Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Usage of a Word, and the Witnessing of Lives Saved

I've been on twitter a fair bit this weekend, something I feel I can share with you, partly because I have deleted all spam accounts which were following us, which left me with a rather loathsome feeling of smugness, which has now fortunately left me.  But more importantly one of our tweets ended up in an ecotourism Google, alert which made me feel as though we're doing something of worth, in a very modest way.  

Anyway while tweeting, I saw how often the word traveller is used by people as term for a cool, independent (one L for our American cousins of course).  The word tourist would appear to have too many negative connotations for most people, the word conjures up mental images of feckless, camera-laden morons walking gormlessly around oversubscribed tourist hotspots looking for somewhere to have lunch.  

While the word traveller on the other hand, brings to mind people of intelligence understanding their surroundings, interacting on an equal footing on those around them, wherever they are.  A traveller is thought of as someone who can blend into their surroundings effortlessly, who isn't governed by schedules and who is knowledgeable about the places they visit.  

Many westerners who do travel, will have their own stories, in fact they may have, that many will have become oft repeated tales, about near misses and close calls, and some of them will have come close to death.  But I'm sure almost all their travels were undertaken as part of their own choice, not from pure desperation.  So with that in mind I want to expound the need to widen meaning of the word traveller.  

Prior to going out this last Friday evening I was watching Channel 4 news (the best television news by far in the UK) and there was a report from Tripoli.  The correspondent* had happened into a group of rebels who had found a group of black Africans.  The rebels claimed the men were mercenaries who had been fighting for Gaddafi.  The captives were in a state of shock, the fear on the mens faces was palpable.  Their eyes had that look of distance, desperate, unable to see a way out of their situation and the exhaustion of being in a heightened state of terror for a long time.  The men pleaded their innocence as best they could while not resisting the manhandling of their angry captors.  The men claimed to be passing through Libya and had just been trying to get across the Mediterranean and into Europe in the hope of finding work.  The rebels where convinced the men were mercenaries, who had been fighting for Gaddafi. 

The prisoners whispered and pleaded with the correspondent not to leave them, convinced they would be shot as soon as the correspondent left.  The correspondent said he would stay with the men, so that nothing would happen to them.  While the correspondent spoke to one of the prisoners the man asked if the correspondent could convince the rebels to let one of the men to take their captors to see the women the men were travelling with, who were taking refuge nearby.  After a brief conversation with the correspondent the rebels were convinced the men were not mercenaries, the men were released, given water and sent on their way.  

What has happened to those men since then, is anyone's guess.  Will they make it across the Mediterranean, are they now in the hands of new rebel group who are less inclined to believe them, who can say.  I hope they get somewhere safe, where they don't live in fear and are not exploited.  But this briefest of glimpses of these men's lives made me think they aren't just "migrants", a 'catch all' dehumanising term, but these men were travellers, on a journey.  Risking all they had, in the name of hope.  

So I appeal in a wider context to have the word traveller broadened back to include those who travel for reasons of utter necessity, not just to take time from their busy schedules to have experiences, or to brighten up a cut and dried career progression.  A traveller in the past often meant someone without much in the way of possessions and sometimes, someone in often in desperate need of help. I think one reason, many cultures offer the traveller hospitality, is perhaps the knowledge that they, one day may well be in far from home and in need of help themselves.  

*The correspondents name is Alex Thompson.  

Friday, 26 August 2011

The End of the Summer - And brief rant about the weather

Well, this it, the last weekend of the summer of 2011, and well despite some really gorgeous days in April (which is technically Spring) and a few good sunny days since then, it has by all accounts been one of the most typical British summers I can remember.  

For those outside the UK, the cliche of the British always talking about the weather is cliche which we truly deserve, but that is because it is such a changeable thing, we're always optimistic, the excited chatter as there was back in April, "perhaps it's going to be a really hot one this year".  Well no, it wasn't, and were we surprised, no we weren't, our lives spent in the UK had us prepared for such an outcome and although as spring sprang from the darker shades of winter there was even talk of a drought over the summer, as the winter this year had been one of the driest on record (just about every year is the something "ist" on record for something.  In fact there was talk of the whole of the British harvest failing, but we should have known that we got the dry patch in the winter, which helped make it freezing, and we'd have our rain during the summer, but one half of my family being farmers.  I was glad that the weather provided for the country and that we weren't left needing to import vast amounts of food which would doubtless had a knock on affect on poorer countries.  

But that still leaves how best to define the experience of a British summer in the minds of most British people.  I think everyone in England will know what I mean when I say that the expectation of the British people to summer is much like that of England football supporters prior to the World Cup.  (I'm not for a second confusing England with Britain, but using an example that is specific to England, to encapsulate a mindset of the British).  In the run up to the world cup (an England supporter can probably see where I'm going with this) every England supporter feels a stirring of the heart, a feeling that maybe this time, with a bit of luck, if we can just hold our nerve, maybe this time we can win it.  It defies all logic, the rest of the world knows that England isn't going to win the world cup, but somehow in the heart of every England supporter, there is an optimism which remains strong, but which in reality it is completely unrealistic.  The other home nations of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales (if they have played well enough to qualify) are concerned with doing their best, perhaps beating a good side in the qualifiers is the best they can hope for.  But they know, it's not going to happen.  But when as England inevitably gets knocked out, England fans turn to each other, all knowing they were thinking the same thing when they hoped for the best, and now the end has come, are thinking they knew this was the reality they'd stood in the face of right until this moment, but deep down it was a moment that they knew would come, and that ultimately they were ready for.  

So that's the reality of the British when it comes to being optimistic about the weather during our summers.  Just like the England football supporter, we know that in reality all the odds are against us, but we hope this time it's going to be perfect, the reality hits us. We knew in our hearts that it would.  

But then, there's always next time.  

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Travel Blogging and a severe lack of bare necessities

This being my first post and in lieu of any followers, as yet.  I am going to blog about something that may perhaps border on the trivial, but I think with enough examination is one of the great overlooked simple truths of our time among modern travellers.  

I want to draw your attention to something initially quite simple, namely the comfort of your own feet.  Travel offers the adventurous many heady releases, and at times lows that short of grief, we would not usually experience in our everyday lives.  Many things can happen while we are on the move, and at times when world is less than welcoming to us, it is a matter of great importance to carry the simple luxuries that can turn around the day which has gone bad, or even a day which has lasted for the last three.  

There is one very simple thing we can carry to make it easier on ourselves, namely, a good pair of socks.  I'm not talking about socks for everyday use.  These are your regal socks that the instant they are on your feet take you to the heady heights that Mia Wallace in a hundred years of foot massages could never hope to experience.  Too often it is the case that people want to free their feet from the cramped sweaty purgatory of the days sojourn.  But I recommend, once cleaned, aired and dried, slip your feet into the comfort of your favourite pair of socks.  

This has been my first post, hopefully it has held a degree of resonance. Take care of yourself where ever you are and remember look after your feet and they will look after you.  
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...