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February 14, 2013

Travel with a THICK open mind

Thick as a Brick? - picture credits:Viqi French/Flickr

This is my gift to all the lovers – and all the others, too – on this Valentine’s Day:

“Culture is public because meaning is. You can’t wink (or burlesque one) without knowing what counts as winking or how, physically, to contract your eyelids, and you can’t conduct a sheep raid (or mimic one) without knowing what it is to steal a sheep and how practically to go about it. But to draw from such truths the conclusion that knowing how to wink is winking and knowing how to steal a sheep is sheep raiding is to betray as deep a confusion as, taking thin descriptions for thick, to identify winking with eyelid contractions or sheep raiding with chasing woolly animals out of pastures. “ Geertz, C., “The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays”, p. 14

We do not have to be anthropologists when we travel, but what Clifford Geertz said in 1973 is pretty damn actual even today. By crossing this world with a preconceived idea of our culture as the lens through which EVERY other culture should adapt to our own travelling experience, we incur in the gross mistake of observing reality in what Geertz considered the “thin” aspect. Thus, thin becomes our perception of the world: “thin” is the travel experience we get if we gallivate around the globe by sticking with our own group, by enlarging the safety net of our experience to the thinness of a hostel and its dwellers. Too easy to try to understand the world through the demystifying lens of the English language, the Anglo-American perception, the thinking that by being there, in that remote locale, we have already established deep contact. Unfortunately, it is not like that. And things seem not to have changed in the past 40 years, and well, they have become increasingly more complex, as more complex is the fabric of the postmodern world. Next time, try to think if your effort is going towards the THICK, more than the thin.  We are humans and we have to make mistakes to improve ourselves; nevertheless, make sure you get mistaken along the right way. Make THICK mistakes. That way, you will feel fuller inside, and slowly you will prefer to stay rather than to go, because this is the real essence of cultural THICKNESS.  A whole different way to travel, looking inward, deeply, and all around you.

Posted by | Comments (1) 
Category: Notes from the collective travel mind, Travel Quote of the Day, Vagabonding Life


One Response to “Travel with a THICK open mind”

  1. Sarah Says:

    Damn Marco, that’s a profound reminder to anyone living in a foreign country thinking relocation and establishment automatically means they’re embedded in and therefore fully experiencing a culture. A post worthy of a bookmark – thanks!

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