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.)