I’ve been talking to a friend who is going on a bit of an adventure this weekend. I’m a little bit jealous, but happy for him. I haven’t been on much of a road trip in ages. I suppose I did go to Delaware in September for the Bocce Tournament, but other than that? Not really much of anything. The bocce tournament is an event that maps out our time tight enough that it’s not really much of an exploratory trip anyhow. It’s a rather sad state of affairs since I love travelling.
If nothing else I should be putting some effort into seeing some breweries.
In Shanghai I used to have the option of making up a trip for next to no effort. I would get on a bus I’d never been on before, ride it to the end, and just wander around, learning a new part of the city. I’d be connecting maps in my head and could usually find some interesting new places that don’t show up in guidebooks. Sometimes, on Saturday, I’d just get up and start walking, and I’d keep walking until late at night, covering the city on foot.
Let me just emphasize here that I love maps… in another life I’d live on a ship and be a cartographer.
I go places in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville, but I don’t forge those same kinds of connections. The city is so car dependent that you go by places that literally seem to have nothing between point A and point B, so it is hard for me to generate that same kind of will to go wandering around. Not to mention, as a whole, the city here is a lot less safe. There are places not to go, and I know some of them.
New York is a little easier, as it’s built for getting yourself around, and there’s so much. The density lends itself to some of that same feel Shanghai has. I don’t know where else in the US this works. The last time I was in NYC I had a great time pouring over maps, making sense of where I wanted to be, and getting myself around. I did that a little bit last time I was down in DC as well, but there a car is pretty much a prerequisite once you get to the edges of the area.
Last year I made it out to Chengdu in Sichuan province, and that was a blast, tearing through the city for a little over a week trying to get a sense of the place. It was infinitely more chill than Shanghai, but still a city. The people there want you to slow down, chill out, have a cup of tea and hang out. I also spent a few days in Shanghai, and that was more of what i experienced when i lived there, only there are more subway lines, and many of the places I used to frequent back in 2004 had been torn down.
Before that the last good trip I’d been on was up to Canada, putzing around Nova Scotia for 2 weeks. I adore Nova Scotia, and I’d happily be a Halifax resident if I could think of anything good to do there for income.
I find road trips fun, invigorating, and inspirational, even if it’s just a commuter rail ride up to Halifax. It’s very hard to look outside the box when trapped in the daily routine, but it’s a lot easier for me when I find a way to put myself outside of my normal realm of activity. I used to make myself do that daily in Shanghai. I got home from work and would run off to a teashop, or wander part of YuYuan, or stroll the less-smelly side of the HuangPu. I rarely went home, and if I did it was for an hour or so, then off even if it was just to sit somewhere and write for a few hours, or if it was to some cheesy place of Nanjing Road where i could blend into the background and draw people.
Why did i give that up? I don’t mean the city. I believe that mentality can exist anywhere, but i don’t explore here the way i used to. I don’t get up and go as much. I know part of it is school, I let it suck time out of me. Still, there’s a lot of time that it doesn’t take, and I just sit around doing little or nothing. I need to find that drive, because that was something that made me really happy in Shanghai, even though i didn’t have this crazy big network of friends. Now I seem to have a big network of people, and I’ve become shamefully lazy.