Traveller, Deny Thyself

MikeachimThe Everyday7 Comments

Here are some interesting things about the word “denial”, regarding travel.

1. Denial is not a river in Egypt. (Ask this chap, if you don’t believe me). It’s spelled differently. This is why puns are all contemptible: they’re all about perverting our language to fit humour. Well, not in this blog.

2. Denial is restraint. When you’re travelling, everything is limited. Your time is ticking away, your budget is trickling through your fingers, your brain can handle a limited amount of novelty before you suffer cognitive burnout and sit slack-jawed until your mind has tidied itself again. The sights and sounds bombarding you may appear to be limitless – but you’re not. You have to be choosy.

3. Denial is constraint. The way to heighten one of your five senses is to deny one or more of the others. Want to taste things more intensely? Try closing your eyes. What you see colours your judgement of it. (Look at that – “colours”. Which is related to sight. There’s a clue, right there in our own language).

When you limit the flow of information going into your brain, when you bury some of those multitasked thoughts cluttering your imagination and your here-and-now consciousness…you can focus on the important things.

Yeah yeah yeah. We all know this. It’s akin to Gary Arndt’s comment “Content is king? That’s like saying the way to win a 100m dash is to run very fast” yesterday at TBEX ’10. But how many of us actively deny ourselves our “travel senses”?

And here’s what I’m getting at.

(And here’s what I’m writing about, for publication elsewhere).

You know how you forget your phone, and you feel strangely naked?

You know how when the Internet goes down, and you rediscover books and tea and conversation and staring out the window?

You know how when the electricity supply goes down, you rediscover candles and darkness and a curious sense of peace with the world?

You know how you forget your map, and suddenly have to rely on your wits and whatever visual pointers you can clap your eyes on?

You know how when you forget your camera, after you’ve finished hating yourself, you try to write everything down, making notes like you’ve never made before?

You know how you forget your phone, your map, your camera and your notebook, and you suddenly realise that your memory sucks, and suddenly think how wonderful, how right it would be if we were all furnished from childhood with a smattering of the skills of the great poets of the oral tradition, able to use nothing but our minds and our minds’ eyes to collect and craft our stories and convey what we see to other human beings using nothing but the bare essense of ourselves, working to the best of its ability, fulfilling its potential?

I can’t deny this thought intrigues me.

Images: topher76arcticpuppy and Mike Sowden.
  • Lan

    i like your handwriting, it’s very confident and exact. i dig.

  • I used to get told off for “printing” my essays. Always hated joined-up writing.

    But now I’m comfortable with it. Only thing is, I have a shorthand speed of perhaps 12 words an hour. Looks nice, yes. Practical, are you kidding? Need a shorthand class, methinks.

  • The first time I forgot my phone I panicked and then realized 10 years ago people could wait for me to call them back. I have no phone now and love it.

    • No phone at all?

      See, I like that idea, mainly because it makes me sweat at the very thought. Which means it’s a challenge.

      Phones are a biggie. We’re so spliced to our telephonic other-halves these days that the thought of deliberately, literally disconnecting ourselves from our digital lives (now including the internet, thanks to smartphones) seems madness. Not only that, but somehow *dangerous*. “Oh, what about emergencies?” being used as an excuse to be fiddling with it 24/7.

      I like your example. Not sure I’m brave enough to follow suit, but I like your example.

  • Hey Mike, thanks for the shout out! Love the journal extract. But – I think I’m gonna have to blame you for the fact that I lost my phone just after reading this post.

    It clearly couldn’t possibly have been my fault.

    Yours, in denial, nx

    • Arse. Has it turned up yet?

      My nighmare scenario, that (see my reply to Ayngelina for confirmation of this).

  • First you must grow your hair very long and braid it in one braid. You must them wear things that have no buttons or zips. Drawstrings are OK, snaps are not. Shoes must contain rubber. Now you are ready to give up technology and think. After a few years you can come tell us what you decided.

    PS/ I try not to close my eyes when in foreign places. If I am already deaf because I don’t understand, I don’t want to also be blind.