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A Serious Traveler in His Own Country

I used to believe it just wasn't practical or possible for me to be a real traveler (as opposed to a sightseeing tourist). By that I mean somebody who visits different cultures, notices everything, asks fundamental questions, learns a language, takes on a part-time job, and shops locally. Expense was the first limitation, but there are others such as personal safety, health, and having to leave my dog at home. Many of the most enriching experiences would require the traveler to have a gregarious personality that could instantly charm a stranger's socks off.

Therefore it was a pleasant surprise to accidentally stumble onto the practice of performing at least some of that in my own country. The USA is not just one country. There is a rural/metropolitan split that is huge. When a camper goes out and disperse-camps, he even becomes more separated from the mainstream metropolitan-suburban culture of the USA.

And that sets up quite an opportunity for the camper when he comes in to the Big City after a long period in the back-country.  Each time I do this, I try a little harder to milk the act. It is pleasurable and challenging.  The opportunity is even more precious because it is short-lived: in a few days the backwoodsman will start to become inured to the craziness of the Big City. At that point, the travel-experience is over.

There are so many questions that pop into your mind the first couple days. Why do they do this or that? Why all the rushing around? How do they tolerate the noise? It is a life almost completely surrendered to phony pragmatism -- a life of chasing around after toys and status symbols.

You are tempted to spout off, but you know you shouldn't. The questions that arise in the camper's mind would be seditious if spoken aloud.  And the issues are vast. Normally a person procrastinates on a project that is just too big.

In order to knock it down to size, it has helped me to focus on the baubles and trinkets in a Best Buy store. That is the epicenter of techno-narcissism, noise, commotion, and hype. While walking through the aisles you can recognize one phony necessity after another.

But soon the magic wears off, and the backwoodsman becomes just one more meaningless termite scurrying around the termite colony. Now what? Now you must follow along, playing by the same rules as everybody else, more or less. Is this defeat?

The good news is that conformity on a tactical level need not carry over into the strategic level. An outwardly quiet conformist can be radically independent on a strategic level. It is difficult, but of fundamental importance, to appreciate this split between the Tactical and the Strategic.

You want an example? Think of Rhett Butler, in "Gone With the Wind." He acted the part of being a good Confederate when it was necessary. He mouthed the conventional platitudes. He even became a "heroic" smuggler who broke through the Yankee blockade. But he did so for his own profit. He worked for long-term personal success, and let the fools around him go to the devil. But he usually wouldn't come right out and say so.

That is a good attitude to have when back in the Big City.


I just keep the acronym *WWHSD* first and foremost in my mind when in such situations and usually escape unscathed.

*What Would Hans Solo Do*
edlfrey said…
Great posting today. The Rhett Butler analogy provided a great example. Although I don't live in the back country I am so out of the main street loop that I had to look up Hans Solo and have NO idea what kind of example he might provide.
I also didn't really know what Spotted Dog meant with the "Hans Solo" comparison.
John V said…
Behold with sorrow the noble Boonie, a majestic beast trapped and on display in a semi-urban, asphalt covered cage. Perhaps one day soon he will once again taste the sweet air of freedom.

Until then, enjoy the bike club, on-demand unlimited electricity, hot and cold running water, and the convenient Starbucks!
WOW Boonie

I just noticed when it comes to Dentists or dental care , there is a subject with which you have not flogged your readers with your wisdom, are you blessed with pearly white teeth and or free dental care ? Do do you have some wisdom to share about American & Mexican dentists and or dental care ?

Happy Thanks Giving
The water situation hasn't changed. Yuma water is so crappy and it is too complicated to separate drinkable (reverse osmosis) water from city (spigot) water. So I buy all my water and continue to take navy showers with it!

It's "asphalt covered" all right, and my road bike is happy for that. But it's no cage.
No biggie - I just like his attitude of laissez faire.
There are people who are more qualified to comment on this topic than me. I've only had teeth cleaning done, not major dental operations.

Besides, I would be more interested in wrestling with the question, "Why do mainstream RVers have such a fear of Mexico?" than I would be in the RV 101 stuff about going to Algodones. (naughty grin)
John V said…
I've spent a lot of time in Mexico, and I don't think it's a "fear" of mexico as much as a "why bother" attitude. Other than sailing in the Sea of Cortez or cheap dental work, there really isn't a compelling reason to go to Mexico. You can experience the same or better food, culture, and scenery without leaving the US. Save the fuel cost and stay in the US. It's not as if Mexico's tourism industry is begging "mainstream RVers" or anyone else to go there. If you want to spend a little extra money on fuel next year Boonie, skip the Mexico trip and come on up to Northern Idaho where we'll show you a better time (not that you were planning a trip to Mexico :-)
"...there really isn't a compelling reason to go to Mexico..."

Well, I guess I have come to the same conclusion, but only after being there a couple times. People who have never been outside the USA or some other English-speaking country might well find Mexico an intriguing place on the first couple visits.

Eventually, the disadvantages, the false economies, and the hassles tend to get the upper hand.
edlfrey said…
I tend to agree with all of what you say in your last sentence. However, dental work in Algodones is an exception to that when it comes to dental work for me. There are real economies and very little hassle.
In contrast to that I found that the hassle and economic saving were not worth my going to Ciudad Acuna, across the border from Del Rio, TX. Other people may not make that same decision.