Before my recent vacation, I suffered from Paranoid Traveler’s Syndrome. Now I’ve come down with a case of I’ve Been There! Disorder. When I read an article about the Obama’s visiting London, I shouted “I’ve been there!” I scanned the text of the article and then pulled up my mental map of London to locate the pub where they ate. When I read about their trip to Paris, I knew exactly where Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower were in relation to one another. Now that I’ve been to these cities, I look at photos from them differently. I don’t just see the Arc de Triomphe, I think about the crazy traffic circling the building and how you can get there by taking the Metro and what the view down the Champs-Elysees looks like.
I first experienced I’ve Been There! Disorder after a trip to New York after my college graduation. When I watched David Letterman on TV afterward, I’d clap my hands when I saw the theatre front or the Hello, Deli, thinking, “I’ve been there!” Since I went to Washington, DC a few months ago, whenever I see video of the White House I know what lawn they are on or what side of the building they’re facing. It is astounding that these cities are real places that you can actually visit and not just magical fantasy islands existing in the slipstream of television.
Hopefully, I’ve Been There! Disorder will lessen as time passes, because it is probably annoying for my family and friends that I keep shouting, “I’ve been there!” during newscasts and commercials. Before, I never realized how frequently images of these places appear in our culture, but now that I’m tuned into recognizing them, I notice that they’re everywhere. Perhaps this is part of what they mean when they say travel makes you more “worldly.”