Travels and Tourist Trips as a Tricky Way to Ignore the World

The Ulysses de Chirico shows us here has become an ordinary, curl-headed youngster. He has nothing in common with the mysterious figure standing on Calypso rock… His odyssey, the picture seems to say, cannot have amounted to much.
Wieland Schmied, “Giorgio de Chirico (The Endless Journey)”, Prestel, 2002, p. 111

The return of Ulysses does not show an artist-philosopher pondering the mysteries of the world and his own existence nor the triumphant return of a legendary hero… The traveler, one might conclude, has survived the adventures of his journey. Or were they actually no more than the dreams of stay-at-home? Has the home-comer ever been away?
Magdalena Holzhey, “Giorgio de Chirico – 1888-1978”, Taschen, 2005, p. 88

Giorgio de Chirico's ullysses “Flight toward the Sea”,
Giorgio de Chirico – “Ritorno de Ulisse” or “Flight toward the Sea”, 1968

Tautological tourists-travelers are those who just consume the appearance of the world – transform the world into snap-shots, essentially, into post-cards. If our trips are not connected with discoveries which transform our lives, with impressions which radically change our perception of ourselves and the world, with modifications of our identity, and if we stay in India or Bangladesh in the same hotels US are full of and eat the same “exotic” foods American restaurants with multinational cousins offer, then why take trips at all?

One of the first tourist-travelers, de Chirico tells us, was Odyssey/Ulysses who after more than thirty years of being away returned basically the same person as he was before he left. According to the images in de Chirico’s painting, Ulysses’ trip is made from the chair near the left wall to the seat near the right wall inside the same interior, or, if to add the factor of imagination to behavior – from the picture on the left to the window on the right of the same room. Basically, the trip of Ulysses in de Chirico’s painting takes place inside the interior with a magnificent closet (closet-castle [for accumulation of wealth and influence?]) toward a door opening up onto a darker room (either external danger or the otherness of our own inner world we want to conquer?).

The two legitimate titles of the same painting or titles of different paintings, which by an anonymous mistake have been confused in the chaos of the internet web (“Flight toward the Sea”, and “The Return of Ulysses”) contradict one another. One title suggests the beginning of trip-travel and the other its end. One expresses the desire to leave, the other a happy return. The point here is that for the tautological travelers it doesn’t matter – to depart or to return: both moments are similar. When a person who is returning is basically identical with the one who left – it means the trip took place inside the same psychological interior, the dwelling place of the same soul (it is what the room in de Chirico’s painting is a metaphor of).

Most people live like this – there is no development in their life, only quantitative additions of standard experiences, there are no spiritual and intellectual mutations, only adaptation to whatever “objective” conditions happen to exist. A good example here is the “global economy” – to whatever spot on the Earth the global entrepreneur puts his legs it is the question of the same calculation, the same currencies and only arithmetically different amounts of profit, the same strategy of bribing the local elites, creating pauperization of the masses, transforming domestic economies into an appendix of global corporate interests. Today even the American militaries that monitor drones on target killing missions in Afghanistan/Pakistan do it while sitting in the military bases inside US. They are the newest versions of de Chirico’s Ulysses.