Future travels

I’ve always wanted to go to Japan, but it seems tricky to time it to enjoy seeing the cherry blossoms while there. Kind of like a friend of mine who came to New England from Switzerland hoping to see the legendary fall foliage…and missed it by 2 weeks. Nature is pretty unpredictable. Plus I think part of me wants to travel to the Japan I see in Hiroshige prints, not necessarily the frenetic Tokyo of the 21st century, and I’m pretty sure that’s not possible – short of someone discovering time travel.

Then there are always those things you never really knew you were so fascinated by…until you started looking more closely.  For instance – unique manhole covers. Yep.  Seems like a crazy reason to go somewhere, but since I love doing colored pencil rubbings of street pavers (Barcelona!), tiles (Seville!), and such (yes, I have a fantastic manhole cover rubbing from Prague, of all places), it’s got appeal.

These  covers make me want to take a trip to Japan and stand in the middle of the street, risking a car running me over, while I enjoy a close-up and maybe do some rubbings.

And while we’re on the subject, strange as it may be…these covers make me want to time travel to the France of yesteryear…and stand in the middle of the street, risking a horse and carriage running me over, while I enjoy a close up and maybe do some rubbings.

In the end, no matter where I go, I’ve realized after all these years that I have a very specific approach to travel – which is to wander neighborhoods without much of a specific itinerary at all and just try to keep my eyes open and see what I come across. I was just reading some articles on Study Abroad and the City from Frontiers for an upcoming API project, and realized during that process that I seem to be a 21st century female flâneur (some might say a flâneuse), as many conflicting realities as that seems to encompass. I find it interesting that my approach, which has evolved in the 15+ years I’ve been traveling, had its origin during my first-ever study abroad experience in Paris, the very city where flâneurs strolled 19th century streets, where Walter Benjamin explored layers of society with his Arcades Project, and where Guy Débord’s theory of the dérive (or “drift”) first developed.

Most places I’ve been in Europe and Latin America are rich territories for this sort of approach, but Doha really wasn’t for a variety of practical and social reasons…which is likely why my thoughts upon wrapping up this blog naturally turn to future travel opportunities.

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One response to “Future travels

  1. Keith Lambertson

    Hi V!, Great blog, thanks. re: flaneur, I think H. D. Thoreau wrote an essay on “Walking” which had a similar concept of detached observation. If you go to Japan consider seeing the Pagoda park at Narita (I think that’s the name), near the Tokyo airport. I was lucky to spend a solitary twilight evening there between flights. Very Hiroshege/Hokosi, and even the plants, ducks and cranes really looked Japanese!
    Best,
    Keith

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