Monday, May 10, 2010

One-upmanship among travelers

My one-upmanship is bigger than yours.

I come from a long line of one-uppers. I wouldn't say it's my family in particular, though there is this tendency of instead of taking a second to say, oh that's interesting, I know a similar story, to just hop in and say that you know a more elaborate one (but maybe that's in all families). It could be a New Yorky thing, where everyone just wants to be the most superlative creature out there and will not rest until they may be considered the king of this particular minutely important thing.

Ouch. I've got my claws out, looks like. (And they are longer and sharper than... oh, forget it).

Well, it turns out that travelers have a tendency to sign up early to the one-upmanship game and some of them will one-up you under the table if you sit still long enough. Call it insecurity, call it searching for fifteen minutes of fame, but so many people have tales of how great, how perfect, how well-traveled their lives are, or of how stellar their trip was (with the underlying assumption being that by virtue of the fact that you are not them, your life is less technicolor and less enjoyable than theirs, and also that you have way less cred).

With these people, it's very easy to fall into a conversation that winds its way through the superalatives of the English language and which overuses the word amazing to the point where you start to imagine it like it sounds, a word with a labryinth inside, and no clear path out of the conversation.

Over the past couple of days I've been able to spend not a small amount of time with Dan and Audrey, who run/live/breathe/write for/think of/design and otherwise rock the hell out of Uncornered Market, who have (as of today) been on the road for 1252 days. I will pause briefly while you think about your 365-times tables.

It was Dan that got me thinking about the overuse of the word amazing, and so I'll tip my dorky penguin baseball cap in his direction (I believe he's in Valparaíso today). But it was a few words Audrey and I exchanged last night on our way down Cerro San Cristobal in the dark (be ye not so stupid) that got me thinking about one-upmanship. We were talking about one-upmanship in general, and the occasional traveler that brought out their laundry list when all we wanted to do was boil some pasta in the grotty community kitchen.

The conversation got me thinking about how here in my new home city, walking down a giant hill, I was in the presence of people who by every measure could one-up nearly every other human on the planet re: travel, adventure, food, experience, and certainly most other travel bloggers on fancypantsness, traffic, design, tech, content etc, and they are the most feet-on-the-ground regular kind of people you'd like to have a cup of coffee (or some ceviche, pizza and a mote con huesillo with) in the whole wide world.

That's right. They've been/done/seen/eaten/walked/experienced a world already, and they're still going. And they never play the game or shake out their cred while you're looking.

And that's the kind of circumspection and humility and down-to-earthiness you're only very occasionally lucky enough to meet.

And that (please forgive me, Dan) is amazing.

5 comments:

Annje said...

Yes, I have noticed that about some travelers. It would be amazing indeed to meet a few who could definitely one-up, but don't because that is usually for people with something to prove. Loved the post.

and yes, in my family too, but it usually one-upping about whose experience/life/job is more miserable/pathetic. Fun stories! I never seem to win.

Michelle said...

As you know, I went to an (ahem) "Elite NYC Public High School." (Yeah, the more elite of the 2 you're thinking of ... but don't tell the other school I said so..)

Anyway, one thing I learned there is that people who play "I'm smarter than you" invariably aren't, and those who really are never bother to play.

Amazing, indeed!

Eileen said...

Annje, I'm so glad for you you don't win the sob story award! that's a competition I'll gladly forego the prize for!

Michelle, yes indeedly, humility comes late, if never to some people!

Ivy said...

So well put, Eileen. I just came off a 4 day press trip of all of that, NYC-flavor, which is somehow almost painful when you're a Midwesterner-Pacific Northwesterner.
Like my grandad used to say, "A good dairyman never says how many head of cattle he got."

But, we all do it to some extent in ever conversation, no? Sometimes it's not so ego-driven, but more of a way to connect... you know "that's great, now let me talk..." as my teacher would say.

Thanks for the post. Amazing.

PS- Go Penguins!

Margaret said...

I absolutely second Eileen's comments about Audrey & Dan... lovelier people are harder to come by! (and BTW, "lovely" is not a word that comes lightly into my vocabulary!"
Hmmm-now that I think of it, maybe they are so darned down-to-earth because they've had more direct contact with it that just about anyone else who's ever walked across its surface!