Two years ago, I had made the decision to quit a fantastic job with BioWare, and travel the world. In July 2009, as I prepared to move my few remaining possessions back to my parents’ locker in Montreal, I wrote of an “itch on my soul“, of pulling at my chains deep in Plato’s Cave.
Two years later, the time has come for me to hang up the backpack, and move on from this blog. The soul itch isn’t gone; if anything, it’s greater now than ever. I just feel the need to scratch it in a different way.
I started to feel I had outgrown my blog when I met Manick in Kolkata, in February 2010. I consider the blog post I wrote about this unforgettable encounter, The Milk Alchemist, to be the best blog post I ever wrote on The Backpack Foodie. Yet at the same time, despite my unspoken rule—”Talk about people through their food”—I felt restricted by the subject matter of my blog. Also, I felt an odd sense of voyeurism in writing about Manick, a man whom I admire, in a manner which made him ‘exotic’ and fascinating for a Western readership.
This unease grew in May 2010, as I visited the Middle East for the first time. In Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine, I felt incapable of putting down in writing what I felt about the people I met. For the first time, writing about food on The Backpack Foodie felt trite, insufficient. I felt that to write about the people I met on my blog would somehow diminish them, would be doing an injustice to their lives and their struggles. The food was better than ever, yet it was no longer what I wanted to write about.
Over the last few months, I have grown further dissatisfied, both with my travel blog, and my status as a long-term traveler. The unease I speak of can be felt throughout travel blogs, when keywords such as ‘independent travel’, ‘off the beaten path’, and ‘authenticity’ are involved. There is a sense of peril that our way of visiting the world does not connect us in a fundamental way with the planet, that we are but consumers engaged in another form of commerce.
The sad truth is, even when opening our hearts and minds to the places we visit, and even by traveling slow and long, making friends along the way, and connecting with people, we remain tourists. We may feel empathy for the people we meet, and we may even have a positive impact on their lives. But we as travelers are not members of their community. We are part of the traveler community, and we trade stories of these people we meet. We see the world through foreign eyes.
That, and not the hardships of independent travel, is what gets to me, in the end. I get along pretty well with the ups and downs of constant travel, to tell you the truth. What I miss is the sense of being grounded in a community, of calling it my own, instead of observing it as some sort of anthropologist with a flashy camera. I want to make a difference in the lives of those I meet, to call their own struggles my own.
I felt constrained by the format and theme of my blog because I felt constrained by independent leisure travel in itself.
But that doesn’t mean I want to stop traveling. Quite the opposite.
After a long period of introspection in Puerto Escondido, Mexico, Helene and I have decided to return to Canada, and prepare our first step into a career in international development. Towards this end, I will stop regular postings to The Backpack Foodie.
I will soon launch a new blog, which I will announce here on this site. Helene, who was a quiet presence on this blog, will become my co-blogger on our new website, as we chronicle our lives leading up to a volunteer posting abroad, and eventually, if all goes well, our experiences in that field.
My reasons for wanting to go into international development are numerous and complex, and I will expand on them in my new blog.
When our new blog is ready, I will announce it here. It’s my hope that you will find our new adventures as interesting as the ones of the Backpack Foodie, and will continue to follow me.
With this blog, I set out to write in a more literary style, knowing real well the tendency went in the opposite direction on most other travel blogs. I wanted to help people envision the other nations of this world, not as alien and filled with quaint charm, but filled with beauty and generosity, with humanity. I wanted to celebrate the essence of the places I went, instead of simply underlining their quirks. Reading back through two years of The Backpack Foodie, I feel I’ve succeeded in a few places. I hope you think so too.
Whether you follow my new blog or not, I wish to thank all of you, friends and strangers alike, who followed my adventures as The Backpack Foodie, and made this blog a heartwarming success.
The Backpack Foodie may be ending, but my encounters with people—and yes, food—will go on.
Thanks for reading!
—Daniel Roy, The Backpack Foodie