Reader Request Week 2014 #1: Travel and Me

Let’s get started with this year’s Reader Request Week, then, shall we?

This year it seems the most popular particular topic is travel: Several people have asked why I travel (or don’t), where I’ve traveled (and where I would recommend not traveling), the difference between my personal/professional travel, etc. So in an attempt to make as many people happy as possible in a single post, here’s an amalgamation of travel information from me.

* First: Countries I have visited (not counting places where I’ve transferred via airport): Canada, Mexico, Australia, Scotland, France, Germany, Israel. Via cruises I have visited US Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, St. Maarten, Grand Cayman, Bahamas. I am mildly reluctant to consider those cruise stops genuine visits because they were heavily mediated by the cruise experience (i.e., mostly in tourist zones that differ vastly from the actual experience of the place).

* States I have visited in the US,”visit” meaning stayed in for a day or more rather than merely traveled through to somewhere else, from roughly west to roughly east: California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire. I have resided in California, Illinois, Virginia and Ohio, but visited each of those when I did not live there. When I was an infant, I lived for a few months in New Mexico, but I have no memory of it, and therefore it doesn’t count.

* Provinces I have visited in Canada: British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec.

* I did almost no travel at all the first eighteen years of my life and never left California, save for short camping trips I took to Mexico with my family, and visits to family in Las Vegas. The one exception to this was a “peccary trip,” a trip to dig fossils, which I was part of the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in high school, during which I hit a number of western states. One of the reasons I attended the University of Chicago was to get out of California and see some of the rest of the US.

* My first trip off the North American continent was in 1990, when I traveled to Israel as part of an educational junket sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. That was a very interesting trip, which included a meeting with Israeli soldiers, Palestinian journalists and Binyamin Netanyahu.

* With that said, up until about 2006, I didn’t actually do a whole lot of travel. This was for several reasons. One, when young neither I nor my family had a whole lot of money, which limited travel (vacations were usually at home or at local vacation spots). As I got older I had more money but tended not to travel too much — occasional vacation trips to North Carolina with friends was the most of it. Part of that was because Athena was younger and small kids are not great travelers, and part of that is simply that I am not hugely motivated by travel. More on that in a bit.

* Most of my travel began in earnest in 2006 or thereabouts, when I started being invited to science fiction conventions as a guest, and/or traveling to book fairs and trade shows. Being invited as a guest had some benefits that I appreciated, namely, that my travel and lodging was free, and usually then I was going someplace that I knew I would have something to do. The drawback would be that unless I budgeted in time before or after a convention, I wouldn’t see much of the surrounding locale, and at first I was not very good at doing that.

* The fact of the matter is I’m not hugely motivated by travel. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy it when I do it, nor that there are not places I would like to visit, but the fact of the matter is that for me, given the choice between visiting places and visiting people, I tend to want to visit people — a fact that means that my destinations are less about the locale than the company. I’d rather go to Spokane than Venice, in other words, if Spokane has people I like in it, and all Venice has is a bunch of buildings which are cool but which I will be able to see better in pictures.

* Coupled with that is the fact I don’t really have much of a desire to be a tourist, which is to say, to go somewhere just to have the stamp in the passport and the fridge magnet (although there is nothing wrong with getting a fridge magnet once you’ve been somewhere, he said, hastily, because his wife has a nice collection). I don’t mind being a tourist once I am somewhere; I just usually don’t go somewhere for that purpose. I feel like if I’m going to go somewhere, I would want to be there, long enough to at least get a feel for the rhythms of life there. Unfortunately, at the moment, that’s not conducive to how my life actually is, either when I travel (again, mostly on business), or in the pattern of my day-to-day life.

* With that said, as I get older I find there are places I would like to visit, just to visit, independent of work obligations. I would like to take a long (three weeks, at least) trip to Australia, and a similar one to New Zealand; I’d likewise like to take a long trip through Canada, going one ocean to the other and stopping in as many provinces as practical along the way. I’m mostly Italian and Irish in ancestry and would like to spend a nice chunk of time in each country if I could. I was very pleased a couple of years ago when I got to do a book tour in Germany; visiting there had been a life dream, so I was glad to have been able to do it. I’d like to revisit Israel at some point; I have actually dreamed of the Dome of the Rock more than once and would like to see it again.

I’ve been invited to conventions and festivals around the world, but one of the things that’s increasingly true for me is that I don’t want to visit someplace just to go from airport to hotel back to the airport. I’d want more time, just to wander.

* More to the point, though, there are places I would like to live. I’d like to spend half a year living in, say, New York or London or Melbourne or Christchurch or Munich or Singapore or Hong Kong — long enough that I could really get to know the place; not long enough that I might take it for granted. Again, there are practical issues with doing this at the moment, but in the future, who knows? But I don’t know if that would actually count as travel. It sort of counts as staying.

* I do a lot of travel these days — between now and mid-June I am in Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, New York, and Phoenix; after that I have several other travel commitments including another book tour for Lock In. It’s part and parcel of my work life now, since the life of a commercial writer is in many ways as much about selling the work as creating it. I’m fortunate to be in demand, but I’ll also note a lot of travel is tiring; what it does in that case is make me glad to be home when it’s done. I will note that I don’t think this is a bad thing.

* As a final point, I would note that now that Athena is old enough to travel well, we are motivated to travel with her and to take her places — but of course that has to be tempered with the recognition that she has, like, school. We don’t have any problem with taking her out of school for a week for a new and interesting travel experience, but it’s also not something you can do too much before the school gets annoyed and also, her education gets a ding. There’s a balance. On the other hand, I like the fact that we have the potential to give her travel experiences; so far, she does too. I’d like to keep doing that.

So that’s me and travel.

(It’s not too late to get a request in for Reader Request Week — here’s how.)

39 Comments on “Reader Request Week 2014 #1: Travel and Me”

  1. I think you’re missing Nevada from your list of states visited, unless you don’t think Renovation counts as visiting the state.

  2. So, one (two?) questions, one comment: It sounds like your wife has done a lot of travel, is there anyplace she has been that sounds appealing to you? If you ever want to go to Egypt, let me know, there are some great options there, depending on time of year. Is there anyplace that Athena would want to go?

  3. I’d like to see what an American of your eloquence would have have to say about living in Australia. As a Canadian ex-pat now in rural Aus I’ve found that the similarities greatly outweigh the differences..

    Mind you, as exBritish colonies with small populations inhabiting large landmasses which are mostly inhospitable due to climate it shouldn’t surprise me that the two cultures are similar.

  4. I’ve done a lot of airport-to-convention-to-airport trips; I had a good reason for doing that, but I know what you mean.

    I do get going to places to see people, though I do side trips. I went to Australia, I did a side trip to New Zealand. I was at Eastercon in Bradford last year; our side trips included Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland (plus a train ride across Wales). We plan a few things but we also play it by ear. Some of it is about having things to talk about with people, some of it is having one’s mind opened up by seeing what other societies have accomplished, seeing how differently people organize their lives, or also by how different people organize their lives in the same way, and a bit of creative problem-solving, having to find new ways of doing what you’d think are ordinary things. I mean if you’re going to travel, you should get something out of it. A memory, a moment, a perfect photograph, can justify the effort to get somewhere.

    I’m glad you have a reason to come to Spokane. I hope your writing keeps you in demand for a long time.

  5. Thank you for some interesting insights.

    May I ask why visiting Germany was so important to you?

    Your desire to “stay” instead of “visit” is almost the opposite of my own tastes. Do you think it’s linked to being a writer and wanting to research places in more depth than just a casual visit? Maybe not consciously, but as part of what makes you tick.

  6. I was most looking forward to the section where you were going to tell us the places you wouldn’t recommend traveling. Maybe I have to wait for the ‘Scalzi On Travel’ guide to come out?

  7. I dont think the Queen would appreciate you going all William Wallace and calling Scotland a separate country… and before someone chimes in about Scottish home rule, etc… Scotland and England unified for the last time around 1600 when the King of Scotland became the King of Scotland and England. Queen Elizabeth did not have an heir so she name him the King of Scottland as her heir.

    Writers spend most of their days alone and working by themselves. I would get stir crazy. I can see the desire to want to get out of the house and have more interactions with people.

  8. Several parallels here –

    I feel exactly the same as you about travelling, and would visit people before visiting places.

    I’d lived all my life in Ohio, and chose to take an opportunity to live in California for about 18 months a while back. I enjoyed it, but confirmed that I’m an Ohioan at heart.

    One place where I’d love to go back for an extended stay is Oxford, UK. In even just the few days I had there, it was obvious to me how spending 1-2 years in Oxford could change you forever, in a good way.

    My most exciting travel plans at the moment are to go to Dayton (!) for Sanderson’s “Words of Radiance” signing event this week. Hope we get a big crowd!

  9. What, no desire to see the Harry Potter park in Florida? Oh, come on. Who would want to miss that?

  10. Another perspective:
    I grew up in a family that valued travel highly. We prioritized it over a lot of other activities and expenditures. The first big family trip was when I was 5 (about 15 US states and Mexico). The first big international trip was when I was 10 (Brazil and East Africa). This is what we did over school vacations and what my parents did with their work vacations. For us it worked very well.

    There’s a lot of school vacation time to work with: Xmas, Spring, the long summer vacation (it doesn’t seem that a trip over a long weekend would fit your preferences). Unlike many, you can set your own work schedule (unless I’m missing something, which -ahem- has been known to happen) so you should be able to achieve your goals, I think.

  11. I like travel and living in Europe in these days of low-cost airlines makes it fairly easy to collect countries cheaply if you are so minded – in 2007/8 I had three flights to Hungary, two hours away, that were 1p plus £20 taxes! Latvia for a weekend once was £36 return. My mother once did a day trip to Iceland from our local airport in Bristol – over three hours each way, but still. And with an InterRail pass or similar you can trundle by train to all manner of countries in a couple of weeks, which is something I did a couple of times.

    I also once had a job in college-level publishing that took me to some places I might not otherwise have gone, which was great: for example, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Pakistan and Arizona (a sales meeting in Scottsdale). But I started young… born in Beirut, my first flight was in 1958 as a temporary evacuee at the age of six months (to London via Istanbul, I am told).

  12. Is taking kids out of school in term-time controversial in the US? It has recently become a bit of an issue here in the UK, on the back of holiday-time costs being much higher than the rest of the year and the government removing the head’s discretion to approve short absences. And it’s apparently a criminal offence to do it without permission (not that I have kids and have to worry about it) – one ski travel company has offered to pay the fines of parents who do so.

  13. My wife and I like to travel but don’t have a lot of free time yet to do it in. We are planning on retiring next year which will give us move free time. One thing we’ve done is combine a trip to a convention with several extra days to make like tourists in the area. We’ve done this in Chicago when we went to the last 2 Worldcons there, Toronto, Boston, and Seattle (NASFic). We would have liked to do London this year but can’t afford it, but will hit Spokane next year. We are hoping for Montreal in 2017.

  14. Um, well, I don’t think the Queen is popular enough with my Scots friends to make them allow that England and Scotland are one.. Very much the opposite; culture, people, language, climate and much else divide the two.. I spend a deal of time there each year, never travel without my passport..
    And when the Scots vote later this year on the issue, I fully expect a narrow margin for Independence..


  15. “I’d rather go to Spokane than Venice, in other words, if Spokane has people I like in it, and all Venice has is a bunch of buildings which are cool but which I will be able to see better in pictures.”

    This is why I wanted Spokane to win 2015, actually; I have a lot of friends there. I’m glad Helsinki is making another go, though.

  16. I have a very vivid memory of the Dome of the Rock. I was stationed on board the USS Albany, which was the Sixth Fleet flagship at the time, and we pulled into Haifa. We took the bus trip to Jerusalem, walked across the bridge by the Western Wall, and on to the Dome of the Rock. The tour guides were very nice to us, we got to go into the main chamber of the Dome, and I was impressed by the architecture. Not being a religious person, the religious significance wasn’t as important to me, but the fact that people there do believe, and that wherever I went in the Navy, I saw that people were pretty much the same all over the world, their beliefs are their own, and I respect that. Being a polite guest in their place of worship should be second nature…..I did go to Bethlehem, we were in the Church of the Nativity, as well. I liked Israel, but wasn’t there long enough to get the feel of the country, either. This was 5 years after the Yom Kippur War and there were burned and rusted hulks of tanks and other military vehicles all around Haifa.
    Spokane is a lovely city, I’ve been there once to visit C.J. Cherryh and Jane Fancher. I’m planning to go back again this summer sometime.

  17. I’ve been doing a lot more traveling for fun in the past year and plan to continue the trend indefinitely. I find that going new places only whets my appetite to travel even more. I can’t think of a single place I’ve gone that I haven’t said, “I want to come back here again someday,” and yet, when time comes to plan the next trip, I always end up picking somewhere I’ve never been. My goal is to spend at least a couple days away from home every month. However, if I had to do a lot of traveling for work, I might be less enchanted with the whole process.

    I get what you are saying about preferring to visit people rather than places, and our visit to the suburbs of Detroit was a highlight of last year, but I’ve found for me that going to new and very different places and seeing how other people live their lives makes me look at my own home and my own life in a new way and sometimes I’m even able to adopt a new habit or lifestyle and incorporate it into my home life in some small way. For example, after a recent trip to Singapore, I now try to back into every parking space. If they can do it with those itty bitty parking lots, I can do it too.

  18. It makes me very happy to see Christchurch mentioned on your list of cities you’d like to live in, and to see it listed alongside much bigger, better known cities. It’s a bit battered, but still a fantastic place. Now the rebuild is getting underway, it’s got an interesting vibe and a whole lot of excitement. I recommend it, but I admit I’m biased

  19. One of the benefits of working in education, as both my wife and I do, is that the summers are often free for travel. Our family trips are often extended field trips, with theme parks, historical sites, family gatherings, and national parks all in a two to three week whirlwind. (Yes, Clark Griswold is my hero.)

    Traveling with kids is not easy, but we’ve been doing it since our kids are five and three. We take road trips, which means plenty of time in the car. Audiobook have been the best cure for boredom in the car. (I refuse to get an in-car DVD player.) Now that my kids are older, I’m going to insist on reading books more.

    Even though it is not easy, it really is worth taking the kids on trips. When my son met his social studies teacher at the start of the year, the teacher said that they would be learning about the Alamo. We visited the Alamo that summer. My daughter was going to be learning about Native Americans. We visited an Native American mound that summer, and talked to archeology students about the dig that was going on at the site.

    We are starting international travel this summer, with a trip to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. My wife is a fan of Anne of Green Gables.

  20. @narmitaj Wow I can’t believe it’s ok to fine parents for taking kids out of school. My parents did that at least once a year ranging from a couple days to a couple weeks and while they may have gotten from flak for it from the school I don’t think it was a huge issue (Well, the one Philippines trip when I was 15 was kind of a headache because I was out for almost 3 weeks but it worked out) and work was always made up with little difficulty. Travel is so expensive that both my parents preferred to take us on trips out of peak season or pick flights around peak season that meant missing school so that we could experience more and I don’t think my sister and I are any worse off for it other than we’re trying to figure out how we can take 6 months off from our jobs to travel SE Asia and this is entirely our parents fault for instilling the travel bug very young.

  21. I completely understand what you’re saying about conventions. I do a lot of tradeshows, and I despise arriving at the airport, going to the convention center, spending 14 hours a day there, and then running to the airport again. I felt like I couldn’t claim to have “been to” the city if I only saw it in the dark from the back seat of a taxi.

    I started taking a vacation day at the end of each show so I could sight-see and basically recuperate. The experience is MUCH more pleas … well, I won’t say “pleasant,” but certainly bearable. And, when possible, I started taking my family. They get to sight-see while I work and I get to experience that vicariously. But yes, missing school is an issue — we limit it to once per school year.

  22. Been to Harry Potter already. Envy. Envy. Envy.

    I think it is the school administrators that create flack for parents pulling their kids out of school for occasional family travel. Most public schools are paid based on attendance, and missing kids mean missing money (that was counted on in the budget work-up). As a teacher I am always delighted when a student comes to me with news of a family trip. I will work very hard to help that student work around the assignments they will miss while gone, so as to still learn and master the content and not let his/her grades suffer due to the trip. Family travel can far more educational than seat time in my or any other teacher’s classroom. Families just have to be careful not to abuse the issue by taking their kids out excessively.

  23. You are clearly an extrovert (no deep insight from me there, I’m sure), because my primary reason to travel is exacly opposite to yours: I want to see things, not people.

    I mean, I love to get to know the people who live in a place–you can’t really appreciate what you’re seeing if you don’t understand the local culture. And of course I do enjoy travel to see friends. But my favorite vacations are the trips I take solo (with maybe a day or a meal with a local friend).

    I disagree with your contention that you’re better able to see things in pictures. The Taj Mahal, possibly the most photographed building in the world, was an entirely different experience when seen with my own eyes.

    I agree on the airport-hotel/convention-airport thing. This is why I get confused when people are all, “Worldcon is in Japan/Scotland/wherever! How can you not go?” Because what I’m hearing is, “Spend hours on a plane, spend lots of money, and waste 5 (4, 3) precious days at a convention when you could be seeing that country.”

    I expect it would be different if the convention were paying my way, but if I’m footing the bills, I don’t need the excuse of a convention to visit a place.

  24. New Zealand is fantastic. I spent a month there about 10 years ago, about 3 weeks of which was on the southern island. Loved Wellington on the northern island, Christchurch on the Southern. Easily the most beautiful country I’ve ever been too, and the people were easy going and kind.

  25. MarkGs, Christchurch has changed, it is still a good place to visit (and to live for some people) but the earthquakes made a difference.

  26. I like travel, but I like it best when I can stay a while. I much prefer a one-city tour where I can sit and watch the world go by to a whirlwind multi-city tour.

  27. I love to travel, it’s like a drug for me. The mere expectation of going somewhere make me happy, I love arriving at a familiar airport and knowing which bus or subway I need to take to get where I need to go. It’s even better when I know someone there, even if we only meet for coffee, it’s still a great experience to see a familiar face in an unfamiliar place.

    I wish everyone could try living outside the US for a little while, it allows for a broader perspective, and lifetime memories. My career in the Army allowed me to live and work for over a decade in Europe, and several year in the Middle East and North Africa.

    The fact that there are a few cites around the world as well as I know my hometown is still mind blowing for me, because there was a time back in my high school life when I wondered if I’d ever go anywhere or see anything. Living in another country, being able to interact, at least on a basic level, in the host nation’s language, made even something as simple as buying groceries a little bit of an adventure, as well.


  28. Travel and a re-read of The Android’s Dream got me wondering: did you write The Android’s Dream (or more specifically, the cruise ship sequences) before your first personal experience on a cruise ship?

  29. I like the fact that you agree that travel isn’t a priority for you and that is ok. However, I do think that kids can be better travelers than they are often given credit for. Our family, prioritizes travel and my kids grew up expecting one major trip (3+weeks) a year and many shorter ones. They were breastfed in airports, played soccer without a common language on beaches using hand gestures, and built palapas with an international pack of kids. They have been to the Alamo and to the Garden of the Gods. They have swam in two oceans, seen albino howler monkeys, been whitewater rafting, and cried when they saw kids their ages selling bananas for pennies.

    Each family unit has its own priorities. For us, exposing our offspring to the amazing variety and wonder of the planet is more important than new cars, designer clothes, and the latest phones. I always laugh when our family and friends always say that they can’t afford to travel but they eat out constantly or their 6 year old has the latest iphone. They say that the world is too dangerous and they keep their kids super scheduled and safe indoors. But I find seeing my kids learn to solve problems and make friends with different types of people is the best gift I can give them.

    My kids have already got the travel bug and have a list of places they need to go and see. One of my proudest moments was when my then 6 year old daughter was whining that she still hasn’t been on a safari in Africa to see Lions and Elephants in the wild and she has been “waiting her whole life”.

  30. Annamal: I’m sure that’s true. I’ve read that there’s been significant reconstruction and growth since the earthquakes, but I suppose it’s not surprising to hear that it’s a different place after experiencing that tragedy.

  31. I didn’t realize how much I loved going to new places until the first time I did so as an adult. As a kid my family always camped for our vacations, so I’d visited many of the local (defined as “can get there in two days in a car”) National Parks (and similar) destinations while growing up. Then we decided to go out West: Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc. for one big seven week trip. It was amazing: the whole ecosystem was new. Everything was new. It was fantastic. We did it again. Then we drove to Alaska (reference: we started outside of Philadelphia. It took nine weeks).

    Currently we’re talking about driving back to Alaska. If time allows, we’ll start by driving north to Labrador (why? BECAUSE IT HAS A ROAD*. Also we haven’t driven that road yet. Unpaved roads in motorhomes are fun, right?). We really enjoyed traveling in Canada on the last Alaska trip: we visited Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Yukon, Manitoba, and Ontario (We were warned driving across Ontario would be boring. It wasn’t.). One of the most amazing night skies I’ve seen was in some small town in the Yukon.

    There’s something about driving trips, if you have the time. The world’s big. You really begin to realize that when it takes five days to get to Colorado, and you watch the land go from suburbs to woods to fields to desert to mountains.

    *Yes. There is one major road through Labrador. You take a boat to get to it, too.
    **Well technically the road ends before it runs out of land, because there shoreline is actually private oil company property.

  32. I’d rather go to Spokane than Venice, in other words, if Spokane has people I like in it, and all Venice has is a bunch of buildings which are cool but which I will be able to see better in pictures.

    I like seeing people, sure — but the second half of the comment is boggling to me, because it’s so radically different from my own view, in two respects.

    First of all, seeing is only part of the experience. Looking at a picture is flat, whereas being there is a full-body surround-sound sensory experience. There’s sound, smell, the feeling of space or lack thereof, the process of walking through. Highgate Cemetery was more than its headstones; it was the blustery autumn day with the wind rushing through the trees raining leaves down on us and the tip of my nose going cold. Point Lobos is more than the cypresses; it’s the smell of the cypresses and the feel of the dirt under my feet and the distant barking of the sea lions. Furthermore, pictures will never show me even everything from the visual channel: they may show me the nave of the church, but usually not the ceiling, nor the floor with its worn grave slabs. They will show me the garden, but not the autumn leaf caught in the spider web between two trees. I would have to look at hundreds of pictures from Malbork Castle to capture what I saw there. (Heck, I took hundreds of pictures there!)

    Second, the most memorable part to me is usually the bit I wouldn’t have thought to go looking for if I weren’t there. The first time I went to Japan, my sister and I went to see the famous temple of Ginkakuji, which I loved — but I loved even better the tiny shrine off to the left outside Ginkakuji, whose name I still don’t know. Or when I was in Winchester, and she and I walked to St. Cross outside of town; we went for the porter’s dole (old medieval tradition: even now, if you walk up to the gate and ask for the dole, they will give you bread and water), but stayed for the courtyard with the enormous tree and the most amazingly plush grass I have ever flung myself full-length in. I can look at pictures of famous buildings in Venice, but I’m unlikely to see pictures of the stuff I wouldn’t think to look for.

    I write all of this in the full awareness that I have been extremely fortunate in my travel opportunities. My father’s work has often taken him abroad, so he has a giant pile of frequent flyer miles, and both in childhood and now I’ve been able to afford trips to other countries: British Virgin Islands, Costa Rica, England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Israel, Japan, India, Poland, Greece, Italy, Turkey, France, the Bahamas. It’s created a positive feedback loop: these trips have led me to really enjoy travel and the different experiences I have when I go places, so as a result I arrange more trips when I can. As a replacement, pictures don’t even begin to cut it.

  33. I’m with Marie here; I love traveling for visiting places, not people. But then, I’m glad if I _don’t_ see most of my extended family. Black sheep and all, you know. :-)

    Photos will never replace the reality for me (though I love photographing and sharing some of the results on my blog). I also have noticed that I get a much better grip on scenes when I’ve seen a place, even when much has changed since the times of the Romans or the 10th century. It is much easier for me to mentally time travel directly in a place and not having to rely on photos and google earth.

    With those 200 million (heck, a percentage of that) mentioned in another post, I’d spend six months a year traveling, including some really off-the-route places like the Aleute Islands or Kamchatka. :-)

  34. I don’t have a car, a tv, or a smartphone. I don’t smoke, I hardly ever drink. All the money I save because of such things goes to travel. I don’t do “vacations”: I _travel_. I’ve lived in New Zealand for a year, in Australia for a year, in the USA for 3x three months. I’ve spent a month in Peru, a month in Chili + Argentina, two months in Canada, etc. Long-term travel like that is a lifestyle; you can’t realistically plan for such trips, you can’t prepare for most of what you’ll encounter. You have to dive in, find a new rhythm, learn to be comfortable with just what you can carry in your backpack, and live from day to day, or at most week to week. It isn’t – and can’t be – an escape from everyday life; that just wouldn’t be sustainable. It’s a different way of living everyday life. And the thing is – at least for me – that you *need* that time and that way of doing things in order to go do the ordinary things which will give you the experiences that’ll remain with you the longest. Who cares about seeing the sights when there’s everything else in the world to experience?!

    I have favorite cafes, libraries, bookstores, parks, etc all over the world. I feel at home in an incredible number of cities, and have a routine for getting to know a new city in such a way that I’ll feel comfortable there within a couple of days.

    People are incredibly important. Knowing some locals before you go places gives a tremendous boost to getting to know what life is really like there, and them being friends allows you to have a safe space during the inevitable days when you’re crashing and need to recover from whatever you’ve been doing in the days and weeks before.

    But even when not knowing anyone, the benefits of experiencing all these incredible places are such that I’d never want to forgo them. Hiking over a remote mountain pass and seeing the clouds recede before you, revealing the gnarly trees of an unsuspected rainforest. Wandering through the Sydney harbour, hearing the screech of a sulfur crested cockatoo as it majestically flaps its way overhead. Walking through rainy Edinburgh alleys and ducking into a random hole in the wall purely on the strength of the music you hear pouring out of it, to be gifted with an amazing performance of an artist you’d otherwise never have encountered. _Hearing_ a small whale as it’s investigating something at the bottom of the ocean, a mere 50 meters away, just beyond the cliff you’re walking past. Spending an afternoon sitting on the sunwarmed smooth flagstones of a Thai temple’s courtyard, watching the tourists drift in and out, and hearing voices lifted in song drift out as the service starts. Watching puffins dive off a cliff, half a meter below where you’re peeking over the edge. I could go on like this for a while… :)

    I’d never have eaten a muffuletta, a hoagie or a po-boy, nor drunk coca tea or inca kola, if it wasn’t for travelling. The best greek lamb I ever had, I ate in Wellington, New Zealand; the best salmon carpaccio in Arequipa, Peru. So many culinary delights I still crave regularly, and will go far out of my way for to experience again.

    All of that but to say: There’s many different ways of going places, but doing it fully, without holding back, is rewarding beyond words. Do please make certain Athena gets a proper glimpse of that.

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