Feb

15

RonaldI sat down yesterday in the most beautiful McDonald’s in the world, having entered only because I heard a gringa step out saying so. I ordered a large fry for a buck and padded past the McInternet stations to a one acre, indoor, open-sky garden replete with flowers, birds and, of course, a seven-foot Ronald McDonald sitting on a wood bench in Antigua, Guatemala. He is a statue perhaps because the place is so stunning. I sat next to him and between fries got to thinking about individuality within modern travel stacked up to the old ways, my heyday in the 80s and 90s, when I ventured for 6 -18 months at a time and eventually combed the globe. In those pioneer days, I went streamline under a daypack, wore one set of clothes into the cold shower to launder, and was forever fidgety about what lay around the next bend, traveling as a lone wolf.

However, in the past six weeks of vagabonding Central America, I’ve tripped across two other such travelers, a Dutchman programmer who’s visited 100 countries, and a handicapped Asian gentleman on the Latin road for a year. They are pretty much the only first-world humans I’ve spoken with in six weeks, though I glanced up at hundreds more such as those stuffing their faces around Ronald. The new brand of tourist lugs heavy suitcases on wheels along a string of destinations recommended by the Lonely Planet guidebooks, making ant trails around the Earth. They enjoy repeated comforts and speak of the next cold beer and hot shower. I thought only the USA was becoming effeminized but have learned in the past month-and-half that it’s true for the entire first-world youth. They are passive, emote rather than think, travel in romantic pairs, and shoal when possible. They prefer socializing to reading, s-x to learning, emotion to thought, and speak in low lisping voices. The reasons for this shift in psyche over two decades, I think, are the consent to psychology and sensation. The bitter cures are objectivity and travel as in the old days.

Sam Humbert adds:

A related oddity: In Timisoara, Romania, the only remaining artifact of the 1989 Revolution is the damage visible above the McDonalds on Piata Victoriei in the town center.

A revolution in Romanian city sightseeing

We walk through Piata Victoriei (..) Above McDonald’s is a spray of bullet holes; one bullet went through the window of the apartment of Adela’s friend Corina and punctured a paperback book. (..)


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4 Comments so far

  1. Lance Cummings on February 16, 2008 4:13 am

    Such broad brushstrokes. Do you hear the echoes of “When I was a boy … ” and “the problem with young people today is … “?

    Your grandfather said the same things, and his grandfather before him. Somehow, we have marched, and continue to march, on.

    As for the “prefer … sex to learning”, there are simply times in the lives of most people (exceptions, of course) when this battle is pure
    ‘Nolo contendere’. Over time, the balance shifts. Some wags would even say “regrettably shifts”.

    Regards,

    Lance

  2. Cantab Chu on February 16, 2008 10:45 am

    Ha, the good ol days! People spoke as you have done since Plato's time. Get over it yourself.

  3. Craig Bowles on February 19, 2008 10:36 am

    Bo, You ever think of doing a book on the road less traveled? I enjoyed reading your posts over the weekend.

    Folks other than yourself might be:
    Rusty Nesbitt off the Blue Ridge Parkway put up thousands of hikers over the years. May have sold the place though, but Bill Ruane’s son Tom keeps up with him.

    Tom Horn (trail name) is another. His beagle, Misty, did 10,000 miles of the AT and is buried on it. I’ve run into this guy a number of times in various states. He helps out at Shaw’s boarding house just south of the 100 mile wilderness in Maine from time to time.

  4. Rod on February 20, 2008 10:23 am

    I agree with you Bo. Kids grow up these days so soft physically, and so stressed and pressured in terms of education and careers. When they go travelling they just want to emote. I grew up on a farm, and had no study/career pressure. When I began to travel at age 21 I did it rough and cant believe now how adventurous I was then. Now with pressure in my career, howver, I just want to emote when I am on holiday also!

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