Frameless Travel

I wrote this as one of our weekly journal entries that we send to Nico and Emily.  I was looking through them and decided I’d share.  While untimely, it’s worth showing the evolution of the trip.  This one was written on February 5th.

My roommate’s friend asked me the other day, “So, what do you think of Doha and Education City?”

I think my best answer is that it’s a great place to visit, but not to stay.  It might be different if I was going to be here over a longer stretch of time, but I’m looking forward to the next leg of the trip.

I was first wowed by the impressive buildings and great facilities of Education City, but after a few weeks I felt a little suffocated by the bubble.  Sure, I did a pretty good job of getting off campus and seeing different parts of Doha, but it’s tough when your campus is literally walled off.

One of the things that I really like about Carnegie Mellon’s Pittsburgh campus is that it feels integrated into the city.  Stand in front of Purnell and your view digs into the city and tells you that you’re part of something bigger: a sprawling urban landscape with people with all sorts of backgrounds and future pathways walking together.  Even though Wean Hall is an abomination and Baker Hall not quite Gates, I miss being part of the heartbeat of a city. 

While Wardha will certainly have a different heartbeat than a city, at least we will be close enough to hear it.  Life is meant to punch you in the face, make you gasp for air from laughter, flip you upside down and move you to move mountains.  Not just in Doha, it can be tough to get that full offering of life behind walls and in the high towers of learning.  All of this reminds me of a great passage from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance that encourages me to engage in “frameless travel”: 

You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you’re always in a compartment, and because you’re used to it you don’t realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You’re a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. 

On a cycle the frame is gone. You’re completely in contact with it all. You’re in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming. That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on, it’s right there, so blurred you can’t focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.

ZatAoMM is a great book about travel - and thought - and I’ve come back to it a lot in the last few weeks.  I don’t think it’s the best idea to actually ride a motorcycle in India, but certainly I’ll hop on the metaphorical one.