Minako and I completed our travel bucket list when we put travel pin number 100 into the map. Didn’t make us rich, famous or beautiful but still it was a significant pin. In return for all that waiting at baggage claims carousels , customs lines and hotel check-in, we got four benefits that meant something to us:
A.) Curiosity Satisfied: Regarding those 7 billion other people sharing the planet with us at this time; we can’t connect with all of them but at least we can have an awareness. Who else is attending the planet’s party these days? How are they doing? Of all the life style options, what are we missing? Can we learn something from them?We were just tourists passing through. We can’t get inside their heads, but we picked up some tidbits. An example, my wife and I are easily impressed by gardens. When you visit Sissinghearst in Cranbrook, England or Ryoanji, or Kokedera in Kyoto, you get an insight into the handiwork of the finest landscape design on the planet. These guys are obsessive in their attention to details and communicate something.
Get tickets to a symphony orchestra performances in Vienna, Cairo, Tokyo, or Samarkand and you’ll run into folks you don’t bump into in the street markets. Attend the Reichstag Museum in Delft, Mori Tower museum in Tokyo, or Tajikistan historical museum- you quickly see what the locals most care about and want to exhibit.
You cannot attend the Calgary Stampede, the Argentine redo or the Kok boru polo tournament in Kyrgyzstan without knowing something about the horse culture of those people. It’s not the New England horse shows we saw as kids. Earth shaking encounters? No. A glimpse into a different world and enough to satisfy curiosity? Yes. The experience invites me to learn more and encourages me to ask better questions.
B.) Natural Beauty. History doesn’t record the first guy who witnessed the Grand Canyon, the Himalayas, Victoria Falls, or Tsingy geological formations in Madagascar, but those encounters by those pioneers must have shaken them up. We’ve seen the photos, films, and travel books of these monuments and we still leave breathless. Back home topography’s fine, but there is more.
C.) Cultural Baggage: Roman Law, Aristotelian logic, Christian guilt and the Renaissance: This is the baggage I’ve carried around without even noticing. Any visit to Asia, Africa, the Sub-continent and Polynesia make clear that folks there have done fine carrying their own cultural baggage. Take away foreign travel and it’s easy for me to forget that for each of us, cultural baggage counts. It’s who we are.
D.) Humor. Less serious, but still a fun topic is humor. We all like an unexpected punch line when it reveals a vulnerability, a repression or authenticity. Authenticity and vulnerability are different for different cultures. What convulses one group may do nothing for others. Nevertheless, it amazes me how strikingly different cultures share a common appreciation of jokes. Japanese Rakugo is a style of standup comedy done sitting down**. It’s origin goes back 1,000 years and has nothing in common with western humor. But when translated it still holds audiences.
That’s more than funny, it’s reassuring that, in humor, culture and sports, we share common bonds.**Look up on U-Tube: Rakugo, English translations