Ulysses, the Ancient Mariner, and many other figures in literature represent the wise, grizzled traveller who returns and reports the terrible, the fantastical, and the unimaginable. A young protegé lacking in experience listens to the old traveller, but ultimately must make these discoveries for himself–and that is the story of the Traveller, playing at the Havana Theatre as part of Vancouver Fringe. Jung uncovered the archetypes of the Traveller (like Ulysses who returns) and the Eternal Wanderer (the one who cannot return, like Cain).
These classical archetypes pervade the Traveller. Imagine a story, partly sung and partly narrated, accompanied by The Traveller intermittently playing his guitar and mouth organ. Max Kashetsky plays the role of The Traveller who has been advised by an elder traveller, only to find himself gaining experience and knowledge he had not bargained for nor wished for. As travellers, want to see new things, exciting things, things that shake us out of our humdrum existences–but what happens when we do?
For me, the play brought up some questions and considerations. Do we shed our identities when we travel, like The Traveller says we do? I’m inclined to say that in the past, perhaps we did. But now, that is much harder to do in a hyper-connected universe. I am not someone with a blank slate when I meet someone when I travel–he or she can look me up on Facebook or Google in a moment (and we do–connections made while traveling need not be ephemeral anymore, and often they are not). There’s a perhaps related phenomenon where long-distance travel can feel just like I took a somewhat inconvenient bus trip–literally it can be just as fast for me to fly to Mexico City as it is to get to Hope without a car, and I would actually feel more at ease in Mexico City, because of familiarity. What feels like home and what feels like a neighborhood is not anchored in physical space.
I am drawn to this play for a multitude of reasons, being a frequent traveler, someone who loves visiting Latin America, and having a strong interest in the philosophy of what it means to travel or be at home. We navigate vast distances and endure numerous hardships, but ultimately living with the results can be the most challenging of all.