Coming back from a weekend trip to New York City, I am reminded of the difference between home and travel.
The first time I visited New York in 1990, it was a hug he pulsating threatening place. I was already in love with Atlanta’s MARTA train, so it was an honor to take the bus from LaGuardia to the 7, and then take the elevated into Manhattan. It was also terrifying. I had never been so far from home on my own, and was over an hour away from meeting my friend in Harlem. All I had for money was traveler’s checks, so terrified was I. I made eye contact with a homeless lady panhandling from car to car. She shot me a mean look, as I had no cash on me. Welcome to New York.
I was naive and incompetent. I did not know what to do with myself and saw danger of failure at every turn. Better to hunker down and not draw attention
That first night in Manhattan, however, was amazing. My neck was sore from looking up and around at everything I had never seen before. New York was genuinely new to me then. Its alien nature and personality dod not become familiar until I lived within driving distance of New York for a few years. Last Halloween when we were there, a couple asked us for directions in a Subway station. They though we were from there.
Once thrilling and unfamiliar, New York ha become familiar and even mundane. I do not miss the terror, but I do miss the attention it demanded from me.
The first time I visited Delhi and Rajasthan, I was terrified and attentive for much the same reasons as New York 15 years earlier. I could not get over the fact that I was half a world away from home. I may as well have been in space. I didn’t even speak the language, though I had an in. I belonged there because my wife, witting here beside me even now, was visiting her family and introducing me to here family. I was no mere tourist, but I was still new and shivering.
The second time we went to India, in 2014, we stopped off in Istanbul and Mumbai before going to a happy 3 day even in Delhi. I no longer felt out of place or in danger, even if it took me two day to leaner how to say “Thank You” in Turkish. Perhaps the accumulation of travels, and learning what to do and what not do taught me over the years what to expect in a lot more of the world.
This last trip to New York, we stayed with our nephew in the East village Friday and Saturday night, and pretty much spent most of Saturday at a picnic on his rooftop. My wife’s family came over, and we made small talk and grilled the day away. People time versus clock time is still a skill i am learning.
To travel infinitely and attentively is to be homeless. To feel belonging in New York Delhi, or a rooftop hundreds of miles away from the cats is a far better way to be. But I could not have made that place in myself without naive, uncertain travels.