Monday, October 27, 2008

Travelling in Style

Yesterday I had the pleasure of parcipitating in MINI's Motortober 08 Rally around northern New Jersey. Who says you have to go far to get the benefits of travel?

In this economy, it makes sense to travel locally, and participating in events like this get you out of the house and seeing places you might not have visited before, doing things you may not have done in a while, and meeting new people: all of which are benefits to travel. Of course, you're not immersing yourself in new cultures, but what the heck. Travelling for pure fun is good, too. :0)

Being in the MINI Rally was a blast... it was fun watching people's faces as first they see one MINI, then as they're pointing it out to their companion they see a second, and then their jaws drop as several more are seen following behind! I witnessed this three times, and several other times people shouted out "MINI!" as we drove by. It was hard to keep the entire group together when we were in towns, but there were at least a dozen of us as we pulled into the first stop for ice cream, and about two dozen when we pulled into a farm for some off-roading.

At the farm we went on a hayride, and saw up close some alpacas... silly little creatures that look like llamas. After that we drove through the fall foliage to the Montville Inn for an excellent late lunch/ early dinner... with a special MINI menu. All in all a fun day, and we couldn't have asked for nicer weather. And with a MINI, we didn't use up that much gas as we tooled around the countryside!

Cheers, JOHN :0)

PS That's my MINI in the third photo... you can just see it at the far right.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Loud American

Xenophobia, loosely described as fear or loathing of people or beings that are different from yourself. I've spoken here of why it's good to travel, such as it improves your brain, and your outlook on life. Like other travels, I should probably just focus on the good stuff, like great food, or excellent shopping when teh exchange rate is in your favor.

No, I have to intellectualise things, and what I should say here is that I think travel should become mandatory. People aren't going to travel because it's good for them unless you drop kick them on the plane and wait to make sure they don't get off again until the next stop. Okay, that sounds a bit harsh, but the world, great big place that it really is, is also getting smaller in terms of cultural boundaries. More and more each day we're forced suddenly with people who wear different clothes, eat differet foods, and more importantly have different views, opinions, and ideas. Eventually, tensions arise, and problems begin.

The cure, or at least delay to the problem, is of course, travel. More than reading a book or website, true travel immerses you in a new place, and you're forced to see things from other viewpoints. Being of English decent, I can blend in pretty well in the UK, if I keep my mouth shut. So I was sitting in a cafe in Bath one time, alone, and so quiet, when these Americans walked in... young kids, mostly girls, and fine examples of the American Teenager. Very loud and raucus, laughing out loud, making snorting noises, and pushing each other around as teenageers do here every day in every eatery in America. For some reason, though, this behaviour seemed unexpected in this little cafe in Bath, and people started staring, and glaring, the moment these kids walked in the door. Eventually, rolled eyes accompanied whispers of "Americans", and I smiled to myself since I was American myself.

The point here, of course, that even in a country where you speak the language, there are cultural differences. And even though teenagers everywhere could use a little lesson in manners, these kids were just having fun, and yet drew stares and whispers. Take this idea further, and you can begin to understand xenophobia. how many Americans reading this see nothing wrong with the teenager's behavior? I wouldn't, except for the fact that I was there, and everyone else in the cafe was quiet and reserved.

What I am trying to say is this: It is very easy to assume that you are always right and someone else is wrong, especially when all you know is your neighborhood, and you hav eyour neighbors to reinforce your world view for you. Travel to foreign countries can be eye opening when you see that not everyone loves America, or Americans, or our politics, or world stance. Did I tell the story about the guy in India who spit at me because he disagreed with Clinton's policies in Pakistan? I was told through a translator that since Clinton was my president, I must agree with the things he says or does! Well, talk about a misunderstanding, and a very scary situation!

It is also very eye opening, and rewarding, to see that people in other countries are also very much like us. Most people just want simpler, better lives, with a good roof over their heads, and a warm television to sit in front of. They want better lives for themselves and their kids, and are not always enmeshed in politics, religion, or anything else that makes us all different.

Wherever you go, you'll realise that people with very different lives can be very familiar to you if you actually see them with your eyes, and not through the filtered lens of the media. It's important to also see, though, that your viewpoint is not the only one, and no matter how sure you are of your beliefs, there are those out there who will strongly disagree with you. Both points are important to realise in today's global village.

I sincerely think travel should be mandatory for American students.... all students, not just those who can afford the Senior class trip that some High Schools offer. It would definitely help us to raise better kids who are more prepared to face the world.

Cheers, JOHN :0)

One of my cartoons about Bath, England. :0)