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Avoiding the tyranny of the ordinary

Editorial: I am about to embark on a five month journey through Asia and I am frightfully unprepared. I bought an airline ticket to Hong Kong because I can’t decide if I should start the trip in Vietnam, Laos or Thailand. I have a sore arm from last minute vaccinations, a package of malaria pills and a weekend suitcase that I have yet to pack. My books will be electronic and in the interest of travelling light I bought the MacBook Air.

I’ve promised myself that I won’t take shortcuts on this trip. In other words, I won’t travel as if I’m still at home. For inspiration I’ve been reading a well-thumbed collection of travel articles by Paul Theroux. This is his earlier collection (Sunrise with Seamonsters), starting when he was with the American Peace Corps in Malawi. In one article (‘The killing of Hastings Banda’, 1971), he describes the rather dangerous trip he took through 14 roadblocks to Uganda to help a friend. The risk was worth it, he said, for it was better “than the tyranny of the ordinary.” Perhaps that is why I suddenly decided to sell my house and take this trip: to escape the ‘same old, same old’.

In another article (‘Stranger on a Train’, 1976), Theroux writes about the “the traditional virtues of travel” which he says “at its best is rather comfortless” and “never easy.” This is not the kind of travel where you “take your society with you: your language, your food, your style of hotel and service.” And “if it is to have any value at all…you go alone.” So that is what I will aspire towards.

Several travellers featured this month have successfully found ways to make ordinary lives quite extraordinary. Sue Landreville, a self-described bean counter who had never travelled internationally, found a way to see Africa though her work and the experience had a profound impact. Janice Gray, who earlier sold her business in Canada to teach music internationally, found herself suddenly unable to work because of her age but is about to leave for her fourth volunteer assignment in Egypt. She is 70.

There’s Barbara Reinhardus, who has taken tough and often isolated assignments around the world and who this month tells us about fabulous Lesotho. Alison Payne, who in other issues told us about her trip through South America, is about to leave on a six month assignment in Rwanda. I doubt her life will ever be ordinary.

So while I’m unprepared I will be in good company: the company of travellers. I can’t wait!

Sylvia Fanjoy

© Riding the buses 2011

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One response to "Avoiding the tyranny of the ordinary"

  1. Charlotte Fanjoy says:

    I think this is a powerful editorial.
    Many people share this view and try to figure out how to escape the “same old, same old” at different points in their lives.

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