I remember one sunny afternoon in the middle of city park of Waingapu. Got nothing to do, just wandered around the town, and stranded at the park. I ordered a glass of coconut ice to chill the heat. I saw traffic of people, foreigners with foreign faces and culture. I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. And what I did is nothing, just finished the breezing drink in my hand.
Suddenly, I remembered Jack Kerouac and Chris McCandless. And I looked back to the days I had passed in Sumba. This was my second trip after being graduate and the first as worker. I realized travel is never a mere euphoric lifestyle consumption in my youth days. It is something more. It is something I will repeat again and again in the future. I can’t imagine myself without travel.
I have made a promise once I traveled to Kalimantan by ship, accross Java Sea and Celebes Strait. I promised to stop travel if I don’t feel again the romantic and deep feeling about being traveler. I’ll stop if I realise travel can’t change myself and my life anymore. And I know it wouldn’t. There’s always a wisdom lies in every trip we travel on. What we need, I think, is perspective to see travel not only as superficial form of leisure.
Let’s go back to Kerouac and McCandless, two travel icon I admire most. That afternoon, what made me remember about that two men was the strange question in my mind. I asked myself, what is tourism, and what is travel? As I thought that two words are different. Tourism seems like more industrial, there’s many ‘rules’ in it. But travel is wider, it doesn’t give a fuck for rules.
To understand that, I looked back to Kerouac and McCandless journeys. Once upon a time in his trip, Kerouac lifted a truck full of bums. There were some teenagers headed to Los Angeles. Then, he asked them a question, ‘what are you goin to do in LA?’ A boy answered him, ‘we don’t know what to do in LA. Who fuck cares!’ That, the answer of the boy, was a sound of travel as non-tourism bussiness. Tourism never have ‘don’t know what to do…’ answer.
The similar experience happened at McCandless story. One night in Carthage, he had chit-chat with Wayne Westerberg. He told Wayne about his plan to get lost in Alaska. Then Wayne asked the same question Kerouac asked the teen bums, ‘what are you going to do there?’. McCandless, while hold his beer, answered, ‘Just living there, in that special moment, in that special place and time.’ For me, that was an epic words. ‘Just living’.
Tourism, ‘ruled’ by culture industry, never let a tourist or traveler to ‘just living’ in his/her trips. There always something to do, place to visit in a day, attraction to see, panorama to shoot, and money to waste. Breathing under the different sky is never enough. Enjoying the foreign-ness is not enough. Killing time and doing nothing and having a chat with local people is not enough.
But for me, that’s enough. Sitting in the middle of city park and having a soliloquy is more than any attraction tourism industry can give me. That sunny afternoon, I didn’t care about museums, beaches, photographs, stories, or anything else. Travel is just another life to ‘just live’, but in the different place and time. It may be an escapism from daily life routine, but it is a life too.