“The Poverty of Experience”

by A. Jay Adler on September 29, 2010
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Another one of those particularly good posts at the Atlantic yesterday, this one from James Fallows, or more precisely, mostly from one of his readers. This has been my experience, too, in travel, that every place I visit is transformed from more than just another place in the world into a part of my life, another hometown about which I continue to care and always feel interest.

I had a remarkable conversation with a very savvy woman who lives very close to the poverty line. The fear and loathing about world travel was appalling from my perspective as a global traveler. I studied first from travel books and then on the internet most of my destinations before I arrived and was constantly astounded by the rich experience of taking myself to a foreign place. Upon returning this place was forever in my memory and I always read any mention of any country, region, city, neighborhood I visited. I learned that a short stop to change trains was better than reading about it; a half day was always a pleasure; overnight stays meant a foreign breakfast; a week meant site seeing and a month meant getting to know what time the water cart woke you up in the morning and where the best bakery was if you could find it.

The person I talked to will never experience the places I have been except when a bomb goes off in London/England/NotUSA or an earth-quake strikes Tokyo/Japan/NotUSA. The poverty of experience is the worst poverty. Lack of experience of the world NotUSA is poverty on stilts.

For another time: why almost all of my “how to fix America” plans include getting large numbers of young people outside the country for a period of months or years, so that early in life they can have experiences like those the reader describes.

via ‘The Poverty of Experience’ – James Fallows – National – The Atlantic.

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