Dependent - Independent Part Two





October 24, 2018

Out west, in the Mangystau Region, a herd of camels in the desert is a common sight, especially for my driver.  But I insist we stop at a watering station. 

I introduce myself to the camel herder and his sons.  They are most welcoming and certainly curious about me.  I watch in fascination as their tall and thirsty animals slurp, shake and swallow big gulps. (Camels can drink 30 gallons of water or 113 liters in just 13 minutes.)

My driver Vladimir suggests we visit one of his secret places.  Of course, I agree.  Our “secret place” is a long, white, crenelated valley that can easily be missed from the road.  We are alone above the valley as we observe the blindingly bright white, deeply gouged formation.  

Finally, along yet another one of the countless dirt tracks that crisscross the unbounded Mangystau Plateau, we cruise along the edge of yet another seductive site.  My instinct (and my backside) cry out, “Vladimir, let’s take a break.”  Vladimir agrees.  Here in the middle of nowhere, at the base of this grotesque geologic outgrowth, the appropriate action of the Independent Traveler is simply to stop.  And sit on a rock.

After a week together, Vladimir understands my predilections and idiosyncrasies as a traveler.  Vlad is a mature and experienced guide; he modifies his plans to accommodate my travel style.

My travel style?

I think of myself as an Independent Traveler.  But on my visit to Kazakhstan and its remote areas with barely a living soul in sight, I seek the advice of the professionals and defer to their recommendations.  But even in these restricted circumstances, I am not always passive. 

I may see things that the local guide may not see, so we slow down.  I may feel attracted to what seems mundane to the guide, so we detour.  On occasion I may feel creative and feel confident to change the itinerary, so we discuss.

Am I a Dependent Traveler?  Across the Steppe?  Across the desert?  Yes. yes and yes.

Am I an Independent Traveler even on a tour?  On a walkabout in town?  At a camel halt?  Yes, yes and yes.

Either way or both, I am traveling.  

Traveling.  Now that’s the feeling of Freedom.  That’s the assertion of Independence.


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