Hacktreks In Vancouver
cant I be a travel writer and
stay at home I wonder?
Michael Sean Morris on Travel Writing
the other side of the greasy window, in the shimmer of a heat wave
thats currently into its third month, a crowd of young
backpackers are trudging from the hostel up the street to wherever
it is theyre going, every one of them looking faintly miffed.
I wonder if theyve been prepared for Vancouver and her charms,
which can be as elusive as a shape-shifter in a House of Mirrors...
rather than continuing to ponder the drear of strangers 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
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 worlds
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 Vancouvers
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
Ive gone crazy from the heat.
Thats 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 cant 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 Im
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 dont 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, isnt 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
The rest of my day passes with no further dreams of foreign places.
© Sean Michael Morris August 6th 2003 Vancouver
Michael S Morris
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