08 July 2012

Ian Gawler Blog: On being a traveller

Thought for the day
We travel half way around the world, to enter a new world. 
We leave the familiar and enter the unknown. 
The joys of travel.

Sometimes with relief, sometimes with regret, sometimes with the pure inevitability of it all, the day arrives when it is time to get on the aeroplane and leave it all behind.

We leave the familiar. We leave what we take to be good and meaningful and satisfying. We leave what we take to be bad and dangerous and hurtful. We leave all that is dull and apathetic and boring. We let it all go and we enter a new world of unknown places and events and people and possibilities.

Travel takes us back to beginner’s mind. We leave the familiar and we enter the unknown. The joys of travel!

Leaving the construct of a life that focuses on rural Yarra Junction and travelling around the planet and disembarking in Dubai, is about as surreal as it gets. If travel is about entering the unknown and opening the mind, this is about as good as it gets.

Yarra Junction with its low-level mountains rolling across a gentle landscape is easy to describe as beautiful. The trees are massive, nurtured by a high rainfall that has made a welcome return this year. The cold and the wet we leave behind, while not so familiar on the tail-end of years of relative drought, is natural for this place. The town is small and content. Some may say complacent, others just peacefully relaxed, happy with the relative ease of country life.

Dubai! My God what were they thinking? In the middle of the desert, where the desert’s heritage is all around and obvious to the eye, they have built a showcase of modern architecture, engineering and societal marvels.

What is a Sheik thinking when he builds 38 towers that hardly anyone lives in or works in? It is reported that he said something like “I wanted to show that we have buildings”. Does he know something we do not? If he builds it, will people come? Or is he making an offering to Allah to show what human beings are capable of? Or is it just that once the Ferrari and the Lamborghini fails to do it for you anymore, and you have incredible wealth, then you build buildings.

During a morning when the temperature is already well over 40 degrees Celsius, we take about 15 seconds in a lift that is so smooth you are only just sure that you are moving at all. And, we emerge on the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world.

So is it a technological marvel or another phallic folly? Technological marvel it certainly is. Human beings at their most extraordinary.  We are capable of such extraordinary achievements. The combination of vision, architectural and mechanical skills, the planning and delivery, make this a building to be awed by.

But the view from the 124th floor is sobering. First there is the drop! It is a long way down should modern technology fail. And, what you see from such a height in Dubai is countless beautifully designed skyscrapers. Hardly one is content to be a square box. Most are resplendent with their creative shapes, colours, facets and crowns. Here, amidst this desert, a premium is placed on beauty and intrigue, rather than the price that predicates so much of the modern ugly architecture of less affluent and creative cities.

But look a little further and it is there all right. The desert. Timeless. Dry. Stretching out like an infinite default, ground state.

Where will the energy come from to keep all these buildings going?

Currently they run on oil. The oil is running out. Thirty nine towers in one new complex. And heaps of other empty new buildings. Almost banal amidst a desert relying on oil. Where will the energy come from to keep it all going? If tourism is now a major source of income, what will bring the people once the planes run out of oil.

So we travel from the known to the unknown. Do we just marvel at what ever we see, enjoy meeting those who casually stray into our lives for a few moments of exchange, or does it open our mind? Our heart?

One day as a stopover in Dubai relieves the body but disturbs the mind.
It displays what waits for us.
What happens when the oil runs out?

Maybe it is easier not to travel, to stay amidst the comfort and ease and complacency of the familiar. And think that a carbon tax is just about money and we would rather not pay for it.

What happens when the oil runs out?

1. This weeks blog arrives a little early, as during travels in Russia now, uploading it has been something of a trick! Next week, some more travel news.

2.  Interview on Skype: Jess Ainscough, last week’s guest blogger, interviewed me as a link to her own excellent website and we ranged over quite a few topics.

Here is the link: http://www.thewellnesswarrior.com.au/2012/07/wellness-warrior-tv-interview-with-ian-gawler/  - cannot make it automatic from my end!

RELATED BLOG: Linking lifestyle, sustainability, the environment and health

1 comment:

  1. You are generous in your description of Dubai. The buildings appear to me as one attempt at folly after another. The roads are for cars only and the traffic is overwhelmingly blocked. It is money gone mad. Did they ever chill the sand under a popular beach? A rumour that I could almost believe.

    And indeed what will all we do when the oil runs out. I'd rather be in Yarra Junction when that day comes.