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Hacktreks In Vancouver

Why can’t I be a travel writer and
stay at home I wonder?

Michael Sean Morris on Travel Writing

n the other side of the greasy window, in the shimmer of a heat wave that’s currently into it’s third month, a crowd of young backpackers are trudging from the hostel up the street to wherever it is they’re going, every one of them looking faintly miffed. I wonder if they’ve been prepared for Vancouver and her charms, which can be as elusive as a shape-shifter in a House of Mirrors...

Then, rather than continuing to ponder the drear of stranger’s lives (which, after all, is about all I do as a writer), I ponder the drear of my own. My mind wanders across an Irish bog, scattered with rain even in August, settles for a moment in the dusk of a mountain retreat near Lucerne, finally coming to rest on the prow of a 30-foot yacht gliding into Reykjavik harbour.

Vancouver Gallery Steps
© S North

Oh, to be a travel writer! To journey the world in search of the one destination worth seeing not already overrun by tourists, to see in person those places only described in books or captured for posterity by the world’s top photographers. It must be the most glamourous of all possible professions, not to mention lives.

That this envy comes over me while seated on a rickety stool at a hole-in-the-wall 88-cent pizza place whose name I can never remember on Vancouver’s decidedly down-market Pender Street is not wholly lost on me. After all, I do not possess the hummingbird attention span of the world traveler; I prefer to get to know a place, rather than be herded past it, handed a postcard and a pamphlet, then be trundled off to the next one by a student with a bullhorn. So why the sudden urge to trot the globe? Well, the pizza, delightful as always — especially for the price — is hardly risotto in Capri or paella in Ibiza, though it no doubt beats the Hell out of borscht in Minsk in every way. It could be simply that I’ve gone crazy from the heat.

That’s when it occurs to me that magazines spend inordinate (though always inadequate) amounts to send writers to foreign locales when there are writers everywhere already existing on discount pizza while foolhardily dreaming of bylines. Why can’t I be a travel writer and stay at home I wonder? After all, in addition to a tragic paucity of funds I am also too set in my ways to leave my stuff in the care of anyone else (even overnight), speak no languages but English, and am possessed of a stomach so touchy that merely passing one of those large wooden signs declaring "Now Leaving…" seems to be all it takes to inflict me with near-fatal diarrhea.

Since Vancouver seems to have no shortage of tourists in this summer of 2003, despite what the Board of Trade might say, and since these well-seasoned travelers seem to have no idea that they are aimlessly wandering around a city in which I still have to get where I’m going, why not offer myself as an innovative new variety of travel writer, the kind with the inside information that can only come from living in a place for years at a time? Personally, I think my idea of travel writers who don’t actually travel is revolutionary. True, it may not be as spectacular for the writer, but it just might be a little more insightful for the tourist. And after all, isn’t that the real purpose of travel writing?

Carefully I get up off the rickety stool, set my now see-through paper plate in the trash, and step into the considerably cooler air outside. Merging into the cosmopolitan yet apathetic swirl of lunching office-workers, ESL students, and dreadlocked skateboarders, I note the sun as it scorches the tops of the towers and smile at myself for having ever had such ludicrous thoughts.

The rest of my day passes with no further dreams of foreign places.

© Sean Michael Morris August 6th 2003 Vancouver
Rain in Vancouver
Michael S Morris

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