Out a Window or in a Mirror?

Both for the few adventuring travelers who still exist and for the larger number of travelers-turned-tourists, voyaging becomes a pseudo-event. . . . Planned tours, attractions, fairs, expositions ‘especially for tourists,’ and all their prefabricated adventures can be persuasively advertised in advance. They can be made convenient, comfortable, risk-free, trouble-free, as spontaneous travel never was and never is. We go more and more where we expect to go. We get money-back guarantees that we will see what we expect to see. Anyway, we go more and more, not to see at all, but only to take pictures. Like the rest of our experience, travel becomes a tautology. The more strenuously and self-consciously we work at enlarging our experience, the more pervasive the tautology becomes. Whether we seek models of greatness, or experience elsewhere on the earth, we look into a mirror instead of out a window, and we see only ourselves.

—Daniel Boorstin, A Guide to the Pseudo-Image in America

I’ve given lots of thought in the last line in the above quote. “…we look into a mirror instead of out a window, and we see only ourselves.” Based on the context, I understand that Boorstin is stating that we should strive to look out a window rather than a mirror. He thinks travel has been commercialized and lost its core meaning. Why even travel if one only sees themselves, but in a different environment? I get it, and I believe he’s spot on. I strive to look out windows.

But taking the exact sentence out of context of the paragraph makes me think differently. “…we look into a mirror instead of out a window, and we only see ourselves.” Traveling alone these few days in New Zealand, I couldn’t help but look in the mirror. Because by looking in the mirror I’m reminded who I am. I don’t mean my various titles (wife, sister, aunt, daughter, niece, friend, writer). I’m talking who I am down to the core of my being. I’ve been stripped of all my familiar faces, spaces, and routines. Only being “lost” was I able to “find” myself. New Zealand has been my mirror. I strive to look into mirrors.

My goal in New Zealand is to take at least a wrong turn and deviate from my itinerary at least once per day. You see, I know what lies ahead of me by sticking to my schedule, and I do want to see all of that. But I also want to see stuff I don’t know about…the things that I’ve never even imagined existed.

Have I ever been rewarded.

North Island Countryside

My Feathery Friend

Huka Falls

Lake Taupo

New Zealand North Island

Raupehu Volcano

Beach of Picton

Road to Blenheim

Marlborough Vineyard

Havelock, New Zealand

Shoe Fence

Lucky Rabbits

Blenheim Sunset

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  • Jenna
    November 22, 2011

    Lots of big themes in this post (so great to see well-thought travel commentary)! Regardless of intentions, everyone’s travel involves both window and mirror in some form or another – and you’re right – who’s to say one or the other brings the most benefit? The “mirror” might be too self-absorbed, but the “window” can bring other-ing. Then again, the mirror allows for introspection and growth, while the window gets you out of your head and lets you absorb yourself in all that’s new.

    I lived in New Zealand as an exchange student and have revisited when able. These pictures bring it all back! Great images that DEFINITELY show the rewards of getting lost!

    • Leah Travels
      November 26, 2011

      Thank you! You are so right about the window and mirror and echo what i was trying to say exactly. You are so fortunate to have lived here even if it were for just a short time. I’m sure you reflect so fondly on those times.

  • Jennifer Succi
    January 28, 2012

    Did you find out what the story is for the running shoes on the fence?

    • Leah Travels
      January 28, 2012

      Kind of. I just haven’t written about it yet. Thanks. I really need to do that!


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