By Nancy Erickson


Paul Theroux           “The best travel is a leap in the dark.”

                                   “Happiness may be desirable but it is a banal subject.”

                                                                      From “Dark Star Africa”  

 Rick Steves :            “ Thoughtful travel comes with powerful lessons.”

                                                                        ” Travel as a Political Act”

My Cardio Doctor   “Life is a journey; not a destination”.

                                     I’m not certain this is the kind of journey he                                              

                                     had in mind but; here we are.  I have been having trouble figuring out what it

                                     means.  What do you think?**

  I have been compelled to initiate this process primarily because of a huge quantity  of totally disorganized,  disparate travel facts, fictions, memories and thoughts I’ve been stashing in my computer over the years.  All this has consequently accumulated to a frightening degree.   Of course I consider them to be so momentous and compelling  that they  require some kind  of exposure – I’ve got to do something with it all.   Thoughts of any possible action beckoned to me in an accusatory fashion and eventually the time came when I was ready to respond.    

A lot of it was in the form of a loosely knit collection of pep talks I had given myself in preparation of  projected trips:  it was generally at this point that I tended to commence worrying and fretting over an ongoing fear that I haven’t been doing justice to the wonderful trips  done previously.  I am too aware that this was an unfortunate state of affairs indeed.    Their major purpose was to get me in the right frame of mind.

 Naturally I kept an intensive and ongoing and accurate record of all this introspection –Being fearful of losing any possible gems which had been  revealed.   Having done it all on paper this was all too possible; and to this I added opinions, judgements, descriptions, every little bit of travel material which happened to come my way.    It became reams, sheaths, veritable volumes of words, and    there being a handy dandy computer in residence and fully available, and being a tool   explicitly designed for the storage of trivia,   in the hopper it all went. 

The   obvious end result is a computer jammed with gibberish,  perish the thought:  a ton of  clutter.  Something had to be done;  or maybe just go.

Top priority:  I realized the need to quantify, synthesize, trash.  The first thing that emerged from the maelstrom were the following lists:


  • No housework, no menus, no grocery shopping.

  • No fruit flies; also no more overly friendly and overly pervasive  stink bugs. To be honest, this was a biggy: those bugs were driving me crazy. (You can’t read this list without getting a pretty good idea what was going on in my life).

  • No dentists (to be more specific:  No dentists needed at this exact moment, I have learned to make a good aggressive  attempt to have this particular situation well and truly under control when I travel;  no annual physicals or other jaunts of this type.

  • No refrigerator which seemingly is constantly in need of weeding.

  • No plants – includes inside and out

  • No cats – I’m sorry but these new kitties are Rogers

  • No diet and eventually I can add to that; no scales.

  • No weird schedule – the library is driving me crazy.

  • No SUDOKU, no MARTINIS, very little smoking – at first glance these struck me as personal pleasures  I was forgoing.  They are, but with reasons.  The Sudoku (especially when I wrote this) was a huge waste of time and more or less props for the other two detrimental items.  All three of these are intermeshed.  I found I was missing a lot of good travel adventure because of our habit of partaking of our predinner martini in the room, so I ceased.  There is no question about the smoking;  besides being unhealthy,  I wasted a lot of time and energy accomplishing a smoke.  So you see, in retrospect the canceling of these three was a decided asset.

  • No responsibilities

  • No projects, NO COMPUTER.   (the caps here were added later in my retired state)

  • There are MARTINIS but as a distinct reward- I have to earn them   at home;   I only allow myself to indulge when I’m away from home. (I sure am stuck on this one)

  • Meals on demand;   by someone else, and cleaned up by someone else.  AND the meals can be great meals.

  • four plus course meals -

  • GREAT BREAD …This I’m remembering with great pleasure even though I am not a “bread person”. 

  • JOURNAL MATERIAL:  Always ample.  I not only have journals from the current trips, there are other trips in my files.  I am really enjoying this “diarrhea of the mouth” but I really am put off by the idea that it’s probably a huge waste of time.  Which attitude takes precedence?

  • Without this there would be few PHOTO OPS – and oh, but I love my pictures.  Another waste of time.  (how can I say that?  As a counterpart to my paintings, cartoons)?  Actually I no longer do much with them. The best part is the taking of them anyway.

  • Accumulation of artistically oriented material; not only art work but I’ve discovered I can add writing.

  • Most especially I will be adding to my  personal data base; my experience and knowledge – please to stipulate good stuff- an absolute essential for me.  With each trip I rewarded with  a grasp of a different area.  Very good!  Enrich my quality of life. And entertain me.

  • Interpersonal relationships:  I’ve come a long way,  I have come to welcome;  maybe the most important outcome element of the whole experience.  This is something: now that I am  lacking the library, I need and don’t have.  I may go cruising for the opportunity to relate to other people.


  • Too large cruise ships determining ports/method of  Embarkation.  


  • DUVETS (I cannot sleep under these not even with blasting air conditioning ).

  • MEGA AIRPORTS – Dulles has become impossible and weird.

  • Too many temples.                                          

  • Questionable toilet facilities –not so much lately.  In the past we’ve hit some I’ve had nightmares about for years 

  • Too many tours;  frequently too early (my fault.  This can be tempered, ameliorated by cancelling a few tours?     And I find myself acquiring a disinterest in being herded around like a herd of goats, and preached to likewise.

  • Walking(my fault).                                              

  • Incorrectly described tours.

  • Less downtime eases transitions – I suppose that means less waiting around.  There’s often a large amount of waiting – the larger the group the more of this there is. 

  • Breakfast with strangers.

  • 4 am departures.  (Oh, boy!)                                   

  • CHOICE OF DESTINATION – this contains the seeds of being a supremely contentious subject.

  • JET LAG – is that really what it is, or is it actually withdrawal? (from being pampered or perhaps overdoing it on a cruise).getting back to earth Or am I just massively tired.  Physical disorientation and discomfort.  Someone dreamt up an equation to cover this:  one hour difference equals one day to recuperate.   Either way..  in my meandering thoughts it occurred to me to have a dichotomy going:  Knowledgeable witnesses adjure that in order to allay jet lag you must resist booze.  Only trouble is:  the only way I see to survive the flight is to drink.  Catch 22.                              

  •  Food….  Three huge meals; in my agenda at least two too many.  Unfamiliarity with cuisine is  not necessarily a problem, but lack of fresh fruits and vegetables definitely is.

  • Being deprived of my martini.  This used to be tougher when it included a cigarette (a small beer or wine is perfectly acceptable).

  • Officious officials.                                                                   

  • Methods of eating, ie; food on lazy susans(Chinese); buffet   especially at breakfast.       

  • Assigned hour to eat and table to eat at.  This arrangement  happily seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

  •  Making me be sociable especially at breakfast, but also Captain’s welcome cocktail party, costume parties ,  block party(which involves entire halls at cocktail hour- very hard to avoid but I can), welcome anything.  (Wait just a minute.  It’s totally unreasonable to include and not mention SEABOURNE’S PRIDE – (Oh, my ship!) which welcomed and signed us on board  with FREE FLOWING CHAMPAGNE.  I was simply blown away even though I don’t much love champagne.  It was the thought that counts:  That didn’t stop me from imbibing my share.  No, Siree!)


  • Course there’s a whole lot much more serious stuff but at this point I’m basically         concentrating on the more trivial of the possibilities/options. Will work on them later.

The lists are an amazingly good representation of my basic attitude towards travel, but they are in fact mere tips of the iceberg. 

I said I didn’t think I was getting as much out of it as I should and that I wasn’t conscious and positive thinking enough to see past the potholes, and this made me sad. I’d like to travel with less angst and more enjoyment:   I am in need of something that makes the whole thing worth the effort.

 My primary objective became a search for how to better judge and perceive those travels and  to create guidelines as a tool to achieve satisfaction.  I discovered the emergence of a need to establish a desirable travel philosophy.

A good start would be formulating a method which would streamline the process of planning  and delineating perfect travel arrangements.   Perhaps this could be accomplished by developing a system for rating and comparing my travel experiences:  a measuring device or   gauge to use to assess our actions. To further the effectiveness of the outcome I shall make a distinct effort  to locate an appropriate and applicable adjective or two in order to most effectively   emphasize/underscore/ighlight  make the concept  more accessible and therefore more viable as being explicitly of importance to the subject.   

  Herein lays the theme of this project: 

As an added benefit it is an excellent solution as to what and how to deal with all the extraneous (travel oriented) stuff in my computer;  as well as given me an excuse  to do a bit of much needed tidying up.

With that goal in mind I went to work. 

Admittedly the result of this effort has been a thorough, arguably overly introspective and even obsessive investigation of the subject of travel … as perceived by me.



THE +++++++++1/COMFORT ZONE 

A  concept I  have  encountered  fairly  frequently is that  of  “COMFORT ZONE”.  It caught my attention, my interest and managed  to  trigger my imagination.  I thought it was an idea exceptionally worthy of consideration and exploration.   I had the distinct impression that it could conceivably  provide  an ideal and intelligent approach to travel, and also seemed the perfect vehicle upon which to anchor my investigation.  I was conscious of this subject for quite some time;  enough  time of course to allow me to accumulate a considerable amount of material, information, and ideas on the subject.

Rick Steves and Paul Theroux are my two favorite travel writers and therefore obviously my two favorite authorities on the subject.    It was through their books that I encountered opinions and approaches to travel which have most appealed to me.  Even if they did not in fact actually represent or even resemble my  behavior,  it was they who best incorporated  elements and ideas I consider most relevant and desirable on the subject.

Rick Stevesis a prolific producer of travel literature and tourist material:  he is most well- known for his tours and tour guides.   His primary message is directed towards the travel actions of others  and  as such he is the veritable king of tourism in my way of thinking.  His is an assuredly pleasurable approach and being   highly accessible  is appreciably able to reach and influence a substantial audience in a very positive manner.  Travel in the form of   “off the beaten track”   and  an articulation of the desirability of “PUSHING the COMFORT ZONE” are two of his most succinctly expressed objectives.   It was he who initially introduced this concept to me.

He authored a book entitled “Travel as a Political Act”.  It is here he describes the objective  and  goals   available if traveling   “off the beaten track”,  stressing  specifically that a mental objective to travel is preferable to an itinerary.   His emphasis is on the importance of making an effort to get out and discover what makes the local inhabitants unique.  The message is meant to illustrate the importance of being willing, able, and perhaps even assertive in the pursuit of new ideas.   No way you can beat that.  This is a very elucidating and good read.

Paul Theroux

Paul Theroux is an author of serious fiction but is, I suspect to his regret, most well- known for the multitudinous   books describing  his travels.  He presents an amazing, adventurous and diverse collection of travel experiences as he relates his tales of his progressions around the world.     I have enjoyed them all.   I consider him the ultimate authority  on  travel  expressed  as a personal idiom ;      his is an intensely personal narrative and message:  he is speaking strictly for himself.  This is of course his basic thesis and it is that which his writings  specifically  confront.    Furthermore,  he believes in and portrays a particularly intense form of travel discomfort;  it is exciting in its depiction and portrayal of  highly strenuous adventures .   It is in fact this discomfort which gives him his theme  and  that which makes his books so intriguing, appealing, absorbing, impelling.   This makes for supreme reading but not so relevant for emulation.

One suggestion I found of particular interest is that he differentiates between the verbs   “tour” and “travel”.  That to him doesn’t prove to be much of a stretch:   there’s absolutely no question that his idea of “travel” is way too rough for the normal traveler.  Furthermore, I get the strong impression that one doesn’t even mention   the word  “tour” in his presence.  He proposes that “touring” may be considered “a form of complacency”:  and God forbid we give in to that.  Comfort isn’t anywhere in his vocabulary;  consequently one could possibly arrive at the conclusion that our returns aren’t nearly as ample as they could be.   That’s nice, but most of us are at least somewhat prone to this inclination and therefore likely to allow for at least a few amenities.   In the meantime  perhaps  we have gained  a  bit  by  becoming aware of other approaches and might even  have an occasional opportunity to bring some of that awareness to our own benefit.  I actually have  harbored negative opinions concerning the subject of too much ease quite contrary to the presumed attributes of a “touring “ ship.  This thinking certainly involves- some?  Ha-  relaxation  from the conventional.  I find his approach encouraging and supportive  but when push comes to shove:  I may think a good think,  but I’m weak.


It is he who has most effectively stated for me what I consider to be a major objective for travel.  It is present in his many adventures as “…the search for the unexpected and the excitement of discovery”.  That’ll do it just fine for me;  almost everyone would find that welcome.

I was amazed to realize how different they were:  they actually might be considered the antithesis of each other:    Paul’s message is intensely personal while Rick’s is directed towards the general, hopefully travelling, public.  They do however espouse certain commonalities:  an interest in exploring the less developed  areas of our globe and doing so unhampered by the more commercial of the travel industry and the importance of nurturing the aspect of an open mind receptive to the advent of discovery as an ideal goal for our travels, and not so overtly that of the question of comfort in travel.

In the meantime I had  encountered  the term  so frequently that I came to the conclusion that it was virtually an “old saw”.    Apparently there’s hardly a soul or a situation   which hasn’t been considered representative of a subject incorporating some element of this concept or which hasn’t  made reference to it in some way.  One example  I thought was particular  worthy of repetition was a story involving a number of women senators who were being inducted and interviewed.  A question asked them was:   “when young, what was the best advice you were given?”  One of them responded “Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone.” 

I was under the impression at first that it was the physical aspect which was  of  paramount  concern.        I  probably  came  to  this  conclusion  because that is an aspect which would most highly  affect me.   I think however the more profound meaning involves a mental and emotional reaction:  this does not of course discount the physical element.

I was curious about the possibility of  further implications  peculiar  to  this expression  so naturally I looked it up in Google which provided the following:   “Comfort zone” : “A psychological concept meaning an anxiety neutral position”.   I’d say that was a pretty straightforward but not especially enlightening statement, but associated with the subject of travel it takes on a particularly intriguing quality.

Assuming that in travel any intention is probably better than none,   I would elect this particular approach as being a superior and idealistic goal;   if not achievable,   at least worthy of keeping in mind.     It certainly offers the capability of encouraging and achieving   a more memorable and more profound experience.   I think a major asset is  its possible role as a motivator in the search for an enlightening experience.  I am of the opinion that this is a valid concept in association with the subject of travel and  as such I intend to give it some thought.   An exploration should prove to be elucidating, enlightening and fun.

Assuming and  accepting the fact that everyone has their own variation of what the word “comfort” means  the concept can be considered to be highly individualistic in interpretation.

For instance:  I imagine almost everyone needs prodding when in a particularly comfortable position.  (I see  this statement creates the impression that it is primarily a physical consideration).     I shall state it another way in order to removed that particular aspect:   we all have a streak of inertia somewhere, some more overtly than others.  Most appropriate here is the conclusion I came to recently that  I’m really more comfortable in my own house.  That’s honest and assuredly  a very clear statement, but that kind of sentiment is obfuscating the question.

A major influence on the question of “comfort”  is that of  the importance or significance  of the daily routine.  Trying to retain any resemblance of personal order or a normal routine while traveling is hopeless:   no doubt about it, a lost cause.

 Travel  automatically  can be assumed  to contain a propensity for aggravation and total disruption.  The advent of negative events while traveling is a natural phenomenon as it comes with a    built in array of hazards.   An exaggerated  propensity for uncontrollable situations is inherent.    These  could initially cause discomfort but could actually serve to   enhance life:  in  breaking that daily routine,   acquiring a new collection of people to meet,  languages to hear,  food to taste,  the intrigue of new surroundings, and variety in its many forms.  Indeed, negative or uncomfortable situations contain the capacity to serve as an advantage rather than merely a discomfort.   Most of these events are temporary, nebulous, fleeting and transitory:    usually nothing much in your life has been changed  -   lost or gained.    It’s the bigger issues which are more lasting and memorable. 

The only sensible response to this proclivity  is to chill out:   acccept the inevitable and all eventualities,   try to ignore the discomfort,  there’s nothing to be done about it,  you  might as well grin and bear it,  be receptive to some pertinent readjustments,  if at all possible   make an attempt at being a bit more flexible.  Truthfully;   that’s hard not  to do and travel too. 

A  major hazard encountered in our travels are the natural and primary appurtenances of travel:  the airlines.  They  are so obvious,  unavoidable and ample they hardly need be mentioned.   Every one just seems hell bent on wrecking  any  chance of comfort and  they  tend to be aggravating  enough to suffice for the entire trip.   Changes in  scheduling,  cancellations, seating discomforts ,  any kind of luggage craziness,  problematic destination availability,  inclement weather and its effect,   and scheduling fluctuations are all very prone to attacks of disappointing behavior, and so it goes.  

Just to add a bit of spice  to the equation and In order to bring more action to the equation and therefore a bit more stress and trial,  I can’t resist mentioning   the negative opportunities  available and frequently implicit therein:   personal hang-ups, prejudices, and even a basic lack of interest or curiosity (a shame I don’t even  care to consider),  denials----whatever we might call it.

Obviously we can’t be open or interested in everything.  Watch this one:    more is better here.  I am a firm believer in the desirability of knowledge so this is one spot I definitely would not agree to any flexibility.  Traveling should  be intended to be  about  learning, activating in getting  the message across – informing us.  It is  essential in that case to make an effort to be interested in everything and open to all:  Yes.    A dictum I espouse:   stop and smell the daisies.  It is that which adds dimension to life.  But then again, some people just don’t care:   the whole concept is meaningless to them.  I find this  tragic.  Imagination and curiosity are an essential  part of the equation of life.  I believe that their inclusion and consideration are necessary to enhance and therefore assure a happy life.  And  that’s enough lecturing.

Then there’s the REALLY serious stuff like:      tsunamis, hijacking, broken bones,  legionnaire’s disease. (I just can’t resist and I simply have to add the relatively recent addition of the suicide- cum -weapon of mass destruction airplanes.  And  since their advent  we’ve  added airplanes used as suicide implements, and the likelihood and implied dangers of flying over non-declared war zones.   These are   situations which are hard to ignore.   But this is so awful and   being so unlikely,  I  really should not even mention them. 

Wow!  This could really get serious.   Fortunately we’ve been lucky.   Now that I think about it maybe I’d better stay home.  No!!!  Too  alarmist:   if you think this way you might as well stop living.

My pluses and minuses lists  illustrate  quite obviously  that it doesn’t take much to push me out of my comfort zone:   I think I’ve managed to establish the fact that sheer anticipation pushes me over the edge.  The fact that I am not only a worrier about future occurrences, I am actually a BIG  worrier:   this is sad because I’m fully aware  that the likelihood of my fears occurring is highly unlikely.    But I’d rather worry than be pragmatic and not care about what happens – it would be nice if I’d discover a middle ground.   Add to that    the innocent  requisite of departure from Dulles Airport.  Dulles Airport used to  be  a  delight –yes it was -  but it’s gone ballistic.  I have been known, about half way in to the procession to the departure gate, to just flat out state that I was already ready to go  home .   They may be upgrading services;  but they’ve in the meantime managed to downgrade comfort and,  I assert, even practicality.   This is ongoing and shall assuredly not be finished in my lifetime.

 While I’m on the subject of my approach to the comfort zone issue and my apparent and concerned lack of success in achieving equilibrium with the issue:  it occurs to me that all this apparent fulminating and wallowing around in introspective thinking I’ve been doing while writing this, as well as while traveling of course,  could surely qualify as fulfilling my comfort zone quota quite  adequately as well as  any perhaps  fictional “travel” contract which might exist,  as well as  getting the most bang out of my travel buck.  So now I feel warranted to contend that I have  unbeknownst to me  been experiencing the ultimate travel experience all along:   how’s that for cheap thrills.

Also, as I seem intent on insinuating myself in to the conversation,  I shall continue and make an open confession to the fact  that I start out with a comfort  issue:   I have a slightly corrupt back.  This  is  a  physically limiting feature and therefore  makes a difference in the equation:  I can only walk or stand for a limited length of time and these are standard touring requirements.     I am forced to make a conscious effort to take into consideration and decipher the degree of touring difficulties and to make creative adjustments.  I am guilty of taking advantage of the availability of wheelchairs where ever at all possible.  I hate to admit a handicap or limitation – I am in denial and I’m ready for some discomfort – I accept it – but I do have to be sensible.

Assuredly stretching your comfort zone is of undisputed importance in attaining  the most out of travel.   Worthy as it may be,  and an admirable goal  to aim a bit for,  we are still in need of establishing a comprehensive more accessible,  transparent type of representative  of the entire project. 

I am once again in search of a more  USER FRIENDLY ADJECTIVE – perhaps a SLOGAN.…

With this in mind  I do a bit of speculative thinking  and I’m reminded of the fact that comfort  is not the only   message contained in the writings of my  authors.     I believe an even more appropriate, applicable message is the importance of – in Paul’s words “… the search for the unexpected and the excitement of discovery”,     and as such, we’ll give it a try.

The penultimate objective:

                          SURPRISE, DISCOVERY and THE UNEXPECTED


I am satisfied.  Hopefully these objectives are within reach and offer a reasonable  assurance  of satisfaction. What appeals to me is that they are realistically attainable and I think quite accessible therefore without a doubt  highly acceptable.

Commercial tours are a difficult venue in which to attempt any very creative encountering but unfortunately, unless you are brave and perhaps healthy enough to take off on your own, the conventional methods of travel will have to serve.   Therefore I usher in my next topic.





Although my preliminary lists are efficient, convenient, informative, and fun, they are mere suggestions:  A skeletal reference point which may serve efficiently as  an outline as I develop my subject.

WHAT has been my goal as I travel?  What if anything have I considered an objective?

I might as well introduce this topic with the statement that there is a distinct possibility that I don’t NEED to travel.  But I know as I process,  that idea,  although delightfully simple and convenient,  becomes  more and more obviously incorrect.  Actually I’ll even categorize it as just plain simplistic and stupid.  Obviously I’ve always had the desire to visit other places; the necessity of that   is  in my blood.

But the thought of that does enter my mind occasionally especially when the process is not proceeding as smoothly as might be desired.  I had been quite  adequately supported in this opinion  by simply assuring myself that It is quite apparent I have enough adventure and excitement at the library;  the environment in which I spent most of my waking hours.  But now that I’m retired,   where exactly might this rationale leave me?

It’s definitely not a holiday or a vacation:  I’m now retired so every day is a holiday and I don’t know about such a concept let alone arrived  at a reasonable definition for that.    I think I have no formal designation for my sojourns:  I’m not collecting specific varieties of destinations nor am I aiming for places I haven’t been -  as I’ve actually probably already been there.  My objectives contrary to those just enumerated were a bit more substantive than that.  So, how do these purposes compare  in search of  an ideal?   Substantive sounds quite adequate to me – actually contemplating why I went anywhere is so complex  I would have to start a whole new project. That will not happen just now.   Now that I declare I’ve got that issue satisfactorily settled I am disturbed at the thought that maybe I’ve made such an intellectual process  out of this whole destination decision business that I may never again feel compelled to go anywhere as the challenge is no longer there.   Wouldn’t that be ridiculous…   I   hope not.

One condition which is becoming more and more apparent and equally more of a determining factor and a detriment is the fact that I’m getting less interested in being anywhere in particular at any given time – that sure makes early tour times even more egregious. Slowing down is fine, but to me it  actually looks too much like getting older.  And we can’t have that.   So what’s the alternative?

Obviously the best part of travel is to be given the opportunity to:   encounter, to access  the unaccustomed and unique,  the ethnic and local color,  unfamiliar environments, natural marvels and beauty, exotic venues, antique towns, and food and drink usually associated only within a particular area.    It’s a sincere and significant pleasure to participate in or at least observe the distinct uniqueness to be encountered around the world. Traveling is the ultimate method of acquiring an understanding and appreciation of the world:  It is the visual, personal, encounter which makes it yours.  It expands our knowledge and understanding, encourages curiosity and thus increases the enjoyment of life.  It also has the benefit of pushing us out of our usual routine; a benefit which has a very good chance of introducing and therefore acquiring new and equally satisfying activities and behaviors and which offers the exciting and beneficial opportunity to discover.

  I am most appreciative as this is  the opportunity to  be introduced to exciting subject matter and inspiration and ideas for my artistic endeavors;   that of  both photography as well as painting/ drawing:   amazing architecture, boats, people, the list is virtually endless.

 I am also offered the opportunity to sketch which not only supplies subject matter, but also great drawing practice for improving   hand eye coordination.  Drawing is a very good thing: even more of an attribute offered by the practice of drawing is the fact that as this activity requires unusual concentration, it therefore offers the additional  effect of imprinting images on the brain, which in turn leaves the viewer with a much stronger impression of the surroundings than usual.   Appreciation for the surroundings –supremely satisfying but  unfortunately a rare activity.   The material you acquire in this way has a better chance of staying with you and  one which adds so much to any visit.  Best is that one is in full appreciation of the surroundings;  an opportunity to stop and smell the roses. 

An additional attribute offered by travel:   I love intense thinking about what I encounter, about what I feel and think,  and then writing it all down.   The travel has resulted in the acquisition of a substantial amount of  stuff to think about:  material to play with, material with which to create journals,  and to enjoy for the rest of my life. WRITING:  It took me quite a while to realize and appreciate that which I am sitting here and doing – it was just so ubiquitous I didn’t notice it but I’d almost say it was the biggest gift I have received from my travels – well, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration but I think we’ve all gotten the message.  Assuredly it’s product and effect will be with me forever especially as it’s physical demands are limited.

Unfortunately a great deal of what is considered to be the most desirable destinations has been buried under tourism, pollution, modern construction, and probably a host of other things which shall remain nameless.  The presence of too many cars has had a huge effect.  Access to key points has become restricted therefore effectively losing their transparency, any possible connection with their original purpose, their mystique.  Traffic jams are frequent and unpleasant.  There is virtually nothing remaining which is accessible, approachable or even seeable.  Masses of tourists swarming all over the featured item has the effect of totally decimating and annihilating what one is there to appreciate:  the mystery, the illusion is almost no longer discernable.

 I’m so lucky I had the opportunity to visit at least some of the world before modernism and the age of tourism descended. This fact does however contain a bit of the catch 22 about it:     It may be great to get there before the advent of so-called amenities but how many amenities are you actually willing and/or able to live without?   I have come to the conclusion that sometimes we may actually be better off with a few.   I have been permanently scarred by a few encounters in my past:   for a long time I was plagued by nightmares engendered by nasty or non- existent toilet facilities.  This is an undesirable that comes to mind which I’d have happily done without.

An additional and succinct comment I shall contribute is  the reaction of a friend to a trip she made a very long time ago  to Indonesia.  With her wry British-style sense of humor,   she described most succinctly the experience as she announced that said area  ”was not ready for me”.   I did not find this hard to believe as I think the area was hardly explored when they went there (I guess it wouldn’t be pc if I let it be known the first thought I had was cannibals, headhunters, but it was). At the very least I suspect she was indeed roughing it.  

 The main ingredients of many of my previous complaints,  I am ashamed to admit,  are a distinct presence  in my life and sorrowfully in spades.  Please,    I am speaking from the environs of Washington D. C.,   the nation’s capital and no doubt we’ve got totally #1 the best in the country tourist destinations:  museums, government establishments, memorials, etc.    Cars; we’re awash and totally dependent on cars.  Tourists;  I can hardly wait for tourist season because I just love using them as art subject matter:  I love the colorful dress, the colorful paraphernalia as in backpacks,  strollers filled with piles of all but the baby, and the selfies and other picture taking equipment.  Battle fields:  I may be sitting in Virginia the capital of battlefields,  and I may also be slightly prejudiced;  which quite adequately to me suggests that I may by all rights sit here and say we’ve got the best Battlefields ever – actually it’s difficult to equate battlefields with “best”, so not really, but Virginia has gotten a lot of mileage and money from them and you bet I’ve been to almost all of them.  And I’ll bet I could come up with more.

 I have asked people why they travel.  Often they say it’s simply because they’ve never been there.  Some people have definite agendas and lists of priorities.  For instance: they need to visit every continent,  or every state, or perhaps even every country.   Maybe they just like cruising - like anywhere.  Birding is an exceedingly worthy and highly favored activity.  Although highly commendable, it can be a particularly hazardous and disappointing  travel objective,  both to orchestrate and achieve, as birds are not  entirely/particularly programmable.  People are quite inclined and do indeed navigate entire continents and frightful hazards to view a bird which may or may not even be there.  (For a further and very humorous look involving the humorous antics present  in the activity of bird spotting I highly recommend the movie “The Big Year” filmed in 2011 starring Steve Martin.  It is indeed a hoot.)

 Now that I think of it the mere act of travel, any traveling, affords tons of other equally unplanned disappointments;   it  may be equally fraught with uncertainties and challenges, perhaps even suspense;  but not necessarily  in such an extreme form.  

By the act of  questioning  or attempting to evade  the  presence  of suspense as we travel, we may be depriving ourselves of the possibility of discovery.  I have become increasingly aware of the importance of that proclivity in the equation:  it provides quality, enrichment, and pleasure and as such may even be considered essential.   Paul Theroux expresses it succinctly:   He asserts that the fundamental quest in travel is the search of the unexpected.  Perfect. 

What is it that causes a “been there” attitude which may be considered as the antithesis of “discovery”.

 Primarily there is the ubiquitous fact of overexposure created by tourist propaganda and publicity. Everyone is out to encounter the same objective.   The more familiar and well known it is, the more desirable it has become.  Is this a viable goal?  The higher the exposure quotient, the higher the success points for visiting. Sorry, I’m being cynical. In the capitalist scheme of things assuredly these are a necessity but they tend to ruin the excitement.  Is there any way we can   surmount that problem?  As I am totally committed to availability and procurement for all to knowledge I will have to admit that we’re stuck with overexposure.  

This attitude has not been helped by the presence of books with titles directed at the sentiment:   ” you gotta’ see”.   This is in reference to certain destinations  the book  editor deems  salient  and therefore most recommended.  Titles I have seen: “1000 Places To See Before You Die,”   and a more reasonable one with a goal being a mere 100 locales,  and   even that is  too many.   Furthermore,  why would we care to take the word of some unknown list creator? 

There’s also apparently  the desire to achieve all that which is in a personal so called “bucket” list. Somehow or other it has become a popular objective, but also somehow or other it gives me the creeps.  Everyone needs to have a “bucket” list:  and you bet a whole lot of what’s in those books lands in those buckets.  I find this business maudlin, or maybe ghoulish. 

I think it’s not unlikely to consider the primary objective for most touring as being to those locations in the world  which are most highly publicized.   Obviously the end result of all this is everyone going to the same places.   Admittedly the 1000 goal does spread the onus out a bit, but it is still creating those crowds…I know there’s nothing to be done about all this.  Too many people, not enough sights:  Good argument to go to space.

Considering and to this end I must append another most apt suggestion I encountered along the way:  the best thing to do is to get a Fodor’s and go in the opposite direction.

Some travelers I think assume that the act of simply getting there qualifies   as an accomplishment.  There,  officially,   is that “Been there, done that” attitude.  And how often is that the actual intended goal?  Some people may harbor the impressive but delusional idea that they are gaining something?  What?  How much actual “in depth” can you get on what at that point may be a hardly more than a “quicky” tour?

  I’ve shocked people by my apparent antipathy to the idea of ruins but I really kind of feel that way.  Why? For one thing, I spent some of my formative life exploring piles of antiquated stones with antiquarians and I admit I was not too heavily inspired.  Since then I’ve acquired the attitude:  “After you’ve seen Ephesus…? “, which certainly leaves most ruins just that.  How much do most people get out of viewing a bunch of stones lying around on the ground?   I must admit this may be a true prejudicial Ares attitude. 

I was happy to discover I was not alone:  I have one of my favorite authors to thank for offering me substantiation.   David Lodge says travel is a form of religion and those destinations take the place of “shrines” – how perfect.     David Lodge is not primarily or even casually   a travel writer.  His main goal is educating his readers  and encouraging them to think;  certainly an excellent objective.   As a frequent traveler,  his books include numerous descriptions and meaty personal opinions acquired from foreign travels.  In his novel “Paradise” he managed to do a very good job of describing what I consider to be one of my main perceptions of travel.   He asserts that tourism is wearing out the planet.  This definitely is an opinion in which I agree wholeheartedly and  I shall take this opportunity to further embroider this statement by adding  my impression that from 1963 on the situation has been going downhill exceedingly rapidly.  I was indeed fortunate to have been in Europe (Europe being a major case in point) before the surge.  (I also must add that although that may have been good for me, it was not especially so for Europe;  this being 1947-1953 and was therefore just then emerging from the horror of WWII).   But that fact has made me spoiled.  A huge factor in this opinion is the eminent accessibility and ease of movement in evidence then.  A good story particularly illustrative of this assertion is that recently they had to close Venice because it was FULL.  Now really!

He further embellishes the “religion” idea by stating that said tourism is a form of pilgrimage, the shrines being the destinations.  This scenario rings  so true to me.  Look at our major tourist attractions:  the Parthenon, the Taj Mahal,  the  Pyramids.  Unfortunately these extraordinary locations lose their religious quality mysticism/romance, when swarmed over by reams of humanity. And to continue the magnificent metaphors,  he expressed the view that the act of swimming , which is consistent with a beach holiday, might be considered a form of baptism.   Amen.

 And that reminded me:  here – beach going  -  is an activity I completely overlooked,  maybe because it’s too ubiquitous or perhaps because it was associated with camping.  Wow, that’s a horse of a different color.  Camping!  What we were doing was indeed some variety of travel but it was so primitive both in objective and execution It never entered my mind to include it here.  It also helps that we were doing it prior to the advent of the computer or even wh…. no, what am I talking about?  I was so busy I had no time to be jotting notes let alone entering them in to a computer.  So I suppose it’s very logical I failed to think of mentioning it:  I sure never worried about getting my money’s worth out of that one.

And it’s about here I realized I had another major definition problem.  Travel of course is a totally satisfying topic in itself but perhaps there are different reasons to travel, different objectives/purposes and whatever.  I started thinking about this and most to the point how it effects my desires and version :  this is what I came up with.  Do you think it is desirable, expeditious, at all of interest to contemplate the differences between travel, holiday, vacation?  While I was contemplating camping (there’s that “C” word again) it occurred to me that I never have even thought about vacation:  this word does not even seem to be in my vocabulary.  We never went on “vacation” per se.  We went camping  and we camped for a multitude of reasons one of which was as an adjunct to RJ’s (husband) two week reserve duty.  Hmmm … we did do a test run of the camper down to Florida about 45 years ago and there were a multitude of  miscellaneous here and theres  like to  the Cove Campground in Winchester, Virginia,  to beaches of the Outer Banks and the Eastern Shores of Md., Del.  and Virginia.  Most of our “trips” were tack-ons to business trips - but  not all.   I suppose some actually did involve “play”.   Whatever it is, I never did think in terms of “vacation”.   Why not?  What do I think is a vacation?  Do I think it’s a bad thing?  Am I being parsimonious?  A  snob?


Being as most of my favorite reading is travel literature it’s not hard for me to stretch my imagination into thinking that  maybe the only reason to undergo the angst of travel is to write a book. Boy, am I a dreamer! It may not be a book but it has sure ballooned into something, if only constant obsessive notes and an interest in writing.  That is so good:  And  this is SUCH a good example of what traveling has done for me. 

The following is an excerpt which may further serve to illustrate my personal world as a traveler.

 From my New England Journal

A visit to this neck of the woods has been on my “to do” list for quite some time thanks to: multitudinous literary encounters and descriptions,  the many local lighthouses I’ve used as subjects in my painting (seeing them in their natural situ would be fabulous,  unfortunately almost none of my lighthouses were on the tour agenda),  the presence of the legendary home of the Cajuns of Louisiana  the name of which  has been evading me for ages and I figure a close encounter may solve this problem, and  Peggy’s Cove is a highly treasured artist’s subject  and I’ve wanted to visit it for a long time.   My big discovery on this trip was the presence and evidence of the glacial past in a most spectacular form:   enormous boulders scattered or perched in a haphazard fashion around the landscape, here, there and everywhere.   The most noteworthy presence I saw was in the form of a rock garden.   This was a far cry from our rather polite barely- visible- above- the -surface type of rock garden but rather an entirety of rocks towering over and  dwarfing its house:   Instead of a house with a rock garden, it was a rock garden with a house.   And lastly, New England is my heritage and it’s sad I haven’t become better acquainted, but it’s a fearful distance and most explicitly a long boring car trip.  This  cruise is just the solution.



A description of TRAVEL OPTIONS OR:

WHEN -- - HOW -- (WHAT, WHERE, and WHY will come later)


It took me awhile to discover the importance of this particular aspect in determining   basic  travel decisions:  where and when you might  go are very much affected by time of year and hemisphere:  These  situations:   determine  availability of tours,  effect schedules of availability of museums,  castles, transportation and  almost everything that might be on your travel agenda,  favorable  weather conditions,  and actually length of touring day.    All of these factors can be severely restricting.



River tours   -    cruises   -    land tours   -    self- guided tours 


I have just discovered there is more than the one self-evident and most familiar category of cruises.  One of them is apparently being designated as “destination”.    Aren’t they all?  Of course there are a variety of others incorporating singular and specific mostly onship tour objectives:  maybe including well known personalities of one kind of another or perhaps specific interests like music or food and whatever,  and of course there is Disney but I think in the long run they all include a variety of destinations.  What might one call the other, non- specific variety?  Beats me.  Just ”cruising”?  Maybe in this case, where its sole use is in its ocean- going capacity, it might be known as “Club Med at Sea”.

A flat statement might be made that if you want to see the world insulated go by cruise line.  Maybe that is the preferred, the most desirable,  just exactly what is wanted. Speaking of cruising in general:  you may be “seeing the world”, and maybe homogenized, but…

 Size of ship might be of utmost importance.  I am horrified to discover Viking- the river cruisers - has gone into the “seagoing cruise” business.  The actual point of this statement is that it is in their brochure that I find a definition involving size of ship:  Viking categorizes its 930 passengers ships as being a “small cruise” ship.  Oh?  I think not.

How disgusting. 

First of all, as large ships tend to spend a significant amount of time at sea they also tend to be amply equipped with activities and pastimes meant to keep their passengers entertained. No, I don’t think I can actually say that, but I shall say: The larger the ship, the more attractions, all of which, incidentally, are paid for by you whether you use them or not.   The size of the ship is often a restricting factor:  there are limits as to which ports they can visit.  They often are too large to dock, so passengers are tendered in, a process which is quite time consuming. In actuality, this method is the least problematic as it eliminates much walking.

 As a positive:  there’s good food guaranteed (the bigger the ship, the better the food?  I don’t really know that either,  I’m just assuming),   massive  amounts of so called amenities, and more staff dedicated to the passenger’s welfare so there’s more assurance of being  well taken care of - bottle fed almost (- oops maybe more literally than meant).  Adventure is pretty much up to you – although the choice of side trips is immense.   There is little to push the comfort zone – no zone.   Unfortunately they’ve made traveling for the world at large often very uncomfortable.  In Istanbul we encountered 10 of these monsters in port presumably regurgitating 40,000 people.  The effect of this is annoyingly uncomfortable conditions for all.

There are smaller ships as well,  but  I get the distinct impression these are becoming fewer and fewer as we speak.   The advantage of these are: small port accessibility which permits of a larger choice of destinations, as well as close in docking which also serves to  cut down on the walking. 

An immense advantage as far as I’m concerned are the multiple eating arrangements available.  Usually you are able to dine when and where you wish.  You are offered the opportunity to dine with others if you so wish.  There are often multiple dining rooms with varying menus.  You may, I think, always dine in your cabin- I can’t imagine why unless maybe you are sick or exhausted from a long hard day of touring.  

I really dislike the formal occasions one is especially expected to participate in on cruises.  This activity appears perhaps to be dying out and at any rate is no longer quite so stringently formal.  Actually I hate to admit this but I think a certain amount of ceremony and a bit of effort made for dinner should not  be  discouraged.

Back in the hay day of ocean travel, formal meant FORMAL, no joke.  That may have been nice and actually, when you are on the sea six days at a time with not a whole lot else to do, it wasn’t so onerous.  I was young then so actually I probably have no right to say a thing.  But also not so young that I couldn’t enjoy the dressy festivities.   I think it was quite delightful, maybe actually a pleasure to put out a bit of effort and make an “occasion” occasionally.

At that point and for quite some time to come there was a generally accepted tacit guideline regarding dress – a so called “dress code”.  I spent ages at one point contemplating the suggested parameters of “casual chic”- what on earth is that.  Chico’s apparel has been the answer as being interchangeable, unwrinkley, and appropriate for all occasions.   But since I went through  all that soul searching, the dress factor has loosened considerably.  This of course is true almost everywhere now.

 By the time I was actively pursuing travel there was less sitting on the boat and more exhausting touring. 

 The historical/cultural offerings (lectures, demonstrations) tend to be terrific and highly appreciated but after 6 I preferred a magnanimous meal and a cozy bed.  I remember Viking’s after dinner offerings, when it was in its infrequent cruising mode, as being particularly all conclusive and amusing.  By “all inclusive” I meant a strong inclination to use the crew, and actually once even the passengers,  as the evening performers which I thought wasn’t very fair.  Would a job offer be denied if you had no talent or suffered from stage fright? (That’s nothing, in Russia they were even expected to give learned and lengthy lectures, trained and knowledgeable or not).  But who am I?  Anyway, we only minimally partook of after dinner offerings.

 If pools are important and it’s the appropriate time of year,  smaller ships have pools which are really not much worth more than just a dip .  But here again I have a strong suspicion that this is no longer true with the advent of the upsizing of the ships.

Buffets are ok, being in use primarily only for breakfast and pool side, and sit down meals are usually available if preferred but are slower. 

An occasional off-day is frequent and very much appreciated.

I have to talk about really huge ships – the kind that are floating cities. I tend to cringe at the very mention.  Don’t know what they are doing?  Traveling?  Don’t think so.  Just saw an ad by Royal Caribbean which reminded me of this  element. They were announcing all the wonderful activities they offer:  the Broadway play “Chicago”, two different shows every night, an Ice Capades, Zip-lining, mountain climbing. Spas?  Ick!  I eventually came to the conclusion it was the ship that was the destination.

To be sure, the issue involving the apparent trend towards larger ships is of little import .  Of more interest and frequently a subject of conversation among cruise passengers  is the apparent direction towards monopoly in the cruise ship world ;  they seem to be in a constant flux of changing ownerships and the usual response is to lose track.

A brief cursory  perusal  into the website CRUISELINE.COM should prove Informative and entertaining if you care to check up on ship ratings, sizes and other stats, ownership and all that stuff.



  Cruise arrangements  include  tour itineraries from which  to choose:  this usually comes with an additional cost. Unless you are somewhat familiar with the area this choice can often be a matter of pot luck.  When these tours are cancelled, usually for lack of participation, you are often left with nothing.   There is a strong tendency to involve a lot of walking.  The cruise companies rate the difficulty of their offered tours but who knows exactly how stringent their criteria was.   This basically remains  a matter of personal judgment.  If ambulating is difficult, and limitations a necessity;  you are basically left with potluck. This is ok if at a reasonably slow pace and hopefully not too many days in a row.  I don’t do anything rated strenuous like kayaking or mountain climbing,  but otherwise I’m just taking a chance.  It hasn’t really been too big an issue:   I do what I can or want to do and then I sit down and enjoy the landscape. .     SEABOURNE DAY TRIPS – Starting time is usually a reasonable 9 am till lunch.  There is usually an entire day in port allowing for free time.   Alternating this with days at sea serves to lighten the load and are  sometimes a  very much appreciated occurrence.   Local tour offerings will however often be sitting on the pier when you arrive.   On public tours you keep up or are left behind.   Not too much is available for the physically limited. This is surprising in association with the more costly cruises and considering an aging  population – I may actually be underrating  the number of “double income no kids”, but then again they may very well be energetic enough to be doing it on their own .

  When it comes to the question of side trips:   I personally think it’s wise to be selective.  Hot air balloons and mini plane rides may sound romantic and alluring but I seriously question their safety.  Security I think is maybe not contemplated and casual at best.  I was so relieved in Egypt when the balloon  trip over the Valley of the Kings (incidentally scheduled for the crack of dawn) was cancelled,  especially when I heard the reason:   some time earlier a balloon had crashed into a military garrison – this is Egypt remember -   assuredly not advisable.  It was fortunate that the only outcome was to curtail expeditions but that restriction lasted just a short time, maybe just long enough to let the dust settle and they were operating just as before.  Who cares?  

Tours that are not too early,  strenuous or numerous are preferable and   appreciated as far as I’m concerned.

  My favorite method of viewing , touring, and what have you:  I was very happy just being driven around to be occasionally interrupted by short stretches of perambulation.  I’ve had a tendency  to utter the soubriquet  while undergoing  any and even all  tours - to myself,  I promise,  –the assignation of “ubiquitous tour”;   one through which I had to survive in order to earn - my martini?  How’s that for attitude?  Slightly shameful I suppose.     I am somewhat able to walk and I will walk, but it is uncomfortable and that’s surely the explanation, but that’s not to underrate the martini either.

  One amusing addition to these tours is the predilection of including at least one “factory” visit.  Viking Tours – they may actually know nothing about this epithet but as it was presented by one of their tour guides in his  introductory  speech, and as I was so tickled by the concept,  I adopted it for them.  So Viking has uniquely chosen to entitle this activity  as  “an educational opportunity”, and mostly that’s good.  It’s basically an introduction to the resources and cultural offerings of the particular area.  Not including them frequently leaves a gap- in Egypt Viking really should have introduced us to papyrus. Many alabaster factories appeared in one area but were ignored by Viking so I was left to my own devices to find out the significance of said alabaster.   We had a lot more maple syrup in New England than even I deemed necessary;   but then there was the ingenious inclusion of a museum tour in Dubai in which the “artifacts” on display were offered for sale. 

A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION:  A caveat to watch out for:  time of arrival at your departure location.  This event  sometimes  is not coincidental to  the availability of lodging arrangements or ship availability:  For example  arriving at 2 pm my body time after being up all night seriously stresses my sense of humor let’s not even mention “Comfort Zone”,   and I haven’t even started the trip.  Ideally the tour company will offer something better than a metal bench in a  portside  warehouse  or a hotel  foyer.

Another item you might want to be aware of:  dining arrangements.  Don’t know how prevalent this is anymore but there used to  be  two dinner seatings and a required commitment to one or the other, assigned tables,  assigned dining companions,   and  a specific serving time.  River Cruises and land tours probably involve one seating but no prearranged seating companions;  it does frequently involve everyone seated together.  How much compromising are you willing to do?

  PRIVATE SIDE TOURS- Either as offered by your cruise company or may be arranged by you:  they  come at a price.  An efficient, effective and satisfactory arrangement is to find compatible others to share the cost.  Ideally you are able to acquire an English speaking driver and even better, if you aren’t in search of something specific, you may even find one who knows where to take you.  This may need to be set up at home.  In Santiago, Chile we had a tour guide meet us at the plane, give us a quick introduction to the city which thankfully included a stop at a lapis lazuli/malachite store – a local jewelry, pause  for a delightful local- food lunch at a roadside establishment,  provide a running and  welcome spiel about all the wine and avocadoes we were passing, and drove the quite some distance to the ship .  This was a fine arrangement.

An alternative to this problem -  tourist areas have visitor centers and,  if not Grey Line, there’s at least small jitneys or taxis.  That’s fine.  The best  solution in achieving a usually fairly comfortable impression of a city are the Hop On & Hop Off tour buses.  They give you optimal personal choice,  are a delightful alternative and are what I opt for if at all possible. 

It is actually BETTER to discover for yourself and at your own speed.  Tours take the mystery/sense of discovery/ sense of recognition/ element of surprise/ time and space for curiosity/…  ”you stumble on”  out of the  venture.  A private, personal adventure is surely braver and more meaningful, but may be a concern as not being quite as efficient in sightseeing coverage and   when you have limited time.


One might say with some assurance that although it is titled perhaps actually considered a ”river cruise,” you may be unlikely to remain for the entire time on a river boat.  That doesn’t make a lot of sense but I’ll get in to further elucidation in a minute.  Normally you are limited to visiting locations in the vicinity of the river unless the arrangement involves a combination of transportation arrangements which has been the case with most of these trips we’ve been on:   they may or may not involve various versions of  mobility and variety of environment.  One is still being babysat but with somewhat more variety, suspense and unpredictability.  The number of passengers is small and cozy:  there is no such thing as personal space. 

 Shipboard Life is fairly informal. The amenities are fortunately limited – there being limited time on board.    Mostly meals are at set times, seating arrangements are as groups, and the menu offering is either ethnic or at best limited.   This situation can vary depending on particular tour.   This choice has managed to be fairly enjoyable and even entertaining but in the long run I tend to find it difficult to be sociable and notice what’s in front of me at the same time:  people distract me.  If this is strictly ship or boat, the itinerary tends to be somewhat  restricted  but is much easier in regard to accommodations – no suitcase shuffling.  Daily tours:  there have been no alternatives offered.  The situation may vary but usually you can stay on the ship if you so desire.  It’s this or nothing, and you have paid for it.


Someone else is responsible for your accommodations and comfort BUT these tours   generally involve daily shifting of person and luggage usually at an ungodly hour,  and   involves a daily readjustment of living arrangements primarily a shuffling around of suitcase contents.   This has the  potential of being a pain, literally, but with that it  certainly also has a greater  potential for excitement. This is somewhat more of a commitment than cruises.  Usually with a land tour the progress is forward,  which you must keep up with or be left behind.  This category could include train as well as bus.


This might be considered the best of both worlds:  Vikingtrips are often in this form.  The trip in India involved train, plane, automobile, bus, boat, carriage, elephant, tuktuk, bicycle taxi, horse carriage and maybe even a few varieties I missed.  This was terrific.   It was possible to tour Greece this way and is well done:  one week mainland, one week ship through the islands,  and  also included a stop in Ephesus, Turkey.  


Is the most fulfilling but like all good things it comes with limitations.  This was the way we have been able to visit England as well as a goodly portion of our western US.  We have always appreciated and have  been  thankful for our adventuresome experiences:  I would do neither one any other way.  This version benefits from lots of serendipity:   I’ll say.  There is  admittedly  a tendency to miss so-called highlights, that’s ok –there’s only just so much you are capable of ingesting anyway.  Daily forward movement is your call which could end up as inertia easily for a  number of reasons:   I suffer from a case of Natural Slowness, and also I find I often get distracted by  great and involved conversations  which serve to strategically impede my projected plans.   Obviously,  anything  goes here.   Seriously, you’re more likely to have time to appreciate and enjoy;  you  achieve that which interests you;  and even better, you’re not having  to spend a lot of time waiting for groups to get organized or to be served.  Alternatively you may lose a lot of time acquiring accommodations and restaurants  unless you are impressively organized,  or in turn are in a highly tourist- friendly area or a good sized city – that which I call an organized I’m not going to say civilized, location.   That helps lots.   I have found at least in England  that  the job of dove- tailing open times, and designing efficient itineraries and routes around them can be a hair-raising and exhausting process;  and if you’re not well clued in  it’s easy to miss the trees for the forest.  It’s also perfectly possible that contained  amongst the  missing there may be a noteworthy highlight or two.  But in all the trips we’ve done I never felt deprived.

BUT--- BUT---BUT cruises/river tours both bear the brunt of all arrangements that is ALL arrangements.  All you have to do, all you are responsible for, is moving your body.  THIS IS A HUGE benefit.  (perhaps it would be different if there were two organizers, movers, and planners but I wouldn’t know).  Perhaps there still are travel agencies but not for me.  In this instance I feel better with total control…so I work for it. 

The decision as to which method to select MAY BOIL DOWN TO HOW MUCH YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH.  This is your call. You may actually be happiest even to go far distances only to sit in just one or two places.   (this may limit distances covered and probably tourist attractions available to  visit,  but in the long run I think the outcome will be a more valuable experience. (“You went to China and didn’t see The Wall?  Ehhhhhh!  To India and didn’t see The Taj Mahal- ok, maybe you got me there.  MMMM…., course it is simply impossible to miss the Parthenon.).

  I always breathe a sigh of relief that things have worked out ok when it’s over and I can look back on a trip assuredly full of discoveries and adventure and I’ve thankfully managed to navigate my physical limitations.

 I have to admit I am running out of energy – it may be age is catching up,  or  less onerous, maybe just laziness.  I may never know.

And then there is the problem of advancing years and maybe a disinclination to attempt driving.  I have heard through the grapevine that there may be the possible  availability of hiring a car and driver to ferry you around.  That idea certainly is worth pursuing.

.AND THEN THERE IS SEABOURNE.------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

+New England Fall Colors tour offered by Royal Caribbean.

I am mentioning this trip specifically as a noteworthy  solution for  how to evade and maybe avoid any frightful  intracontinental airline travel…   to this I feel obligated to add:  very sound advice:  don’t leave the continent.

I suppose the benefits of this particular arrangement are pretty much limited to those departing from the mid-Atlantic area.  But there are other similar discomfort- limiting trips involving this continent which are also ships and well worth consideration:    The Mississippi, The Inland Waterway,  Bermuda.

 This one started in Baltimore

  • At an exceptionally rational hour. 

  • No customs

  • No security checks

  • No adaptors

  • No jet lag


  • No million-acre airports.  You go FROM CAR TO DOCK TO SHIP +  PERIOD  +  seamless .  this is a huge asset or advantage or relief – all of the above




This is a most apt appropriate and  wise statement regarding travel preferences as expressed by Paul Theroux in his book “Pillar of Hercules”:

             On most trips I kept rolling until I find a place I liked.  And when I got a certain feeling

             I came to a stop.  All places no matter where, no matter what, are worth visiting…

             Ruins, whatever the reason they do not interest me greatly nor did tombs, nor churches.


Me neither.  Seeing as that is the kind of thing   you usually get into with a tour, it’s obvious why  I’m  slightly disenchanted with them.

That is an ideal goal and how I’d love to do as suggested, but let’s face it; it is extraordinarily idealistic and way out of the general arrangement of things.    We do have to be practical and proceed with that which is available.


I love being at sea.

I used to love airplanes:  I loved the aerial  geography (back when I could occasionally get a window), and I loved being cut off from everything –ocean liners used to provide the same conditions  in which  I could read unimpeded but for food and drink.   But,  their associated airports, airline belt-tightening, and  recent events combined are making me uncomfortable.

The opportunity to encounter ART in all its many forms is a high priority.  Traveling is certainly the ultimate provider of such opportunities.

 I love rocks.   There were neat rocks I missed in China because I had no idea what  they were called or where they were located- how’s that for being prepared.  I have since discovered  it is Guilin:  a frequent add on to tours and probably not too hard to get to,  which all adds up to the fact that by now it’s probably got a McDonalds.  Too bad.   Meteora and Cappadocia are neat rocks.  I missed the Pitans in Chile:  bad but couldn’t be helped.  We had originally elected to do a fly over the Antarctica which was subsequently  cancelled:  by the time that happened,  the Pitan trip was fully booked.   I was not exactly disappointed as I was fearful that it would have been too difficult for me to negotiate,  and it was of such a long duration we couldn’t have seen anything else:  the anything else primarily being  Punta Uranus , its celebration of Magellan and the Straits, and a visit for my brother Bobby who  worked on a scientific research  ship whose main port it was and was consequently a favored hangout.

Snorkeling - although I don’t see this happening again.

Through travel I have been introduced to the variety, abundance and decorative value of totally amazing graffiti.  I found it to be a unique and decorative embellishment.

I love aquariums.

 I love sitting, sketching, taking pictures and just watching the world go by:  collecting impressions for further expression. 

Travel and Imagination:  the affect and importance thereof.  The Balkan trip was made even more interesting because of what I had acquired from an earlier trip to Corsica.  The subject of Napoleon caught my imagination;  which  instigated/initiated a frenzy of research and discovery, eventually took me into comparing Napoleon and Hitler,  and peripherally ended up encompassing both WWI as well as WWII.   This was an excellent lead in for our trip to the Balkans.  Now that was a huge acquisition:  what a wealth of exciting learning and discovery.

I am not insulted by the inclusion of what our guide in India euphemistically called “educational opportunities” (what a hoot - in reality shopping ops):  sometimes they actually are that.  This is an excellent way in which the culture of the country may be showcased.  I was perturbed in Egypt by its lack:  don’t know why that happened.  Maybe no time?  I saw lots of outlets specializing in alabaster:  what about it?   And I do think we should have encountered some evidence of papyrus and cotton, both being major elements in Egyptian history.

  FOOD/CUISINE:   an important element to me.  Eating, after all, is one of the reasons I travel.  And I have definite ideas about how it should come about:   being offered a continental meal when I know the local offering is unbeatable  definitely  distresses me,  I DO NOT like buffet – especially now that my mobility is hampered,  and “on the run” is not my idea of ideal dining.  I am also, to a certain extent, committed to what is  essentially, to the tour industry anyway, NOT an all- inclusive diet.  After about three days of injudicious feasting I require at least a short respite.  Tours tend to lock you in to dinner twice a day:  which is once too often for me.  There are many places fresh produce is excluded:  I find this difficult.   There were moments in Egypt with no booze and no ice. Have you ever tried Egyptian Gin – warm?  Sorry, but I wasn’t too happy:   that was back when I smoked.  Don’t know if now would be different.  I hate to admit that I have yet to become a fan of the food of the East.



The following are destinations on my” most desired list”:  where I’d really like to go NO holds barred practical or not.  This is not necessarily  that which  is logical or plausible:  but I can dream.  Who knows what opportunities may come up:  look at the China trip – never in my wildest dreams did I ever consider that I, or anyone, for that matter, would get there. 

 I will always need to go back to England.  At the very least we have to return to complete the East Anglia trip which got aborted by the storm.   ENGLAND like Virginia:  I want to know it intimately.  This is a very personal destination for me.

 In our hemisphere are   MEXICO:   Oaxaca, Acapulco, Taxco specifically.  On investigation l had at one point discovered they are extremely far apart: we’d spend all our time in the car and uhoh, driving through mountains.  God forbid!   This objective makes no allowance for the current presence of a particularly vile and hazardous drug cartel:  Tourism is bad but drug cartels are even more detrimental. A cruise to Central America/the Panama Canal could safely include much of that.  

Picking up the pieces of places I feel I haven’t seen enough of:   Cinque Terre and the French Riviera , I’m still working on this one;  Mykonos, a  week would be a delight;  Bonaire which leads me to the Maldives the Seychelles  and don’t  forget  the Turks and the Caicos, even though I’ve never been there,   for the snorkeling. 

A few new additions:  the Italian Lake District - Como, Guarda, Maggiore and others of this sort but  unfortunately this would entail too much driving and in a foreign language (I don’t think this is an issue but I probably wouldn’t be driving);  Cappadocia–and the other countries with the rocks, China’s Guilin, and the coastline of Vietnam.

 In this country I’d like to go to: Alabama to check out the enormous iron indian ostensibally perched on the hill in the middle of Birmingham, and to verify that there really is a beach scene – I was amazed to discover they even had one - A projected trip hit the skids when the  entire coastal ara of the Gulf of Mexico was annihalated by Hurricane Katrina;  Long Island  with the Hamptons and other notoriously luxurious digs; and  I’d love to go to some of these mine tailings which are open for visitor exploration - I can hardly think of anything more fun that digging around in a pile of rocks in search of minerals and gems.

There are a number of places which have a particularly appeal to me.   I encountered them as a child in a 1936 book by Richard Haliburton on the ancient wonders of the world – old, scuzzy, mystical black and white pictures – imagine the difference from today’s reality .    There is Petra but due to the fact that apparently  the only proper way to  enter  the city is through a keyhole-like chasm and probably on a donkey, add to that  political unrest, and I have shifted this objective very much to the back burner. Angkor Wat in Cambodia is a spectacularly opulent  wonder which was duly shrouded by jungle and romantic mystery in the book.  Since then it has been joined by a surrounding swamp of land mines and inhospitable country.   A massive effort has been made to clean it up, make it more tourist -friendly.  I thought I saw a current picture of it and my reaction was that it appeared “tarted” up.   Ridding it of the mines was a good thing but ridding it of the jungle has made it seem sanitized and antiseptic.  Hopefully I am wrong.  Currently I’m contemplating a float down the Mekong River which would include this visit:  doesn’t that sound like an adventure.   Alhambra, Mont St. Michael andCarcassonne are all part of this mystique as well.

 **since I wrote this there have been a few changes:  I’ve arrived pretty securely at an attitude of dislike towards destinations,  and we are going to SEAsia… Angkor Wat is scheduled as a 3 person in difficulty two day sidetrip… yes, I am going to SEAsia and I doubt very much that I shall be going to see Angkor Wat.  So there – actually very bad.   Even though somehow I do doubt that it is overrun by crowds,  I still think that is amazingly brave.  I don’t think there’s any chance of me reneging mostly due to the physical demands but certainly also because of the two day duration/separation from the ship. 

BEING REALISTIC: And to synopsize.

This is another list I’ve been adding to for a very long time:  long enough so that it has by now managed to have accumulated  the presence of much of the entire world.   Unfortunately  time and with it age has stepped in to the equation to save me from having to make very many, very difficult decisions;  my decision is made for me.  No way have I time left to do even partially all I have listed.  We are left with a rather simplistic solution:  we shall just take it year by year and trip by trip doing what is most practical as opportunities come along.  That’s really almost a relief. 

Not to put too fine a line on it or to mention something that doesn’t bear mentioning:  the travel safe world is shrinking as we speak.

I might care to retain the thought of adventuring out on our own but here I think age is definitely becoming increasingly more of a factor.   Like I have said, we’ll see whether I ever get up the energy to do the planning or maybe find a travel agent if such a thing still exists.   I think there’s no sense in even mentioning independent travel overseas:   Roger is afraid of driving in foreign lands for fear of not being able to decipher road signs.  I have told him as long as it isn’t in Cyrillic, place names very rarely change from language to language.

Future travel will most probably consist of the cruise world.  Most edifying and indicative of the truth of that statement is the fact that the last time we were struggling to make a destination decision I declared: ”It doesn’t matter where we go as long as it’s Seabourn”.  Small ships are my definite preference and   so far Seabourn, although having ridden itself of my very favorite 200 passenger ships, is at the top of the preference list.   Unfortunately I think my favorites have been sold off to float around the Caribbean where we’ve been a lot,  but hey!  Winter?  Sounds  good to me.

I do have a back- up plan:   the Rhine River run from Amsterdam to Hungary  -  but I have been resisting this for some time so probably not, maybe some French river barge trips but I remain concerned by the very small size and necessarily overly intimate accommodations,  and   there’s also available in the USA  touring ships and train tours which could prove to be an easy and good alternative and objective.