You go first.

Anonymous said…
Well, Boonie, you have given me an idea. I've communicated with several of my readers over the past few years as they moved from dreaming to making their dream reality. I should ask my readers to let me know how my blog has influenced them and whether they took action or are still thinking about it.

Whatever the case, I like the Amazon income!
Yes, it is virtually impossible to discuss religion or politics without irritating the "other side." But there is one thing that CAN be discussed without offense: talk about the premise of their argument. That does NOT mean 'convince them that their premise is wrong.' It just means to make the premise explicit rather than implicit, which it usually is.

Another way to do this is to phrase your opinions in 'If...Then' statements. IF I thought thought that X is true, then I too would believe in Y...'

I believe it is the premises that are badly founded.
edlfrey said…
Allison, a blog can be an online photo album but without captions I find them of very little value for ME. As the memory worsens the pictures become of less and less value. They may still be 'purty pictures' but I'm not so sure that they would provide much of a record for ME.
John V said…
No matter how good a blog is, the best discussions occur during a long hike or around a campfire with an adult beverage in hand!
XXXXX said…
I'm inclined to agree. A blog can't be any better than a good book. Yes, inspirational but that is the end of it. The stuff that matters takes a real relationship.
Of course, I suppose it's a great way to meet people, a beginning, but that's all.
It might be possible to think of more examples than the two in this post, of a well-intentioned blogger who over-emphasizes practical helpfulness of some type, whilst inadvertently paying homage to an exaggerated bogeyman of that same type. The result is the opposite of the intention: the reader becomes debilitated, instead of stronger.
XXXXX said…
Boonie, I'm not sure why it matters if people prefer to be armchair travelers or RV travelers who sit in front of the TV all day or if someone prefers to be a RV-wannabe who just dreams about it. Everybody chooses their own course in life and nowadays we cannot complain that lack of opportunity or information can be blamed if we don't like our lives.
People can often be dreamers addicted to the grass being greener on the other side. They'll never be happy.
I'm convinced that happiness is found within and a big part of finding it is realizing the limitations of our human thinking, the many ways we are gullibility and weak. Maybe some people just don't want to go there. Can you blame them?
I don't know if you can assume that the purpose of postcard blogs is to get people out of their chairs. Who said that anyway?
Every night I watch for the sunset. It is beautiful over the ocean. It is simply a moment of enjoying the beauty of the world. If I had a blog, I'd probably post these pictures but not for any reason than simply for their enjoyment. Maybe a little of "Wish you could have been here." (But not really.)
You gotta admit there are lots of people who like these blogs. Their comments can be huge. Jeez, they can even make some money off the poor folks who for some reason would rather support somebody else's adventures rather than their own.
Just be glad you are who you are. You are one of a kind and that is more than I can say for some.
"why it matters if people prefer to be armchair travelers or RV travelers..." I don't think it DOES.matter. But "toSimplify" and I were assuming -- rightfully I think -- that many travel bloggers have a Missionary Complex. We then mused over whether they were having the effect INTENDED, regardless of whether the intentions were right or wrong.

I am too humble, cynical, and realistic to think it is my job, as a puny blogger, to try to save the world. But I like thinking about and explaining things that seem odd or surprising to me.
John V, then put your money where your mouth is (grin), and get out here and hike and camp with us. (in the Moab area.)
XXXXX said…
And I appreciate those characteristics and agree they are accurate for you.
The "missionary complex" thing is pervasive, as I'm sure you know, and seems to be just as much a part of the human psyche as our love affair with religion.
Yes, there are definitely RV folks who are missionaries and one only has to wonder about their own psyches. I wonder about religious evangelicals as well or folks who believe what they read in the Bible as literal truth. That's the interesting part, I think, about our evolutionary brains....that we have this capacity as a species to perceive things in such vastly different and contradictory ways and BELIEVE it. People have willingly died for these beliefs.
I suppose there are the suckers out there who fall for it, RV style, just as there are suckers who fall for religious stuff. Whatever.
As I said, be glad you are different. I mentioned awhile back that your blog greatly influenced me to not RV as I certainly picked up on the grandeur promised by many who are on the road (and I have since found out some of their true motivations....their ads, etc. and ability to make money off the poor fools.) As I looked at my own impending retirement, it was a consideration. It would have been a bad decision for me personally. Your quality of brutal honesty saved me some cash and I am grateful.
So your quotes describe the folly, as you yourself did also. But explain it? That's anybody's guess and probably where those who see through it will branch out with varied explanations. I found my answer in learning about the evolutionary brain, the instincts, etc. That's good enough for me.
Gee George, you mean I'm a negative missionary for the RV "Dream." I'm not sure I'm happy about that! (grin)

John V said…
We're on our way. Still trying to suck the last few rays of Fall sunshine out of the northern Idaho mountains!

I'm always surprised you have not gone over to the DARK SIDE - to maximize Google ad income or win the popularity contest of 'friends and followers.' as some of your fellow bloggers cleverly have done, unbeknown to 98% of their readers.

But if you just wanna get people off of the couch...get one of these for your little helmet and i'm sure it will do the trick when you post the movies of your biking & trail adventures.