The Art of Boring Others with your Travel Stories,
by Matthias Debureaux
Amateur translation/blatant re-write by n2j3, based on the Greek translation of Vana Chatzaki.
Original title: De l’art d’ennuyer en racontant ses voyages, Editions Cavatines 2005
Travelling is used primarily to become obnoxious to others.
Whoever travelled around the globe has the ability to speak for an extra
quarter of an hour.
Upon the traveller’s return, now purified by the majestic imagery and magical encounters of his journey,there is but only one thing in his mind: how to rivet your imagination by his stories, how to provide lessons in life and high ideals. He will paint the most beautiful and remotest gardens of Eden. Yet the result is always the same: boredom, boredom.
Travelling nowadays is neither a privilege nor a heroic act. […] Its novelty lies in the fabrication of a special, particular interest, as some sort of alibi to accusations of being a simple tourist. An ersatz explorer gloating in the mirror plumed in feathers is a thousand times more dangerous than the common low-profile tourist. As Edward Dahlberg put it, all these rodents are boiling in the same pot anyway: “When one realizes that his life is worthless he either commits suicide or travels.”
This is the concise manual of the ideal explorer-ballbuster. Or a manual on how to successfully, with art and dexterity, assist others in wearing a mask soaked in the chloroform of your adventures.
On the plane home, revise the most interesting stories of your journey, let the person sitting next to you be your lab-rat. Glue him to the edge of his seat with the elephant in a traffic jam incident in New Delhi, or the small monkey incident in Singapore that almost cost you a banana.
On landing, ignore the flight-attendant’s instructions and start bombarding everyone with your oncoming arrival, via your cellphone of course. A short summation of your repertoire is in order, and do take advantage of the height of the moment by briskly recounting some of your stories, fresh off the oven as it were. Put your recollections in order while you wait for your luggage. On the same night, gather your prospective hostages for a fuller account. Wet their appetite by promising plenty of gifts.
Recount your voyage at all times and nonstop so as to improve and perfect your narration to an optimum level. A good story should find use in every situation, like a good backpack.
Proclaim your thirst for the Other. Your intention: meet other civilisations and witness their authenticity. Have a preference for the human element instead of the sterile marble and rubble, your sole desire being total immersion. After a week diving in Patmos, consider yourself half-Greek. Even if the only company you had there was a programmer from Luxembourg and a Computer Science student from Manx, praise the symbiotic relationship you had with the country: “I came for India, I will return for the Indians”.
Select a moment of ‘divine grace’ for each country. Like that remarkable encounter with a blind shepherd in Atlanta, the Yogi offering tea brewed with Ganges water at dawn, the Old Mexican lady talking about the stars for a whole night or the blowgun lessons taught by an Orang Asli in Malaysia. Confide to your audience that nobody had to speak: communication was possible thanks to eye-contact and smiles.
Since a picture is worth a thousand words, bring back thousands of photographs. […] Forget unnatural posing and prefer an emblematic theme: a chinese skiff on Hong Kong’s skyscraper-laden backdrop, old american vehicles in Cuba, Renault 12 knock-offs in Bucharest or the pastel-coloured victorian houses of San Francisco.
In conclusion, talk about how the voyage changed your life and the way you engage with the everyday. The everyday that leaves nobody unscathed. Finally in possession of inexhaustible treasure, perform your coup de grace by extrapolating a moral dictum from the whole experience. The key, the Holy Kraal, the Rosebud of your mission. The climax of your quest in a land so poor yet at the same time, so rich. And when you are done illuminating the world with your presence, opt for a denouement along those lines: “finally, one realises… human nature is universal”, “…we may have material happiness, but down there, they have true happiness and a real sense of living”.
Let there be an intermission, a long pause. Calmly walk towards a window. Look far ahead in the horizon and declare: “The world is an open book, with so many pages yet unread. Isn’t the most beautiful journey, the one we have not yet travelled?” -