Sunday, December 25, 2005

Hidden World

December 25 – Portsmouth, RI
The first thing to do when constructing your 20-something cliché is to equate your friends to a family. You can take cues from RENT or Reality Bites if it’s not immediately clear how to do this.

There is a burnt turkey or a flimsy Christmas tree and you’re all broke and happy.

So its Christmas day in Portsmouth, RI, USA and several elements of the narrative are falling short. There is no broken family or gaggle of bohemian friends. Just cousins and uncles and lots of food.

But when one cliché fails you can always look to another, and every returning backpacker will utter a variation of this sentence when discussing their return home: “The first week is great. You see all your friends and family, its good to be home. But then after a week…”

So yesterday was a week and Christmas is day eight, and now visions of Winona Ryder or Mark Cohen dance in my head. In my little cousin’s smile I’m strangely reminded of a Dutch girl in Rome, who hasn’t written back in a few days. In the bottles of red wine I’m nostalgic for French friends. But as Benny insists at the end of Act One, “Bohemia is dead.”

I’m unsure if it makes things sadder or less sad, but I’m aware there is no backpacking Bohemia for me to return to. Not mine anyway. The Dutch girl isn’t in Rome anymore…the Canadian isn’t in Spain…the German isn’t in Australia. No plane can take me back to the places I remember, because the people were the places.

I imagine the world now as a lonely place. I think of empty hostels and unfriendly bus stations. I think I picture it like people who haven’t traveled alone do: I imagine it being lonely because the people I know are gone.

I landed in Sydney on January 10, 2005. It was a sunny Tuesday but really it was Saturday. And every day for the next 26 countries and $20,000 was Saturday too. It was Saturday, December 17, 2005 when I returned. But the calendar was done playing games then and the next day church bells rang, and the day after that was a working Monday. So that world I discovered is hidden from me now. But in that false bohemian picture I see myself peaking in like a ghost, watching someone else still learning the straps on their backpack, watching them get comfortable in a hostel lobby, watching them step out of the week I’ve returned to and settle into their Saturday and smile at their first sight of this hidden world.


At 9:04 AM, Anonymous David R. Guenette said...

Nice piece of writing, sir. BTW, the trailer looks great.

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say, I enjoyed your film that was at the Cleveland International Film Festival. Great story telling and cinematography. I actually wrote a review and my experience at the festival as a volunteer.

see link below.

At 11:20 PM, Blogger What is in a name? said...

I love the references to RENT, few people really understand what that musical is really about.

I watched the special on MTV this weekend and thought it was amazing. I intend on getting the DVD so I can watch the entire movie.

You have really inspired me to, at some point in my life, backpack around the world. Having traveled to Europe when I was younger I became obsessed with the thoughts of leaving everything behind and taking off for a period of time. Thank you for sharing your trip with us.


At 12:58 AM, Blogger Canadia said...

I've just recently discovered A Map for Saturday. Last summer I spent 2 months (no, it's not a year) backpacking Europe as a single female. People thought I was crazy, but it was the best thing I've ever done. I made friends of a lifetime and discovered a side of myself that I didn't know existed. I've been home for a year now and find it slipping into a distant, but warm memory. When I saw this documentary, however, it brought me back to a place I had almost forgotten. The feelings that are described throughout the movie and especially in this blog touched me. Most of my friends that I met have drifted away, but there are a few that remain close. Mostly Canadians, but I do have one Australian friend who'll be visiting me this summer. I consider her family.
I just wanted to thank you for putting this film out for people like me. I hope it inspires others to make the trip themselves.


At 7:13 AM, Anonymous Anita Lichman said...

Years ago, when I was in College, I spent three months back packing through Europe. It would have been longer but we ran out of cash and had to go back to the United States and work off our debts!

Your documentary reminded me of the great time, places and people I met while traveling.

After that initial travel I caught a "travel bug" and spent most of my twenties finding ways to live out that uber exciting life abroad on the go. I joined the Peace Corps for two years (because I also wanted to help!) and spent time doing human rights work too. In between my travels I fit in things like graduate school and building a career in non-profit administration.

Eventually, my career got bigger and bigger and traveling for months/years on end was not my first choice. However, every year I take a big trip somewhere (sometimes more than one) I have never been. I also approach life where I live completely differently than I imagine I would have had I not traveled abroad on my initial European getaway.

Travel opened my eyes to varying paradigms that co-exist in the world. Travel exposed me to other languages and cultures and gave me choices I did not know I had as options. Today I still have a "travel bug" AND a stable base of which to fund and enjoy that "bug". I found a way to bring the adventure of travel to my life wether I am staying put or on the go.

May your own journey be as bright....

At 11:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep - ace blog and experience you've shared! I found you through your A Map for Saturday on the National Geo. Adventure channel, as I sit in my room in Kazakhstan! I need to update my blog. It's on the never-ending to do list! Good luck with your next chapter...


At 11:46 AM, Blogger Fiona said...

Yep - ace blog and experience you've shared! I found you through your A Map for Saturday on the National Geo. Adventure channel, as I sit in my room in Kazakhstan! I need to update my blog. It's on the never-ending to do list! Good luck with your next chapter...


At 5:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Greetings once again from Nepal! My name is Samriddha, a boy of 18, and i've always wanted to travel around and see the different places of the earth. I caught you on "A map for saturday" documentary on Nat-geo channel this morning, and i'm really touched by all that you showed and shared. I can only dream someday i'll travel around the world like you. But i can see the dream is just an illusion to me, something that is stretched very far... something close to unreachable...but i will not give hope, after all it's not about getting lucky, it's about attitude right? What you've been doing is a beautifully sketched version of a dream of a lot of people like me, here and everywhere. I just wish you all the best in whatever you do :)


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