Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

City Friends and Road Compatriots

Written 28 July

The stationary phase is over. The month-long stints in major cities are done with. No more finding neighborhoods and getting to know them. It is time for the road trip.

With only four months to go on my visa and more than half a country still to see I’ve taken to the open road.

The plan is generally heading up the east coast, over the top, down the middle, and back over across the bottom. The timeline is for two months.

When you are in a city you see the same people time and time again if you want. You meet people and you make friends if things line up in conversation. Are you two at compatible stages in life? Do you have compatible topics of conversation? Do you find the other interesting or useful?

On the road you make acquaintances in the same fashion, but the chance of them becoming a friend is a known quantity of slim. The friends you make aren’t necessarily friends. Instead you find people to share the ride with. Conversations and mutual interests take a backseat to the basic necessities: are you headed the same direction, does the timeline work for you, and do you want to see the same things along the way / are you willing to defer to my preferences? And most importantly do you accept the condition that riding in my car means we split the costs of petrol?

You aren’t spending time with those you find interesting inherently. You are spending it with people who are headed your way.

I have shared rides with people who have turned out to be phenomenally interesting. The Great Ocean Road trip was a five-day journey with five people crammed into a RAV-4. We had never met. We knew only that we all wanted to do about the same thing at about the same time and were up for splitting the costs to make it happen. That we talked non-stop for the whole time was incredible. That we got along and learned each other’s styles so quickly and well was impressive. The journey was a vacation because of the people I was seeing the sights with.

I have shared rides with people who have turned out to be quite nice but have run out of topics of conversation. When it is just two people in a car for a blast-through trip for a couple days it is quite easy to run out of things to talk about.

And I have shared rides with purse-passengers. People who are in because a vehicle is going from point A to point B. People whose purpose is to provide splitting of costs and possibly sharing of time behind the wheel. Those drives are grinds. You get where you are going, and with someone else in the car you are less alone and less likely to drive off the road during a microsleep.

But at the same time you lose the ability to put on your own music indiscriminately. You lose the ability to sing along. You can’t make personal calls with privacy. And you have to act like you are in public. In some ways it is actually lonelier to share the car with someone you don’t communicate with than to be alone on the journey.

This section of the trek I am excited. I am in the car with people who seem interesting. We have been at it for a day and the conversation has been flowing. We are already up to hijinks and escapades. Hilarity should ensue. This will be a trip for sure.

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This entry was posted on August 4, 2012 by in Australia, NSW (Sydney) and tagged .

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