A few days ago this video floated through my newsfeed. It’s one of those Facebook-optimized time-wasters that follows a reporter for CNBC who “investigated” the lifestyle of digital nomads by spending a day at a coworking space in Bali, Indonesia.
It was posted to a Facebook group I’m in called Settler Colonial Ideas, where anticolonial leftists (and often hardline tankies) make fun of the ways that liberals reinforce structures of white supremacy, settler colonialism, and neo-imperialism through their adulation of “global communities” and “colorblind” race politics. The video was accompanied by a comment from the person who posted it: “this is fucking disgusting.”
A small family of tiny ants has taken up residence in the bowels of my laptop. They come crawling out from between the keys while I write. I lift my laptop to my lips periodically and blow them away. Other times, when I am feeling cruel, I flick them off with my fingers, knowing that some will leave their innards streaked across my screen.
It doesn’t really feel like I am killing them, because they just turn immediately into a liquid upon the slightest contact. How can something be alive if it’s so easy to return it to fluid?
I’ve always liked travelling because it treats the body as a fact, rather than a question.
Typically, my body invokes so many questions. What do I wear? What do I eat? How attractive am I? How thin? How fit? How strong? What do I need to deprive my body of, or glut it with, to make it more beautiful, thinner, fitter?
Travelling asks none of those questions. I eat because I need to walk all day. I wear whatever will keep me cool and dry. My body has an internal logic.
I like Thai massages for the same reason: they interact with the body with no judgment, just as a fact. A body is a set of interlocking pieces, like a Lego house, and every single piece must be disassembled, wiped down, and reassembled, the pieces clicking into place.
Yesterday, Chantelle and I reached Phuket, a big island clinging to the south of Thailand, lit up by a thumping tourism industry. On the hour-long drive from the airport down to Karon beach (one of the quieter ones) we passed Patong, the glittering, beating heart of Phuket’s tourism, with a Starbucks and a Hard Rock Café and Katy Perry music shaking the van. Phuket is not really my kind of island, but the rainy season has dampened the quieter northern beaches, and Chantelle wanted to swim and I wanted to write, so here we are.
- Paris, 2009 – cell phone
My second ever cell phone was a pink Blackberry Pearl flip phone. The one where you have to press every key three times to get the letter you want, but as a ninth-grader you could still write out a detailed analysis of Amy’s birthday party in ten seconds flat.
During a trip to France with my mother and sister, we decided to visit L’Arc de Triomph. I’d fought with my mother that morning, because she wanted me to bring a purse, but I refused because all I was carrying was my cell phone. My mother eventually threw up her hands and so I stuffed it in the minuscule back pocket of my tiny jean shorts (yes, very Parisian-chic, I know) and went on my way.
Halfway through the day, in the midst of a very fancy kitchenware store, I felt an absence around the vicinity of my left buttock. My phone was gone, I’d been pick-pocketed. To be fair, it can hardly be called pickpocketing, since the phone was begging to be pinched. Like a tomato that just falls off the vine at the slightest touch.
My mother was livid. I remember she swore that she would never travel with me ever again. (Ha-ha)
So I’m writing a blog post for my mom’s website, tentatively entitled Travel Websites That Don’t Make Me Want To Pour Industrial Bleach On My Laptop. But since her demographic is upper-crust baby boomers looking for luxurious yet authentic cultural experiences, hostelworld.com just won’t cut it.
Which is very understandable, but still a bit of a shame. I’m comfortable with travel websites that understand the lengths I will go to shave twenty dollars off my domestic flight even if it means being awake for 48 straight hours, and my complete willingness to sleep on a stranger’s floor. I’ve developed quite the agility in navigating night-bus and budget-accommodation sites, and a begrudging affection for their lurid and laggy site design.
I’ve added a bunch of my favourite Hong Kong and Myanmar photos to Flickr! Take a look over here, or click on any of the photos to be taken to my gallery.
Both places were unbelievably beautiful to photograph, and after months of flat grey Montréal winter I was in ecstasies of colour and perfect light. Landing in Myanmar, I felt I had wakened into a vivid fever dream of gilded stupas and shocking bougainvillaeas. At the same time, I found Myanmar intensely challenging to photograph. Not for a lack of subjects, but for the moral dilemma it presented. For the first time my DSLR felt like an imposition, a visual wood-chipper to reduce this sprawling culture into bite-sized pieces that my Westernized brain could process.
This is a guest post from my mom’s blog – written as a collaboration between the two of us.
In September of this year, she’s taking a group of lucky adventurers sailing on the Aegean and wandering through the cobbled streets of Istanbul, accompanied by our family friend and Turkish native Dilbeste Alameddine. At that time I, unfortunately, will be in a café in Montreal watching the words in my econ textbook begin to vibrate from my fifth espresso of the day. I’ll be dreaming of a skyline pocked with minarets, and cubes of rose jelly amidst snowbanks of powdered sugar. I visited Istanbul in 2011 for about 48 hours, just long enough for me to fall hopelessly, irrevocably in love with the city of writers (big surprise there). The images in this post are ones I took on that trip.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you should grab life by the cojones and go in my stead, so I can live oh so vicariously through you. Itinerary and more info over here.
Ohhh you guys. The street food in Myanmar.
“We weigh our bodily integrity against our desire to see the world. For us, for women, there is a different tourist map of the globe, one in which we are told to consider the length of our skirts and the cuts of our shirts, the time of day in which we choose to move around, and the places we deem ‘safe.'”