The title quote is from a reading we all did: an excerpt from "The Art of Travel" by Alain de Botton. I think it's fair to say that our whole group has been thinking about this trip almost constantly since even the beginning of the past semester. As de Botton wrote about, anticipation is, to say the least, high. It's always hard to know what one is anticipating. Simply speaking, I can't wait to see the trees in Berlin, the bookstores, and to be in a town where essentially no one knows me, and I don't know anyone. Past that, I don't know exactly what this trip will be like, and that is exciting.
Because my anticipation and excitement for this trip started months ago, I have spent a lot of time (probably too much) thinking about what it means to actually travel. I really loved reading what de Botton wrote about anticipation. This phase of traveling is just that: a part of the process. I think, for me anyway, this period of time beforehand lets my imagination get perhaps the best of me, resulting in not quite what I expect when arriving to my destination (in this case Berlin). De Botton, who writes about Duc des Esseintes, a character from a novel by J.K. Huysman. Des Esseintes plans a trip to London and, after a fair amount of thought, doesn't go as to prevent disappointment from the inevitable discrepancy between London's reality and the London he came to expect in his head.
Des Esseintes never traveled past that experience (which did not include travel), and seldom did before it. Poor guy. With anxiety that would today probably be diagnosed as some disorder, he stayed in his home for the rest of his life, creating visions of various places around the world without ever going to them, and perhaps without a true desire to ever actually visit them.
I think disappointment, or what might better be described as deflating confusion, when arriving and living in the experience of traveling is a key part in understanding what it means to visit a place that is not home to us, but to other people. We seem to idealize other places that are really no different than our homes. Looking past culture and its preceding history, cities, towns, villages, etc., are all homes. It may be simple, but to me that realization has helped me make a lot of connections that seem simple and obvious, but it's taken me about 18 years to even think about this. The resistance that people like des Essenties exhibit towards the disconnect between reality and imagination in the world of traveling feel, to me, like an alienation of other cultures and a perhaps unintentional way of removing the humanity from other places in the world (though he is a fictional character, I imagine there are quite a few people like him in the world).
So, I guess I'm off to Berlin to see the actualization of the what my imagination has been brewing up throughout the past couple of months. Having been to Berlin just over a year ago, I have a small idea of what to expect. I can't wait to be in such a wonderful city with amazing friends, and a knowledgable and adventurous professor.
I will try not to make all of my posts this long! I don't know if having access to a place wherein I can publicly write about Berlin and all of its excitement is a great idea.... ;) only joking.