The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.
This past week, in Real Life (RL), I took an unexpected trip to Europe for business purposes. (And, no, for those jokers out there, I was neither deported nor running from Significant Other. Although, maybe my boss was getting me out of the way.) Preparing for this trip and taking it got me thinking about travel in Second Life (SL) and what it means to me.
Why did I start thinking about travel in SL?
Well, maybe it had something to with the multiple time zones I had to go through to get to Central Europe. Or, maybe the packing, hassling through traffic to get to the airport, get checked in, and then wait for my flight. Oh, did I mention the fun of going through security with the TSA? (Please note that I support security for air travel that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy it. It’s like a relative who once told me that World War II had to be fought, he just wanted to know why he was the guy stuck in a plane and sent somewhere he never even knew existed to be shot at.)
For reasons which seemed beyond my control, like most things in my life, (Significant Other posits that I was a really horrible person somewhere in past life.) I ended up last week hurtling across the Atlantic to arrive in Central Europe (Place names are being withheld to protect the reputation of those countries kind enough to receive me.) Since I don’t sleep well on aircraft, there is something unnatural about the whole experience, and I had to make a connection to arrive at my destination, I arrived at my hotel just in time for a 93°F heat wave. (In case you didn’t know, air conditioning is not yet pervasive in some former Warsaw Pact Countries. Not because of fifty years of Communism as my local friends told me, and yes I can make friends in RL, but after a couple of millennia of more or less accurate weather reports courtesy of some local monks, nobody thought it was a worthwhile investment. Yeah, they said the same thing about lifeboats on the Titanic.)
By now, you may be starting to see why I’m thinking about travel inworld versus RL. But, it’s more than the vicissitudes of actually moving around. RL travel makes me realize how much like a kaleidoscope SL is when it comes to travel. Language and customs come together. I can stand in a sim and be talking with people from all ends of the world at the same time. We talk about our respective lives and communities. We sometimes misunderstand one another. (OK, I’ll admit it, I misunderstand them.)
How different is this from my standing in a coffee shop, not Starbucks, too far to walk in the heat, in a foreign city talking with people kind enough to speak to me in English because I couldn’t speak theirs? (I’m American, remember? We don’t recognize any languages other than American. L'Académie française has my face on posters in its offices due to my efforts to use their language.)
But, we do bring our real lives into SL. We take our world views, biases, prejudices, and preferences. These are not always negative but serve as baseline for where many of us begin when we first come inworld. We experiment in SL where we wouldn’t in RL. (Don’t worry, I was neither nude while wandering around Central Europe this week nor did I visit any BDSM clubs.)
SL is certainly more convenient to visit than many RL locations. Some may argue that more can be seen or done inworld than in RL. It’s certainly cheaper. And, it’s safer. (Excluding griefing, phishing, and other privacy concerns.)
So, as I wrap up, it’s great to be home in RL with Significant Other. RL is very important but sometimes it can take us away from loved ones and familiar places in a way that SL can’t.
As in most things, balance is everything. RL and SL can both get out of whack. I’ve seen RL ruin their lives because they spent too much time away from home. Likewise, people have had their real lives fall apart because of their involvement with SL.
Travel gives me time to be alone and think. (Think long flights in the middle of the night where there is only one overhead light is on in an otherwise dark cabin.) I pulled these thoughts together while on my journey. At times like this, I tend to let my mind wander. (Significant Other cringes at the thought.) Hopefully, I’ve given you something to think about yourself.
As always, I’m grateful to all inworld for their kindness and time in stopping to talk with a stranger who was passing through their lives.