We are not even on the plane and there is a sense of let down about the return. It’s inevitable. How many days after landing on the tarmac from an overseas trip can you talk about it before people glaze over? How often do you hear, “are you back already? It feels like you haven’t even been away,” and then the conversation moves on to the trivia of the here and now and local occurrences. Within days, even the most adventurous traveller, slots back into the humdrum of routine and mundane chores. Little time passes and the journey itself becomes a doubt in one’s mind – did it ever happen? It now seems like a distant memory. The sharing is short-lived, the proof hard to quantify, the experience so personal.
Hence the Chip in the Brain idea. Ever since the original Total Recall, where Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) visited Rekall, Inc., a facility that implants fake memories of ideal vacations, the temptation has been to just pay the money and the get the damn chip implanted. Safe, cheap yet still as convincing as the real McCoy. You can probably pay extra and have fake photographs made up and for a bit extra again, pay for someone to fake an Instagram or two.
But it’s unlikely to ever catch on. The imperfection of travel is what makes it so perfect in the end. The smell of diesel from a London Double Decker Bus, a riot in Istanbul, getting sunburnt from successive days over 30 in Europe, an unwanted transit connection delay, the hired Peugeot that breaks down and causes havoc to a travel schedule. Neither can a chip in the brain ever replace a close encounter with a local or the establishment of a lasting friendship. Take for instance our catch up with Carl and Teresa in Putney who we met in the 80s and Lou in Luton, Bedfordshire, a friend from Lee Abbey where Rob worked 35 years ago! And of course, Turkey, where we see Ineke and Ali in a traditional Turkish wedding, following a 10 year cross cultural, global relationship.
Yet, despite all this, there still appears for the return traveller, a suspended disbelief or disconnect with what has just happened. Perhaps in terms of belief metre, there is not a lot of difference between a chip implantation and flying 30, 000 feet above the earth’s surface in a tube for 13,000 kilometres. Both are just as farfetched for those who have remained in the same place whilst you have had the adventure.
From the point of view of answering the standard question; “so how was your trip?”, its probably best to say and leave it as, …“you just had to be there…” Unless of course, you can produce some proof which ups the ante and the interest. Take for example, the 2000 year old pottery Rob ‘found’ at Milos back in 1979 that now rests in the glass cabinet in suburban Camberwell and has been the centre of many a conversation. Or the Icon acquired from the Monastery of St. George in the Judean Desert which sits on the mantelpiece. What objects of proof could we bring back this time from our travels?
All suggestions welcome!
No, at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for the real McCoy.