How on Earth Can Kate Stay Grounded? (Part 1/4)
Conceived in New York, born in Los Angeles, once referred to as ‘psychotically delusional’ by a boyfriend and boasting the DNA components of generations of immigrants, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m daunted by this ‘Stay Grounded’ notion. I am related to both the first woman off the Mayflower (trust me – she would have taken a plane instead of that boat if she could have done, knowing my family) and a first-generation immigrant who came through Ellis Island, seeking a new life in the States. My father emigrated to London before making my mother emigrate to California, and my gran was a travel agent up until the age of 85. My family live as far apart as Spain, Scotland, England and either side of the USA, with most of us having lived for extended periods of time in Africa, Asia, South America and the Middle East. Trying to keep myself in one place at one time seems not only a near impossibility, it just seems un-fun.
Travelling, to me, is one of the great joys of being alive. We voyage through a birth canal to arrive at one destination, and then find ourselves on one journey after another – from the growing pains of childhood to the acne and erection-laden days of adolescence; the whimsical nonchalance of young adulthood to the promises of marriage, children, mid-life crises, senility and illness. Then there’s the least looked-forward to journey of all: death. Add to all that the ups and downs of having emotions, meeting people, visiting places and countries and ideas, and, the notion of staying still through it all seems like the worst way to spend one’s days.
Don’t get me wrong: I know there are means of travel that don’t include airplanes, huge CO2 emissions and tins of lasagna with a side salad and a nasty-ass vacuum-wrapped brownie. But there’s the problem of my job. A journalist by trade, and an environmental one at that, I’m required to travel for work – whether it’s to cover an environmental film festival in Brazil or write a story on an eco water park in Slovakia. I can’t possibly write about the world’s disappearing lakes, interview its environmental refugees or investigate the Amazon without hopping on a plane. I can choose to cover those stories less, or offset those journeys, but it’s how I’m going to balance it all, and cut down on my personal airplane trips, that worries me. I already feel like I’m letting my family name down. Sure, I can visit my cousin in Madrid by train instead of plane, but how can I visit my 96-year-old grandfather in California (and watch Mexican telly with the sound turned on full volume) without Delta Airlines? Or gallop across the steppes of Mongolia like Genghis Khan, the wind ruffling my hair, without jetting to Ulan Bator, first?
Perhaps I can be the first traveller in my family of travellers to find a more sustainable means of seeing the world. Perhaps Staying Grounded isn’t so scary. Perhaps it means a whole new world order for me. Perhaps.