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How to Travel Without Being a Tourist


Traveling from the body, in sync with difference, is essential to genuinely explore the world.

Peter Lamborn Wilson is one of the most provocative minds of contemporary American literature. An anarchist, orientalist, orgiastic-sexuality enthusiast and critical of academia, his writing has lived on the margins of the mainstream, overflowing with provocations that escape towards autonomous areas of self-signification.

One of the distinctive features that make Lamborn Wilson unique is his freedom, both verbal and mental, based on his ability to explore that which is different. He has the peculiar quality of unwinding in the ecstasy of “the other”. This quality is, without a doubt, the result of his extensive travels, especially those made to the heart of Persian culture —whose mystical streak lies in Sufism. Encouraging us to “travel for the sake of traveling”, Wilson states:

As the Persians say, “A jewel that never leaves the mind never acquires polish.”

Of course, there’s many ways to travel. There’s tourism, there’s traveling for business, joining a scientific expedition, visiting your relatives for the holidays. There’s traveling in an army, which certainly is a very special way of moving across the face of the earth. All of these are different psychic modes.

Travel for travel’s sake is something very special. To be free and to learn are the only goals for the pure traveler. You’ve got to be strong, and keep your psyche polished and bright and open and ready to engage. If you look on travel not just as something that’s happening to you but as something that you’re doing, it requires the spiritual will the Sufis call himmah. You have to be aware of yourself as this free-floating zone unto yourself. You can give it a spiritual interpretation if you want, but it’s incredibly real. Because it’s really you in that hotel suffering from Montezuma’s revenge. It’s not an idea of you or a simulacrum of you. It’s really your body there on the line—or at least on the toilet.

Wilson’s views on traveling are centered on two aspects: the body and the difference. In other words, in experiencing the journey, the mobility of the axis, and the perceptual center of the planet from the body; exalting therefore the senses and seeking intimacy in the exchange. And, on the other hand, wandering the world through the difference: that which rocks us to the very core making us question reality and the role of society.

Tourism is a kind of travel that deconstructs difference. The kind of travel I’m talking about is to experience difference. It’s something you do with the body—and probably ultimately the only really meaningful you do are with the body. Unlike tourism, which is the prolongation of imperialist colonialism, the kind of travel I propose is a prolongation of the heretical marginality.

This is how Wilson taunts us: Will we be tourists or travelers that move through geography from a corporeal instinct not foreign to eroticism? Are you traveling because you feel you have to, for sheer pleasure or to answer that call, following that same energy that perhaps also rouses the winds? Are you visiting destinations or honoring paths?

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