When I was a little kid I dreamed of faraway places and I was sure I would have “Seven League Boots” of my own and see all of them. My first inkling of the actual size of the world was taking the skis to China and realizing there was no way in hell I was going Langlauf in Tibet. It was too far, too remote, and, at that time, foreigners could only sneak in.
My great heroes — T. E. Lawrence, Richard Halliburton and Lowell Thomas — had accomplished their feats on foot (ha ha), train, camel, yak, bi-plane. Our world — big as it is — is considerably smaller than was theirs!
My good friend is out there now on a vacation from dreams. One part of it includes my entire bucket list. Well, the biggest and most impossible part of that list. There are really only two things on it. Langlauf in Yellowstone and visit Jordan.
I woke up yesterday feeling weird about it, a completely new feeling weird. I’m not good at all at identifying my emotions having been raised to suppress them. I’ve only lately realized I’ll act out without knowing why. emotions are fuel. (“Anger is an energy, anger is an energy…”) I spent the morning confused and weepy trying to figure it out then I realized. I want to go, too. Wow. So simple. Just exactly like a little kid who doesn’t get to go to the big kids’ birthday party at the bowling alley or ride Space Mountain.
Like that. Only I’m not too little for the ride. I’m too poor. Grrrr….
Envy? Resentment? Nothing that sophisticated. Just the sense of being excluded, not from what my friend is doing, but from my lifelong dream because of money.
Meanwhile I’m reading people dissing Bloomberg because he has money.
Feeling sorry for myself, I worked on my challenging painting of the potato cellar, cleaned house, rode the bike to nowhere, talked to a friend about how I felt which helped a lot to clear things up. Then I sat down and priced out the journey I would like to take and that was fun. Reality is a great thing — having options laid out in front of me by the grace of Mr. Internet.
Once I’d had a look at reality, I was fine. It was interesting exploring the explorations available. Some journeys are only for people from 18 to 35. Club Med? What? No, the idea is that only people of that age are something. I don’t know. There are some open to people between 18 and 70 (I’d better hurry). Some are open to people 18 to 99. There are some tours that start at $10,000.
I understood myself in a new and different way as I perused the options.
I saw the difference between me at 30 and me now. National Geographic offers adventures that involve activities that would have interested me when I was younger, but don’t now. I don’t want to visit Palestinian refugee camps, for one. I no longer see that as enlightened. I see it as patronizing. Suffering people do not constitute a zoo for my perusal on an outrageously expensive Middle Eastern trek. I also don’t want to sleep several nights in a Bedouin tent. First of all, it’s not that easy for me to get up off the ground (but I can!!!!) Second, none of the numerous Arabs I’ve known in my life want to sleep in a Bedouin tent, either. Besides THAT (and while this does not equal a journey to Arabia) the Saudis BROUGHT their desert to LA back in the 80s — literally. They filled an enormous exhibition hall with sand — sand from Arabia, not sand from Manhattan Beach. They built models of medieval ruins. Set up Bedouin tents and bazaars. Talking with a vendor that day I asked how real it was, and he said it was very real, except for the air-conditioning.
Also, by the grace of an Afghani refugee family with whom I was close in San Diego, I went on Hadj. Video Hadj. It was a very long and amazing journey, but Mohammed Ali Kabiri explained that it counted. “This is for those people who are so far away or too sick or crippled to visit Mecca.”
I thought of Richard Halliburton’s dream of visiting Mecca (he succeeded) and of Richard Francis Burton sneaking into Mecca disguised as an Arab… And here it was on VHS.
As I searched yesterday, I realized that my ideal trip is impossible. No one’s going to Damascus now or Beirut. I saw that tours to Jerusalem are very Christianity-focused (it’s the market) and I was wondering if there were a way to avoid that, even though I would like to see those places and am not at all antipathetic to Christianity, I’m not seeking a profound religious experience. If it happened, great, but that’s not the kind of pilgrimage I’m seeking.
In Savior I wrote about the Middle East. It took an incredible amount of very interesting research to go back in time. I started with T. E. Lawrence’ thesis on Crusader Castles. The hero of that novel — Rudolf von Lunkhofen — travels as a Teutonic Knight from Acre to Gaza to Jerusalem to the Qaddisha Vallen in Lebanon back home to Switzerland. To write this I had to learn about Jerusalem in the 13th century. The only map of Jerusalem I have is a medieval map, but I got to know that map very well.
Letting my “fingers do the walking,” my computer and I wandered around the virtual Middle East yesterday looking for a tour that I could afford that would take me to at least one Crusader castle. I was successful.
I checked the balances on all my credit cards — well, I’m definitely skilled in paying those suckers down. 🙂 Now it remains to be seen if I go or decide to let all this remain in the realm of dreams. Each option has value.