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Traveling is like running, it hurts sometimes

March 28, 2011

Beggar in Kuala Lumpur fr

When I run, I feel free.

When I run, my mind randomly wanders through a maze of memories. On that unpredictable road my mind takes me, I experience flashes of past experiences. They make me smile. I also enjoy the landscape around me and I am able to leave all my worries behind.

Actually, running is like traveling. When you travel, you move in a flow of hapiness where new memories are created. Amazed by stunning landscapes, great food and new discoveries you forget about your daily worries.

But that joy of running, the wandering off of the mind can be disrupted by sudden pain. My sore knee or foot disturb my running process. Every next step hurts. Sometimes the pain goes away quickly, sometimes it stays to leave a footprint.

Running is like traveling. Just when you are in such a happy travel flow, you litterally trip over a beggar, a cripple, a young boy with scars, a man without legs and sight, or children playing in dirt. It hurts.

Suddenly you are confronted with real life. Poverty. Being a traveler in a strange country does not mean you can hide from seeing poverty, you cannot just make unwanted scenes dissapear. Not even if you travel with your children. If you don’t want your children to see it, sorry to say but Disneyland is a good alternative.

Being confronted with inhumane poverty hurts. Sometimes the pain goes away quickly, sometimes it stays to leave a footprint.

I understand (and I praise myself lucky) to live in luxury, being able to travel our fabulous world. I alone cannot change the poverty situation in a country. When traveling in poorer countries, prepare and accept that poverty is all around. Do what you think is necessary.

In India we saw disabled people in such a way that we were honestly scared to look at them. In Morocco we saw a man with no arms trying to make a living by painting (very beautifully I must say). We had our kids watch his art.

Children watching painter fr

The earth keeps turning and money keeps rolling. Differences between rich and poor are here to stay. When you travel and experience different cultures, you have to deal with the extreme. When we travel we don’t avoid it, even not when we travel with our kids. Sometimes we ignore, other times we talk about it. I hope it will show our kids how good a life we are living, once we return home safely, far away from the hurting.

Lady begging in Morocco fr

All pictures by Emiel van den Boomen

From → Observations

  1. Poverty was one of the things that struck me most when I traveled to Guatemala as a young child, and every time I’ve been back. As young as I was, I remember thinking how lucky I was to have what I had, to live where I lived (in a nice Southern California suburb). It’s still something that makes me very sad, and though you may help out an individual here and there, you feel powerless to help them all…

  2. Running and traveling are my favorites. Wonderful metaphor. I feel so happy running–especially in strange places…I remember tripping through traffic in Buenos Aires and feeling so happy and lost and free.

    “When you travel, you move in a flow of happiness where new memories are created. Amazed by stunning landscapes, great food and new discoveries you forget about your daily worries.” –beautiful

    And poverty–yes! I am so humbled by this. I read about #sxsw and all the other internet hipster conferences…and it feels a little false. There are so many beautiful souls in the First World, but there is so much suffering. 2/3 of the world doesn’t have access to comps/interenet. Live on the street. Beg. Suffer slow death without health insurance. I have to take deep breaths every time I travel outside of Brasilia–were the shantytowns and encampments are. Even within the city…well, it’s nothing like back home. Even during a recession

    Thanks for continuing to take travel writing to a new level, Emiel.

    • Mark,
      Internet hipster conferences, know what you mean. It is like preparing for a trip with all your new shoes, backpack and all electronic devices. And then you arrive in that poor country. That feels a little false. On the other hand, we should not decide to stay home. In that case there is no learning and understanding.

  3. A very thought provoking post. It’s so easy just to stick to main tourist attractions and not really look at what is going on around you. And definitely uncomfortable to have to confront reality. But like you, I’ve also come away from those situations with more humility and gratitude for the life I have.

  4. Seeing poverty- and mothers sending children to beg from me- in Mexico city when I was 13- changed me for life. I’m now afraid to go to India because I don’t want to see the poverty.

  5. A very moving post Emiel. In my opinion, travelling opens up your eyes to the (different) realities of people living in places away from home, sometimes offering a lesson or two if we choose not to ignore what we see. That’s the best thing about travelling, it gives us exposure to what is really happening around the world and has the potential to make us better individuals.
    P.S. You take wonderful pictures, as always 🙂

    • Tien, nice words: “travelling has the potential to make us better individuals.” That would be a great subject for discussing the benefits of travelling!

  6. Your writing and expressions are getting stronger, punchier and better with every single post. I can’t help but come here and read even when I hardly have time to spare (or read other posts from hundreds of bloggers, shhhhhh! Don’t tell anyone). Thank you for highlighting the stark contrasts in our world. And for expressing your view in such a modest yet subtle and thought-provoking way, Emiel. THANK YOU!

  7. This was a fantastic post. The analogy between traveling and running is powerful and it was great to read your reflection on encountering poverty as you travel. This was very well put and I saw a few of my own experiences in your words.

    • Hi Gaby, glad to see you here! For some time I was running around with the idea of linking running to traveling (maybe because I am currently reading Haruki Murakami’s book on running). I am glad you like it that much, thanks.

  8. Thank you for such a wonderful post. It’s so humbling and yet like you said, the world keeps turning. I think these experiences help us be better people? Hopefully. Very honest and lovely pictures. 🙂

    • @foodtable, I hope these humble stories make us think about how we live. This is just my small contribution and I am glad you like it that much!

  9. Like you first mentioned, every time I travel I forget about my worries. I created new memories trying out new food. Everything seem so smooth and fun and then I’ll ran into people who are in poverty and it makes me realize how lucky I am. For example, seeing the kids in Dominican Republic in two classroom school, but they’re happy and grateful they can go to school. I thank God for all the blessing we have in our life.

    • Hi Sarah, great to see you here. I guess every part of the world has its own poverty. The poverty in Holland is totally different from Asia, but it needs proper attention as well. I guess when we visit NYC soon, we will experience yet another kind of poverty. Thanks for your comment.

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