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A Song About Travel

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Airport Drive, San Antonio, Texas

I want to write a song about travel.

About how it doesn’t matter how many countries you’ve been to or what camera lens you looked through at that far away place.

About how all that matters is when you step outside of the airport the first time in that far away place, the weight of the air is different on your shoulders.

About how the things you underlined in your guidebook or, no, bookmarked on whatever device you’re carrying around with you, in your pocket, in your backpack, they don’t matter.

What matters is that place that moment when your feet meet the ground in a strange place, that feeling of strangeness when you lie awake in a hotel bed in the dark.

The sound you hear is not your clock ticking on the living room mantel or your mate breathing from inside his own sleep or the occasional car going down your street, the headlights leaking through the place where you’ve left the curtains just a little bit open so you don’t sleep through the dark mornings of winter.

The sound you hear is the drunks getting out of the bar just across the street at 2am. When you get out of bed to look out the window, you see them standing on the curb, lit by the yellow mercury lights reflected on the snow. And below the window, a bus idles, hazard lights flashing. The glass is cold, the night is cold, the drunks are not even that loud, maybe not even drunk and the night is not the night you hear when you lie in bed at home, awake, your head full of pictures of whatever far away place you were last.

I want to write a song about travel.

About how it is so different now, so immediate, and how I appreciate that it is easy, but also, there was once a feeling of putting those little plastic film containers in envelopes and mailing them home without knowing what photographs they held inside.

And we folded our words into onion skin thin paper and mailed them, with exotic stamps, back to people who did not know where we were. We did not look into a blue glow and filter through sales pitches and Nigerian fortunes before sending a few words to our parents and friends back home. “The weather is good. The weather is bad. Yesterday, we saw the monuments, and we are well and healthy. Tired from the trip, but enjoying ourselves all the same.”

The aerogramme is lost, the postcard endangered. Even our visas are now bar-coded and read by machines.

But also. Today I can buy a plane ticket, should I chose, and 36 hours later, I can be in Berlin or Bangalore, stepping into air thick with smoke or cold or crowds and always,weighted with anticipation of signs I can not understand, of unraveling the simplest transaction of buying a cup of coffee and a sandwich.

I want to write a song about travel.

About how once, I just went places. I did not think of The Story, I just went to see and that was story enough.

About how travel feels like an object — Add to Shopping Cart This Grand Experience. A commodity of expectation. The architecture will be full of history, the locals will be quirky and kind, the food will be a challenge.

Later, I will tell you a funny story about how I could not eat guinea pig and the reasons had nothing to do with the taste, it was that I could not stop thinking about the time my friend had guinea pigs on her back lawn and they looked like toupees. And I could not eat a toupee.

I have never been where they serve guinea pig, so this story is not true. But it is a commodity of a story that could be true next month, or the month after because travel is an object and I can buy it right now, today.

Too much travel is fast food, eaten standing, instead of sitting down at 12:50, why 12:50, why not 12:50, to eat everything slowly, for as long as it takes and then, going for a nap. Or a walk during siesta time when the city is quiet.

I want to write about how that fast food idea feels un-right to me. Not wrong, but un-right, as though the color is off, there is static, the third string has a buzz, there is noise between the sheer unscripted joy of mystery and what is  really happening, and that noise is the voice telling us to capture, to keep, to document, instead of just letting it take its time to unravel.

Of course, there is no right way. You should go. If you can. I will not tell you how.

I want to write a song about travel.

About how I am a tourist and unashamed of that fact,  and how I like to go home after traveling.

About how at home I imagine the globe and my place on it now compared to where I was yesterday, or last week or last year, and where those places all are in relation to each other.

I do not know about music, not really, but it seems the closest thing there is to travel in its transitory nature. In that there is something happening and it gets all around you.

If you try to describe what it feels like to travel, you have forgotten something, I am sure of it. In the notes in the guidebook margin it says, “The alley, on the right” and maybe this is enough or maybe you have no idea what it means any more.

If you try to describe what it feels like to travel, you are blessed if you can come up with music, because the sound of a place is the closest to that feeling, the clatter of dishes from the kitchen, the noise of a language unknown, the approaching train, the people standing outside the bar under the mercury lights at 2am in the bitter cold snow talking just loud enough so you can hear the sound of their voices but you can not understand what they are saying.

This is what I want to write.

I want to write a song about travel.

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6 Responses to “A Song About Travel”

  1. Sean O' says:

    Please write the song!

    I’m currently digging the travel-inspired songs of Swedish indie pop star Jens Lekman: “An Argument with Myself” and “New Directions.”

    Sometimes travel isn’t all roses, and he catches that bittersweetness.

  2. I met a woman last weekend who took up painting to express how she felt about the places she had traveled. I told her that is why I took up writing. We both picked Cambodia as the most rewarding place we had visited. We embraced. We include you in that hug.

  3. Marilyn McF says:

    Perfect. Now all you need is the tune.

  4. cranky cyclist says:

    Yes, you should write this song. You have a way with words and the uke!

  5. Bryanna says:

    I say add the uke as you read and you already have! Love the post. Travel inspires the very best in people to come out… I stumbled upon another traveler’s blog (http://amiemicheleleroy.wordpress.com) who seems to get inspired in the same directions with stories and poems. Love it all!

  6. Erica says:

    I got a spoken word poetry feeling when I read this. Love how the words flow.

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