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Lying in bed late at night or waiting at the platform for the commuter train home, we often
daydream about where it would be so much nicer to be: perhaps the beaches of Goa on India’s
west coast, a little restaurant by a quiet canal in Venice, the highway near Big Sur
in California or maybe the Faroe islands, far to the north of Scotland. The desire to
travel is, almost always, sparked by a picture or two: a couple of mental snapshots that
encapsulate all that seems most alluring about a destination. A trip lasting many hours and
costing what could be a small fortune may be initiated by nothing grander or more examined
than one or two mental postcards. We travel because of a background belief that, of course,
the reality of a scene must be nicer than the fleeting mental images that take us
there. But there is something about the way our minds work that we would do well to study
before we ever pack a suitcase: mental images are momentary. That is, they last, at best,
three seconds. When we imagine a scene, we imagine not a film but, that far briefer and
in many ways far more forgiving medium, a picture. And yet, we are never in a destination
just for a moment and that brute fact alone may be enough to cause grievous damage to
the hopes that transport us far from home. We know the phenomenon well enough at the
cinema. Imagine if in the course of a story, the screen were filled with a sublime view
of ocean waves crashing against a craggy headland. We might sigh with desire at such splendour.
But if the camera started to linger on the scene, we might rapidly grow twitchy. What
is fabulous in increments of seconds can become properly maddening after half a minute. Two
minutes in, we may be so irritated as to be ready to leave our seats. It’s not that
we’re ungrateful or shallow, rather that we absorb beauty quickly and then want to
move on. Beauty is like a brilliant joke: we laugh, but don’t need the comic element
to be continuously replayed. The lovely mental pictures that get us to travel are – in
essence – hugely edited versions of what we actually encounter in any destination.
We will, eventually, probably see these pictures, but we will also see so much else, so much
that is painful or boring, dispiriting or mundane: hours of footage of the stained airline
seat ahead of us, the back of the taxi driver’s head, the wall of the cheap hotel, a framed
photograph of Marilyn Monroe on the wall of a little local restaurant… Furthermore,
there will always be something else on the lens between us and the destination we’d
come for, something so tricky and oppressive as to undermine the whole purpose of having
left home in the first place, namely: ourselves. We will, by an unavoidable error, bring ourselves
along to every destination we’d ever wanted to enjoy. And that will mean bringing along
so much of the mental baggage that makes being us so intolerably problematic day to day:
all the anxiety, regret, confusion, guilt, irritability and despair. None of this smear
of the self is there when we picture a trip from home. In the imagination, we can enjoy
unsullied views. But there, at the foot of the golden temple or high up on the pine-covered
mountain, we stand to find that there is so much of ‘us’ intruding on our vistas.
We ruin our trips by a fateful habit of taking ourselves along on them. There’s a tragi-comic
irony at work: the vast labour of getting ourselves physically to a place won’t necessarily
get us any closer to the essence of what we’d been seeking. As airlines, hotel chains and
travel magazines conspire never to tell us, in daydreaming of the ideal location, we may
have already enjoyed the very best that any place has to offer us.
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關於旅行的那些問題 (The Problem With Travel)

21549 分類 收藏
韓澐 發佈於 2017 年 11 月 12 日   Nana Chen 翻譯   吳昀儒 審核

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