Greenwich Free Library

September Newsletter

So Close and Yet So Far

It used to be that a trip of many thousand miles meant ships and horses and trekking into the great unknown. You'd wave goodbye at the dock and wonder if you'd ever see, or even hear from your loved ones again. Even in my, slightly less ancient, college travel days, an occasional postcard was all that could be expected. Long distance calls were expensive and, in some places, a real procedure involving third parties, reservations and special facilities. We were really away from home.

On my current trip to Japan, the the tech has advanced so far that travel is totally different . . . sort of. The most stunning thing so far came right at the start. The screen on the seat back in front of me had a map that tracked the flight in real time. It's one thing to know what the great circle is. It's another to see your plane flying over the Kamchatka Peninsula. My two concurrent and conflicting thoughts were: 1) Wow! The world is so big. Let's just keep going and see all of it. 2) Yikes! The world is so big. Can we turn this plane around so I can go back home to the comfort of the familiar?

The first part of the trip included our 21-year-old son and the tech was coming fast and furious. Maps and way finders, recommendations and reviews, translators and websites in English. I'm no Luddite. I booked everything online and have happily used the maps and translating apps from our Google overlords. These have all made the trip much easier.

But the best parts have been the human interactions - lots of pointing and gesturing supplemented by my crucial vocabulary: thank you, excuse me, delicious, beautiful and beer. People in this very reserved culture will not approach you but, in this very polite and conscientious culture, will do their damnedest for you if approached. The second best parts have been the little things we've come across by accident - lovely little parks, restaurants and scenery.

My thoughts about travel are hardly novel or profound but I'm glad I have the chance to think them: 1) Go! The scary things are often the best and the world is amazing. 2) Use all the tools - tech, paper etc. but don't forget to keep your eyes open for wonderful surprises.
3) Meet the people in any way you can. Their kindness makes the world your home.

Back soon,
Annie
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