I am sitting on the balcony of the hotel my mom booked for her business trip, looking out at the Washington Monument piercing the sky in the middle of Washington DC. Every morning at work I watch CNN and observe the people of the capital making some decisions that alter the lives of millions. But, what I never embrace about DC is its history and its beauty and the people. Today is going to be about 80 degrees which is
quite the change from the freezing rain I have just left back in Chicago. The sky is a perfect blue with various clouds whisping through and on the highway I can see a slight back up of cars trying to make their way into the city (no beeping horns by the way). I am ready to re-explore this city! With my Wanderlust still raging at full blast within me, I have to keep reminding myself how truly lucky I am. My Japan trip was great but just not what I had expected with the disability of my knee and now here I am miraculously in our nation’s capital to celebrate the biggest National Festival of the Japanese Cherry Blossoms. It’s as if I was given a retake of my great trip, and to ease my unfulfilled desire for my travel and Wanderlust. I have been hungry for some good ol fashion touristing. I want to go to all those touristy sites and see the Smithsonian and the monuments, but I also want to discover hidden cafes and boutiques. This seems to be the perfect place to quench my lust.
Last night my mother and I went out for some dinner after I had just arrived from the Regan airport. After receiving a city lesson from the cab driver about the rising of certain areas and the economic history of the city, he finally decides to take us to this neighborhood that was once known for its crime and bad reputation. He told us that people were (and are still) spilling into the city because the recession never touched here, so there were still plenty of jobs available and the city was still strong in the economic struggle. This area, which was once disregarded, is now bustling with all sorts of diverse restaurants, shops, and expensive condos. When I asked him the name of the neighborhood he turned to give me a strange look as if no one had asked him this question before and then responded “Navy Yards.” We were hungry and wanted to sit down together so we decided on a beautiful Mexican/Latin place, got a table on the
upstairs patio, and proceeded to eat and drink the night away.
My friend, Martin (who has just released his book onto his More than Footprints website) says it perfectly about situations similar to this neighborhood. The cab driver last night kept insisting that DC was one of the best kept secrets of the nation, and now it is being overrun and ruined because it has been “discovered.” Well Martin’s whole focus with his book is the question of whether or not the discovery of new places by tourists helps or hurts a culture. Places in Asia that had been little untouched towns in the sixties, are now today common getaway vacations for the rich and western people. Fisherman have lost their shores to big five star resorts and are now working in the maintenance department for the hotel guests. Little shops that once made their own jewelry or clothing are now selling souvenirs and postcards. Is this healthy? Should these people who lived through their culture now live through the tourist industry overtaking their home town? Is something similar to this happening in DC? Our cab driver certainly seemed to think so. Although, I couldn’t help thinking that it should mean more business for him and other small businesses in the city. And I understand the inflation of cost of living, but doesn’t it also mean that it is more success for you? It’s hard to tell what is right and what is not in situations like these. I do understand the side of the driver in the fact that he has lived his life in this city one way and has accustomed himself to knowing his city as that way, and it’s difficult to allow other people come in and try to
change it over. Small treasures, as the cab driver once saw DC, are so rare in our world and it is disappointing to see them changing. But, our world is changing all the time. Soon the Great Barrier Reef, which is one of the grandest world wonders, will soon be gone and I am terrified that I have missed my opportunity. Are there other towns and wonders that I am missing out on because of our ever changing world? Am I missing my opportunities to discover my own hidden treasures in a country I have never been to? There is so little time and so little finances. I feel like I am never going to catch up. Life is short as they say…so go make some big decisions.