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Extremism as the Route to Celebrity-hood

I waylaid an RV buddy this morning at a cafe. His and my dog both went berserk. By the time breakfast was over, we had the world pretty straightened out. We also talked about couch surfing, a topic that was new to me.

In fact a European friend and I had just finished a week of informal couchsurfing, with them in my van, and me in the trailer that is pulled by the van. It worked. I am curious about doing more of it. At the very least it is one more reason to own a van as the tow vehicle, instead of a pickup truck.

Restaurant noise bothers me more than it used to. To escape, we went outside to finish our coffee. Up walks a woman backpacker, who my friend had seen hitchhiking a few miles back. Oh sure, we all know about the cultural fad of backpacking across the country in 1969, by young hippies. But people still do this? Women?

And she had done some couchsurfing, too. As my friend left, he suggested that I have a conversation with this woman, who was eating alone. But I didn't. 

Why not? Was it just because she was a lot younger than me? That her travel style seemed reckless and unappealing? No it was something more. It was her impertinence.

It's not that she was doing something wrong. She was polite, pleasant, and well spoken. (And had gorgeous eyes.) But I felt vibrations that she thought she was some kind of celebrity, who outranked us because her travel style was more extreme.

I was simply unwilling to play that game. Extremism in travel is no more grounds for admiring somebody than extremism in anything else. Are they doing it for some kind of boost to their self-esteem?

Well, this young woman is doing something that works for her. I am not trying to correct her. Rather, I can see that a blogger like myself is also capable of coming off with an air of impertinence.  My style is more energetic than many more bourgeois travelers. From there it is easy to puff up, as if arduousness in travel is automatically a claim to some higher form of wisdom.


Ed said…
" if arduousness in travel is automatically a claim to some higher form of wisdom."

I'm not sure that arduous travel gives someone an automatic claim to higher wisdom but it has historically been granted by those that did not travel. Arduous travel may have started as far back the Exodus with Mosses being granted a higher wisdom by his followers. Or the Odyssey with Odysseus esteemed for his journey home more than his 10 years as a warrior in Troy.

I use those two examples from ancient history but the same pattern holds true throughout history; Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta were two great travelers that were held in high esteem in their time. Or perhaps Isabella Lucy Bird and Freya Stark provided the models for the more extreme female traveler that you met.

I think all those arduous travelers had some right to 'come off with an air of impertinence' as do you and the young woman.
John V said…
How times have changed. I hitched all the time as a teenager, but I never would now. The few hitchers we see these days seem to be trying not to get a ride. They usually look gross enough that I wouldn't let them in our truck (they're not even as clean as the dogs we commonly have in the truck). Clean yourself up, make a big sign that says "PLEASE", and maybe you'll be more successful as a hitch hiker. Either that, or be an attractive young woman. :-)
Indeed, when their head makes contact with your seat-back, wouldn't it be easy to transfer head lice?
Excellent comment. Indeed, many famous and arduous travelers have changed history. But they were traveling for a manifestly important purpose. They weren't just 'channel surfing', as I think our hitchhiker was.