Travel, narrative & perspectivism.

Perspectives in Cambodia

Traveling is many things: exciting, nerve-wracking, at times frightening, at times surprisingly comfortable. One thing that is affirmed time and time again through travel, is that I (we) are not from this place (wherever we happen to be at any given moment).


This happened frequently for me, whether in subtle ways like the lack of a bottom sheet in most of our hotels, or  sometimes, in much more drastic and terrifying ways like the streets of Phnom Phen in rush hour.


We can only ever be from where we are from. The perspective we bring to the world has been finely honed from our births. Altered, obviously, throughout our lives, but we are not simply able to change our past, or rid ourselves of memories and experiences that shape our particular point of view.

Breno in Saigon

We are unable to see things through any eyes but our own. And as you travel, you are able to get a glimpse, albeit a small one, of the insane amount of eyes that there are out there who are equally unable to grasp your perspective as you are unable to grasp theirs. Fully grasp, that is. Partial grasping is defiantly possible, due to the amazing similarities throughout human civilization. Perspectivism is what James McClendon names this phenomenon.


The fact that we are unable to see from other perspectives (but by the imagination), is a bit unnerving. It leaves so much misunderstood, or unknown, which has an uncomfortable effect on you (well me at least).


I found my self in Hanoi, Vietnam, in a leftist cafe, displaying old propaganda posters from the Northern Vietnamese during the war. While there, I read a interesting article in a magazine which brought on some of these questions. It was about a Westerner (Australian I think) whose father was a reporter from the end of WWII through the Vietnam war. He had leftist leanings, and was well respected by the communist groups for this fair reports of what was going on. This lead this man to grow up with a perspective that from the Western world would have seemed backwards. To him, the Communists were the good guys and Capitalism was bad. For him, the chaos of Asia, and his family etc. combined to lead to a perspective from the other side. He later moved back to the western world, but this perspective stayed with him.


I found my self thinking after I read this article, what it would be like to have a perspective from the other side… Or like the man in this article, to be able to see things from both sides.  In what ways are my perspectives shallow, or odd?


4 thoughts on “Travel, narrative & perspectivism.

  1. Great photos. I’m inspired by your travels. Maybe someday I can travel SE Asia too and see for myself what you’ve discovered and enjoyed. Indeed traveling open us into new perspectives, that sudden change of scenery make it, I think.

    • Hi Farrell,
      Thanks so much for your comment! I appreciate that you would drop in. Travelling does indeed have the ability to impact our perspectives in some neat ways. Hope you do get to SE Asia! Cheers.

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