Travel is a time waste. In a good way.

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We’re all too addicted to using our time wisely. What if we used our time badly. What if we waste time?

Americans travel less than say, Germans. Everywhere you travel in the world, from the highest mountain to the remotest jungle, you find Germans. Germans who out-hike you, out-bike you, Germans who have travelled further than you. For one thing, Europeans have six weeks off a year. Most Americans have one or two. Unless you teach for a living, you’re pretty much at your desk slogging away fifty weeks or more a year. But the other thing is that America is a big country. There’s a lot to see from sea to shining sea. We’ve got ice and snow, craters and valleys, slums and architectural marvels. You do not need to get a passport to be able to see much of the beauty in the world.

But many of us like to travel anyway. We want to see how others live. We want to explore. I have climbed mountains in Canada, tramped through Central America, taken buses through Guatemala and a long lancha (barge like boat) ride from Guatemala to Mexico. I’ve gone swimming in Greece and hiking in Ireland. But I’d like to see many more countries. I haven’t gotten started. I want to see more of the world and understand what makes people both different and similar. It will make me a better writer.

On the other hand, is it possible to travel too much? For me, there is. This year, because I have a book to launch, I’m travelling all the time. I have a reading at D.G. Wills in La Jolla this Saturday and one at UCR tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll have time to do as much creative work this year as I might like. When you travel, there is a lot of down time. I like to listen to music so I don’t get so impatient that I become rude, but it still isn’t easy. There is a lot of time sitting in airports and on airplanes when not a lot is happening. And that’s before you get to your destination.

One writer I know likes to complain that not enough people read his work (which is good) but whenever a new book comes out, off he goes to take another very expensive trip. Globe trotting can come to replace writing or marriage in giving you something to do.

Writing takes time and presence. You can’t always be running off to India. You have to sit down and do it. In that way, it’s a little like marriage. If you keep running off to India or Jakarta or Tierra del Fuego, you might come back and find you aren’t a writer or you don’t have a marriage or even that you don’t have a job. Writing is a relationship and relationships take work. They’re a lot more fun in the beginning but in the long run, it’s the middle parts that matter. Keep at it. That’s what I’m trying to do.

And God, I’ll miss Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Published in: on February 3, 2014 at 2:28 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. My daughter found Germans in Australia were the only people at the hostel willing to rise at 4 am with her to go visit the platypuses. I love the “spatzierengang” attitude, but I do think too much travel’s got to interfere with the grunt work of just writing. Keep at the middle parts, Kate.

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