Cloudy and rainy here in southern New England, although it appears it may clear a bit before the arrival of Ike, who is traveling his way up for a much-weakened visit. My girlfriend's traveling as well, visiting her parents in Bucharest to celebrate her mother's birthday. I had hoped to go with her, but my schedule last week in particular simply didn't permit it.
When we thought I might go, I was talking her into taking me up to the province of Bucovina in Moldavia (Romania), a place I've always wanted to see since reading Robert Kaplan's wonderful description of it in his Eastward to Tartary: Travels in the Balkans, the Middle East, and the Caucasus. Her response was a bit of wonder at why I would want to visit such a "remote" place, but I've always wanted to see the painted monastaries of Bucovina...
Travel has historically been considered a required educational experience in the live of a well-rounded adult. For example, the US is the only, of all the English language speaking countries, wherein the concept of a "gap year" is not extensively practiced. At one time, it was de rigeur for wealthy young English men (and women) to take the "Grand Tour" of the continent:
Young English elites of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries often spent two to four years traveling around Europe in an effort to broaden their horizons and learn about language, architecture, geography, and culture in an experience known as the Grand Tour. The Grand Tour began in the sixteenth century and gained popularity during the seventeenth century.
More recently, the sixties saw an explosion of young people who traveled Europe with backpacks on "$5 Dollars a Day." One of the guys who works the bar at my local, just graduated from college, spent a month in Thailand and is saving for a six month excursion through Europe and parts of the FSU. So, the tradition does continue.
There has been much discussion recently regarding the value of travel, particularly as it relates to Sarah Palin. There are opposing views on this, unfortunately many (although not all) seemto be colored by partisanship, rather than an objective assessment. So, for today, in the Lounge, I'd like to pose the following question to be discussed without reference to politics, but rather, perhaps, with reference to your own experience and opinions...
TOTD: What is your opinion of the value of travel in shaping a person's perspective, judgement, and world view. Is it still essential, was it ever, or have the virtual offerings of today's world superceded the requirement? Again, please do not bring politics into the discussion.
My opinion, based on my own experience of traveling relatively little as a young man, but extensively in middle age, is that travel is extremely beneficial in providing insights into the human condition. I'll cite a few examples. Observing Bosnian Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks interact in Sarajevo provides a perspective on the issues among those groups, the intense hatreds, the shared bond of a "Yugoslavia," that cannot be garnered from reading 1000 Balkan Ghosts. Walking the streets of Riyadh and observing Muslims in their daily routines similarly a basis for judgement that one cannot gain by reading the Arab News every day. Sitting in an out-of-the-way French bistro, filled with Gallois smoke, chatting with the locals, provides one with more insight into the French (and to a great extent, European) view of America that listening to American pundits translate those insights through their own filters.
Of course, we all travel our own paths and YMMV...