Luxury of Travel: Ariel's Trips to Canada & Nicaragua

I’m in Nicaragua right now and taking advantage of my American right to travel. I can move fairly freely in a country impoverished by my nation’s doing–and by extent my own. I certainly benefit from globalization and the United State’s imperialism, do too little enough to actively resist it.

I arrived last night, and slept as Princess Managua Hilton, which caters to North American businesspeople. I’ve seen plenty of security outside stores and hotels, but nobody has stopped me or questioned my right to enter as I’ve explored the surrounding blocks with my travel companion.

I’m here for the Vuelta de Nicaragua, a six-day bicycle stage race. My brother’s cycling team, First Rate Mortgage, is competing. The race begins tomorrow, and I’ll be in the car caravan handing out water bottles and taking photographs. I’m sure I’ll have some stories to tell in the coming days, and maybe when I get home I’ll write a followup post reflecting on Nicaragua like I’m about to reflect on Canada in this post.

I went to Spain on a class trip when I was in high school, but besides that I’ve only traveled internationally to Canada. I live in Bellingham, Washington, which is less than 25-miles from the border, so I visit Vancouver a few times a year to visit Andrea and other friends. Even though the Minutemen and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement have a presence in my county, nobody has ever questioned my right to travel freely between the United States and Canada.

Just last week, my friend Helen and I took a bike trip to Vancouver Island, which is a three hour boat ride from Bellingham. We loaded our bicycles up with camping gear and peddled 50-kilometers from Victoria to a campground in the wilderness. We spent two nights.

Helen and I had a great time, and as radical university students tend to do, we discussed plenty of critical issues raised by our trip to Vancouver Island. Much of this was prompted by Michael, a man we met in the campground. We stayed in a communal campsite for cyclists, and Michael was our only neighbor the first night. He was a friendly white man perhaps 40-years-old, wiry and leather-skinned from a hard life. He called the campground home for the summer and kept all his possessions in the campsite, but held a job in Victoria and travelled to town on his bike or bus to work. While he smoked ganja, added to his impressive pile of empty beer cans, and told us about a life very different from ours, Helen and I were a little on edge.

We huddled up in our tent that nigh and stayed awake until we heard Michael go to bed. We continually checked in with one another, and discussed what we’d do if Michael tried to get into our tent or if we heard him riffling through our bags. Neither of us slept well until Michael left at 5 a.m. to ride to work.

When Helen and I got up, we spent most of the morning make a strategy for avoiding another uncomfortable night in the campground. Energy another person might have spent hiking or exploring, Helen and I put into our safety.

I really felt it then that I’d never be brave enough to travel alone, to go camping alone. I haven’t traveled much without my family, so I didn’t realize then what opportunities I was missing. Because I’m a woman, my mobility is limited not only at home, where I must consciously choose the safest route to walk home at night, but abroad, as well. I don’t feel comfortable traveling by myself even in a nation as culturally and geographically close to my own as Canada.

But Michael’s mobility is limited, too. Because he is poor or an alcoholic or a criminal, he doesn’t have a passport, and he can’t travel outside of his home, either. The fear I had of a poor man prevented us from connecting on a deep level, from navigating beyond our gender and class tension. Patriarchal, white supremacist capitalism thrives on oppression because Michael and I didn’t connect, didn’t truly know one another as humans.

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6 thoughts on “Luxury of Travel: Ariel's Trips to Canada & Nicaragua

  1. i am confused. is it your general fear of this boozy michael character that keeps you from connecting at the nutrient-rich roots of humanity or is it “Patriarchal, white supremacist capitalism”? elaborate if you could.

  2. Adrenaline-state training combined w/ good, sensitive, gender-acculturation-trained teachers could help you both become more mobile in the world and could help you both become people who can more easily connect despite the barriers that white supremacist capitalism throws up (they do one for men that focuses on different deep issues than the one for women in many chapters). Of course, since his mobility is impacted by poverty and lack of passport, he ain’t gonna be able to take much advantage of the help that’ll be pretty easy for you to take advantage of (it’s right in Portland).

    Just a thought that went through my head.

  3. Whoops! Sorry I didn’t see your response, Lake Desire!

    Yes, it’s self-defense. As the name might suggest, it’s self-defense where you have to hit at full force (otherwise, they don’t fall down upon you hitting them) while you’re scared to death by their behaviors.

    Over and over and over.

    It gets your body used to using adrenaline for “fight or flight” like Nature put it there for, rather than “freeze” like an unnatural life makes so easy for us (since we haven’t had to use that adrenaline as much as, say, a squirrel or a pre-society human).

    The neat thing is that many people who take such training find that they can let other people get closer, physically, because even if those other people start having violent behaviors once already inside a close range, the adrenaline-state training grads have confidence that they will be able to throw punches & kicks, rather than be shocked into a stupor, after such behaviors start.

    (Of course, I’m not trying to say grads get stupid. I’m just saying that when it seems more practical to let someone be physically close than not to do so, they have more options that seem doable!)

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