Essay: Day One

3K 692 HKG-SIN, 11 kilometers in the air

So starts our trip.

The beginning of our trip seems to me to be a good time to speak to my aspirations, my goals for the year to come. Hopefully, not mere New Year’s resolutions (this year started on March 1), but genuine guidelines to which I will return and by thinking continuously revise and rethink both what I am doing and what I am trying to do.

I most often describe what I am doing as a leave of absence. Others may call it a sabbatical. And indeed I am absent and resting, from my job for the last few years. But to take this much “time off” is too indulgent and to sightsee is fun but not enough (should not, must not be enough)–this is too big an opportunity. There is a void left by my departure from professional life. Time has been created (or returned to me). Perhaps even more significantly, I seek to regain my attention, my awareness of myself and my surroundings, which has been so often dissipated by the demands of work in the 21st century, whether in the form of thinking or anxiety about work, checking (or thinking about checking) my blackberry or sitting in my office, a setting too familiar, waiting for the London or New York day to begin.

Our travel skills are mostly solid. I will take advantage of Derek’s eye, and the visual and aesthetic record of our trip in his photographs. My writing skills are sufficient, and my knowledge fairly broad. And so I will do what travelers have done for centuries, which is to write about what I see and learn.

My writing will be grounded in the here and now, descriptive of the world in 2008. Knowing I cannot write a work of great scholarly or artistic merit, I will rely on my (and Derek’s) powers of observation and any insights I may have from my particular background, which, if not unique to me, is an asset I bring as well as the perspective I will have from visiting so many places in one continuous stretch of time (places are generally by their nature connected).

By writing, and thinking about writing, and by taking pictures, and thinking about taking pictures, we hope to be as present in our surroundings as possible, without some of the distractions of the modern day. And by observing, observing how we observe and observing how we are observed, we hope to learn something about ourselves, and be able to make use of such learning.

Tonight, we arrive in India.