Monday, September 15, 2008

Travel and Disaster

With all of the recent activity of the hurricane season system that we are currently in I've been thinking a lot about disasters and how they affect me as a traveler. On the surface disasters can change your travel plans and leave you stranded. I certainly have my share of those stories but there are also the indirect emotional effects of disasters. It's these emotional effects are what I'll be sharing with you today.

Being a frequent traveler I am fortunate in being able to visit places that I never thought that I would get to see. It's inevitable that I will visit places that have at one point or may some day in the future host a disaster, natural or man-made.

When I visit a new city I can't help becoming at least a little attached to it. Something there will stand out, the people, the culture or the buildings. I walk along the streets and get lost on the public transportation systems. I take away these experiences that are uniquely mine and in doing so I become connected to those distant locations.

These connections make disasters to a familiar location a much more emotional experience. I was in New Orleans just in April, long since Katrina had past through. I did take some time to reflect on the event while I was there and it was quite moving. When hurricane Gustav rolled through I was reminded of shops I visited, people I met and things that I did. It all comes back to me in a rush. I remember the people that live and work there, I think of them and I wonder how they handled the evacuation. I realize that I could have been there for this event if the timing had been different.

A month after the Minneapolis bridge collapse I visited a nearby university on a work assignment. From the building where I worked you could see what was left of the bridge. The site was maybe a 30 minute walk from my hotel but I didn't visit it. As interesting as it might have been I just couldn't take that walk.

I first realized that I how strong these emotional connections had become when the London Tube bombings occurred. One year prior (to the day) I was on the Tube riding it to the airport. The suddenness of the attack brought my mortality into focus and it was difficult to concentrate that day. It's a little difficult now just thinking about that day.

I understand that bad things will continue to happen to good places and to good people, but life must go on. We can't stop living, hunker down forever and become hermits. There is a great big world out there full of wonderful things, it would be a shame not to see some of them. I shall continue to travel and while doing so I shall be respectful of the past while being mindful of the the present.

Are you similarly influenced by the places that you visit? Does tragedy snap you back to streets once traveled?

Note: This was a special bonus posting and not part of the weekly post schedule. There will be another post on Wednesday as scheduled.

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