Green to a Blind Man

Final bits of packing – do I bring the Tevas or just aquasocks? Which phone charger? Do I have enough USB cables? I think these questions settle once and for all what kind of traveler I’ve become. Or is that just “tourist”?Jeff Greenwald distinguishes not on the basis of what you pack and where you go, but what your intent is, and how open you keep your mind. The tourist goes to see what they expect to see, while the traveler goes to see what they don’t expect. Or something like that. Google’s failing to dig the exact quotation up – I need to stop by the ‘plex before we leave and slap up the search quality folks for letting me down (No, no, I’m just joking – really! Please don’t cut off my query stream!).

Of course, it’s not just black and white, is it? There’s a spectrum there. To coin a new dictum, Every traveler is another man’s tourist. If you’re backpacking across the Thai hill country, you’re going to meet that guy who thinks you’re a dilettante for using Goretex and Vibram soles. At least – that’s what you’re going to worry when you meet him, right? Because we all want to be travelers, and none of us want to be tourists.

But in reality, he’s not going to be thinking that – he’s going to be grooving in his own trip, the way you’re grooving in yours. And if he is, to hell with him – it’s not a contest. Maybe you can share some of your satori with him.

Anyhow, D and I are just full tilt in pre-trip packing freakout stress. Stuff flying. Not at anyone, just around. You learn so much about your spouse under stress. And yourself.

She’d just washed all the sheets so we could come home to a fresh bed, and I tried helping by putting the pillows in their cases. There are, if I understand correctly, four different types of pillows, which must be matched to the three different kinds of pillow cases. To the best of my perception, there are big pillows and small pillows. Red pillowcases and white pillowcases. I fit them best I can, but my combinatorics tell me that there’s only a one in 16 chance I’ve got them right.

She’s never upset, just continually mildly incredulous. “You really can’t tell the difference, can you?”  “No, sorry.” “The soft vs. firm, heavy vs. light?” “No, sorry.” How to explain? They’re pillows. You put your head on them and sleep? Explaining the distinctions? It’s like explaining “green” to a blind man.

She gives me that look. That look that I remember from an Aztec Two Step song I heard one night in northern Vermont (which is a whole other story). That look that says “You’re all I’ve got – I guess you’ll have to do.” She smiles and shakes her head at this poor pillow-differentiation-impaired man, and together we resume sorting aquasocks and counting USB cables.

[Shortly after I posted this, Jeff Greenwald (no, I’m not name dropping) sent me the quotation, which he attributes to G.K. Chesterton: “The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” – ah, the scary power of social networks!]

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