Lying in bed late at night
or waiting at the platform for the commuter train home,
we often daydream about where it would be so much nicer to be:
perhaps the beaches of Goa on India’s west coast,
or a little restaurant by a quiet canal in Venice,
or the highway near Big Sur in California
or maybe the Faroe islands, far to the north of Scotland.
The desire to travel is, almost always, sparked by a picture or two:
a couple of mental snapshots
that encapsulate all that seems most alluring about a destination.
A trip lasting many hours and costing what could be a small fortune
may be initiated by nothing grander or more examined
than one or two mental postcards.
we travel because of a background belief
that of course the reality of a scene must be nicer than the fleeting mental images that take us there.
There is something about the way our minds work
that we would do well to study before we ever packed a suitcase,
a mental images are momentary.
That is they last at best three seconds.
When we imagine a scene
we imagine not a film but that far briefer
and in many ways far more forgiving medium a picture.
And yet we’re never in a destination just for a moment
and that brute fact alone
may be enough to cause grievous damage to the hopes
that transporters far from home.
We know the phenomenon well enough at the cinema.
Imagine if in the course of a story,
the screen were filled with a sublime view of ocean waves crashing against a craggy headland.
We might sigh with desire at such splendour.
But if the camera started to linger on the scene,
we might rapidly grow twitchy.
What is fabulous in increments of seconds
can become properly maddening after half a minute.
两分钟后 我们恼羞成怒 恨不得立刻离席
Two minutes in, we may be so irritated as to be ready to leave our seats.
It’s not the way ungrateful or shallow
rather that we absorb beauty quickly.
and then want to move on
Beauty is like a brilliant joke:
we laugh but don’t need the comic element to be continuously replayed.
The lovely mental pictures that get us to go traveling
are in essence hugely edited versions of
what we actually encounter in any destination.
We will, eventually, probably see these pictures,
but will also see so much else.
So much that’s painful or boring, dispiriting or mundane,
hours of footage of a stained airline seat ahead of us,
the back of the taxi driver’s head, the wall of the cheap hotel,
a framed photograph of Marilyn Monroe on a little local restaurant…
Futhermore, there will always be something else on the lens between us and our destination we’d come for,
something so tricky and oppressive as to undermine the whole purpose of having left home in the first place,
We will, by an unavoidable error, bring ourselves along to every destination we’d ever wanted to enjoy.
And that will mean bringing along so much of the mental baggage
that makes being us so intolerably problematic day to day:
所有焦虑 悔恨 困惑 内疚 易怒和绝望的情绪
all the anxiety, regret, confusion, guilt, irritability and despair.
None of this smear of the self is there when we just picture a trip from home.
In the imagination, we can enjoy unsullied views.
But there, at the foot of the golden temple or high up on the pine-covered mountain,
we stand to find that there is so much of ‘us’ intruding on our vistas.
We ruin our trips by a fateful habit of taking ourselves along on them.
There’s a tragi-comic irony at work:
the vast labour of getting ourselves physically to a place
won’t necessarily get us any closer to the essence of what we’d been seeking.
As airlines, hotel chains and travel magazines conspire never to tell us,
in daydreaming of the ideal location,
we may have already enjoyed the very best that any place has to offer us.
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