Three more days before vacation, traveling overnight to New York this Friday midnight, afterward to Toronto to meet old friends; itinerary set for the return back to Manhattan, to meet another old friend, traveling by overnight bus; owned by a company called China Bus who gained notoriety when their transport crashed after a trip from Atlantic City; with passengers from Chinatown, fresh from casinos. It was the cheapest fare one could find, entrepreneurs from Chinatown starting a bus line that competes with venerable Greyhound and another company called Mega Bus, tapping a market of riders who prefer the lowest fare possible; something like Wall Mart, avoided by snobs or those righteous ones who think cheap products come from China, but saving money nonetheless for the general public, allowing one to spend more on entertainment; Broadway plays, ballgames at Yankee Stadium and visits to night clubs. One’s itinerary fully booked, after reducing costs in both travel fare and lodging, by utilizing cut-rate bus companies (though risky) and the Internet to book shared rooms (Air BnB), perhaps the way of the future, avoiding big name companies or hotels and going directly to these ‘grassroots’ entities.
It’s like backpacking for the new generation, not exactly like the hippies or beatniks of the 60’s, but more posh with scheduled buses, clean rooms, Internet, hookahs and boutique beers; travel by Generation X, with compressed wages and student loans, looking for the best deal – the Ramit Seth generation – a bow to the scrappy financial adviser who studied in Stanford; applying negotiating skills to bring fees down, a heritage from Indian ancestors, those legendary deal makers in South Asia; perhaps rivaling the Chinese tycoons spread out all over the Far East. Intelligent travel to discover the world in the cheap, a last hoorah for the near-middle age, not just the young generation, but the boomers still attuned to latest trends and savvy enough to use it. Middle-aged employees, tired of working, but still far from retirement, paying mortgages and supporting sons in college, awaiting progress in their careers, planning a last adventure into Manhattan – a wonderful place enjoyed in the films of Woody Allen – maybe one can succeed like him, the old perennial genius, still accomplishing new things like Clint Eastwood.
There’s a buzz in the air, like something about to happen, but one is unaware, tired from work and expecting an event that would change one’s direction; likely a minor modification but welcome enough to avoid boredom and inertia, to slow the descent into mediocrity. Perhaps it is the anticipation of travel, to explore alone and see the world like a younger person, maybe to become someone better after seeing the sights. In the end, it’s meeting old friends that will remain in memory, to see how the other has done, like a common journey of youth but with different paths taken; perhaps thinking how one could have become if one had followed another road; but it’s the reminiscent of past adventures when one was young, an attempt to recapture something lost long ago. This morning one met the ‘boss man’ at the atrium lobby; my old nemesis and supervisor from Singapore, the source of anxiety and psychic pain long ago; the source of countless insults and brilliant talk; but the old memories did not come; upon seeing me was surprised like myself, looking at our aging faces, not like old friends but like old adversaries that briefly had moments of fun and camaraderie. Perhaps he did not even recognize me in my present look; my mustache and beard momentarily confusing him; but it did not matter; we did not have that kind of relationship that called for celebration when old friends meet.