Every place is the same
This story starts with the senses - a sensuous story. It began with a sense of smell on a very warm spring Sunday in Tokyo. We all know how powerful odour is as a memory cue. Sunday, May 3, 2015 was a beautiful day. Sunny and hot. Hot like a summer day in Canada and so sunny that being outside hurts the eyes. The heat from the pavement and the chlorophyll from the trees combined to make the same perfume that occupies the experiences of almost anybody. If I had some Double Bubble bubblegum and a bottle of Cream Soda it would have felt like I was in Grade 5 in Guelph, Ontario all over again. I mean, there is no difference between a hot day in Tokyo and a summer day in Guelph. Tokyo is the same as Guelph only more so, perhaps.
I have said for many years that in my opinion every place on Earth is almost exactly the same as every other place. The presence of gravity and air constitute 99% of the comparison of any two places. Differences in language, race, religion, diet, fashion, ecology, politics, economics, etc. count for very little to me because I see them mostly as cosmetic. Of course, there is an entire industry built around making more of these cosmetic differences than they are really worth, and their propaganda has saturated our cultures for so long that many people actually believe it. I mean, they believe in differences that separate us, differences that require proactive behaviour - or, behaviour more proactive than I am apt to embark on.
Furthermore, the older I get and the longer I live in Japan the more people look the same to me. Different races, different sexes, different body types are all slowly blending into one homologous human being in my perception.
My position leads me to question the morality of travel in the face of those who proudly boast to me about their travels. Since every place is almost exactly like every other place the tourism industry that lures the wealthy to experience the world firsthand is based on a fraud. But it’s a fraud that the affluent enjoy, explaining that travel is a broadening experience through encounters with the most unexpected and delightful people.
The point is that this is planet Earth. Everywhere you go on planet Earth it is still the Earth, and we are all Earthlings.
I understand that, but my position is the result of my own experience. I’ve been around the world - literally - but I don’t talk about it much, partly out of my sense of privacy and partly because I’ve learned that no one particularly cares, after all. They care about themselves. I’m not a great fan of travel, but I’ve done my share of it and will do some more. I’ve travelled about half the circumference of the Earth by train, just to see what it looks like. I like slow ground travel above faster air travel because I figure that traveling a long distance deserves a long span of time. It’s a better way for me to appreciate my location. I’ve been to diverse places: Niagara Falls, the Rocky Mountains, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the remnants of the Western Front, the Great Buddha, Stone Mountain, the Dead Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Statue of Liberty, Red Square, and ... well, lots of places. Muskoka, Montreal and Cape Breton Island, too. Frankly, every place I’ve been looks exactly like the pictures of it in a book. Only the pictures are better because they are cleaner, fewer tourists are blocking the view, they don’t smell, and parking and admission aren’t worries. So if it’s only a firsthand experience of a place itself that is one’s justification for travelling I’m afraid it doesn’t convince me.
Fundamentally we are not different. If you look beyond the cosmetic differences in language, culture and time, at the root of our consciousness we are all connected.
I think people are basically the same everywhere, too. I remember going to work on my first day in Tokyo and briefly watching a father play catch with his young son in the street. It’s the same scene you can see anywhere in the world, any time.
The point is that this is planet Earth. Everywhere you go on planet Earth it is still the Earth, and we are all Earthlings. That's what's important. Fundamentally we are not different. If we look beyond the cosmetic differences in language, culture and time, at the root of our consciousness we are all connected.