I have been anything but a jetsetter,  but  I have had the luck and good fortune to have been able to travel frequently and for most of my life.

My travel adventures commenced at the age of eleven:  I lived with my family in Europe from 1947 to 1953, and as I lived there I had the opportunity to travel there.  

 It suddenly occurred to me I’ve sailed the Atlantic four times.  What makes this fact even more special is that was in the days when ocean liners were in their prime:   when it was a fashionable and desirable mode of travel,  the hay day of ocean travel – well, no it couldn’t actually be quite that  because it was some time before  active ocean movement was resumed following the war.   A more likely designation probably is that it was the preferred,  and  maybe even the primary,  way to cross the ocean.    Fancy that.  I do remember our ocean crossings as being highly enjoyable  -   how fortunate I was.

 Since my return to the United States and my marriage I’ve had the opportunity to travel at least once a year.   That is indeed fortunate

because travel   is “in my blood “.

During those many years I’ve managed to get to a significant number of places.  My touring during  this period however  was casual,  haphazard,  planned by me with whatever few tools I had at my command, and mostly to England .   There was no perceptible pattern or conscious plan,  there were no particular time constraints or preferences,  no deliberate effort at prioritizing and almost everywhere was an unknown.

until that charmed day when the Viking travel brochure hit the kitchen counter/island


they were offering me a trip to CHINA!!


 Never in a million years did I conceive of  anyone  going  to China.  Most of my growing up years it had been  more  or less off the map.    IMAGINE!

So we went   to China.

     This just happened to coincided with our loss of the Department of Defense Travel club:  it ceased to exist so we were effectively left to our own devices.   We had been dependent on it for our major travel arrangements   so the brochure arrived at a particularly auspicious moment of time. (Therefore I have become more  tolerant  of the flood of cruise offers that arrive in the mail daily – they’re aiming at that most auspicious time).  

It effectively served to introduce us and in turn convert us to an entirely different form of travel:  we became habituates of a formal travel agenda  with which we have remained  ever since.

I feel sure this event can be considered the beginning of the rest of my travel life;  and  therefore my life.

 To celebrate this momentous occurrence I feel a need for a  worthy title.

                                 TRAVEL IN MY GOLDEN AGE OF TRAVEL??

 A conceit maybe, but this is how I view it.

 It just so happens that it was at this time I also entered my so called “golden years” in age.    It also just so  happens  the designation of that particular era has experienced a sea change in interpretation.  As the definition goes now it seems I have been one of the lucky ones who have had the opportunity of experiencing this presumably fortuitous (this term is used advisedly) time of life at least twice, and if I’m lucky maybe I’ll even get in another shot.  How copacetic.

As I look at it I see that this was maybe even more eventful a period in my life than I thought:   a lot of things were happening at once.   A few don’t bear mentioning:  How about “empty nest? (That was a syndrome, wasn’t it?  This reminded me that it was  at about that time that I realized and was amazed by the fact that I’d experienced them all – syndromes that is,  and even further,  that was  “the name of the game”  – there were syndromes for almost everything.   I think I haven’t had a one since –don’t know anyone who has.  What happened?    We’ve expired them all,   discovered they weren’t worth much,  were too common,  who knows.   That sure was a fun aside).  

But back to the task at hand:  it is certainly an occasion momentous enough to deserve some sort of fancy sobriquet.   Try some more.   Maybe this isn’t an age related issue at all,   in that case I should look in a different direction for inspiration.  “Age of the Cruise”.    Rather not make too much of that fact:  it encompasses what I consider  for me is the wrong image- incorrigible reverse snob that I am.  Maybe I should just forget this whole thing;  maybe I’ll just let it be “Golden” and just figure I’m referring to the activity alone.  And with that I shall carry on with the job at hand.


 The following are short descriptions of a few personal trips which were the direct result of this immense change in lifestyle,  and  also as a bit of an insight into what I’ve been talking about.

CHINA MAY 2005Viking River Cruises are the name of this game.  It is they who introduced us to China and in fact a whole new life style.  This was our first BIG tour.  The brochure came in probably after a period of abject indecision.  I took one look at it and declared:   “This is it”.  

It proved to be a multi-conveyance trip involving land and air as well as the primary river travel:  the Yangtze River from Shanghai to Chunking,  two plane flights, a night in Tian and Beijing, and periodic spells by bus. The tour was immensely intensely and overtly supervised and conducted by the Chinese;  that was fine and intriguing.  The local guides were delightfully and uniquely Chinese.  The young lady in charge of us for theENTIRE two weeks was exceptionally attractive and unbelievably patient. The main attraction and supposed star of the show was the almost completed damn dam.  (Sorry) And with that I might say we were thoroughly dammed out.

A word about tour guide stories.  They may serve many purposes;    surely they’re meant to underline, emphasize, amuse, illustrate, wake up or none of the above and I do love them.  The first I encountered was on a New Orleans city tour:  I think I copied every joke – these tended to be in the form of jokes –the tour guide told I was so beguiled.   I have since had the opportunity to encounter many terrifically imaginative and usually humorous tour guide “stories”. 

 This is one from the Chinese repertoire and is one of my favorites:   It’s an inventory of three treasures girls in China demand as a marriage proposal.   In the 1970’s  the three items were   a bed, a bike and a sewing machine;  in the 80’s it was a refrigerator, air conditioning and a Swiss watch;  and in the 90s’ it was an apartment , a car and A FANCY DIAMOND RING…….ta dah…..   How’s that for interesting?  And of course we mustn’t forget:    the national bird is a CRANE.  HO HO….Well yes, you weren’t there:  the national pastime at least at that time was obviously construction so the landscape was liberally littered with cranes.

We visited every available shopping- cum- educational opportunity emporium (this is Vikings read/interpretation of this activity) and China has them all plus;  rugs, china, pearls, silk, lacquer, pottery, painting, pandas (we left them there), jade, the original china factory, and I suppose that’s about the gamut not including the ubiquitous presence of craft, souvenir,  and etc. paraphernalia found everywhere.   Oh, I forgot the bonsai / pet mall…it was so different.  So, we learned and spent a lot.  We visited a delightful elementary school (Viking does that), and of course the Wall, the Forbidden City (IMAGINE!), and of course the incredible Terracotta Army. We were not only regaled with Chinese opera (much to the horror of our guide) and a dinner theater which was much more “palatable”,  and had the privilege of sharing our noon meal with some Chinese monks - who’d never encountered cutlery.  (Why would they have?).

ENGLAND - this is how we’ve  managed  self-touring.  I have been the tour guide for our multitudinous visits to England.   One huge problem is the vagaries of when things are open especially after September.  I find that this date has perhaps been expanded to November;  I might presume this to be due to the appearance   of more tourists.  It can drive you nuts balancing itineraries and routes around such vagueness.  That kind of situation is a good reason to have a guide,  that and to deal with unexpected disasters.  Last time we were there we were disrupted by  a huge storm which knocked everything out and left me in a quandary.  A good guide would have dealt with that, no problem.  Fortunately it was toward the end of our trip. We continued on and with a great deal of serendipity we had a very fortuitous trip.  So, we may have  missed tons.  Did I mean then or always? So who cares?   Either way, we are always happy in England.  We’ve gone at our own speed, done what and when we wanted – prudent or not.

This trip I remember we did a lot of unnecessary driving and stayed in at least one icky place, and one very strange one, but you know I will never forget that trip.  We were in Kent and East Anglia, which is close to London, loaded with wondrous things to see and visit and is a very populated area as well.  We got traffic jams, motorways (for the first time), one-way-streets, detours around closed main streets, a lot of  commercial confusion- all this for the first time.  On our own we were doing a lot of scrabbling   but being what it was:  unanticipated- no, unexpected, it was memorable- - serendipity served to add an extra dimension.  It helped that we were in a very familiar,  English-speaking country (ergo on the wrong side of the street), and we assuredly shall return.

NORWAY– this is another Viking River Cruise contribution, and another which involved multi-travel facilities.  This one started in Bergen and consisted of half by bus and half by a Hurtegruten mail packet  - a wonderful way to see the country - which propelled us from Trondheim,  through the fjords to the North Cape and Arctic, and by plane to Oslo.

I suspect this was Viking’s first Norway excursion. This was a very small group of maybe eighteen.   I can’t imagine why there wasn’t more participation.   It couldn’t have been cost effective for them,  but  it was terrific for us.  They are in the process of inaugurating a full scale megaship and I see are scheduling a trip back to Norway, but only the southern part which unfortunately circumvents the Hurtegruten, most of the fjords,  and  parts north.  I am so thankful we had this opportunity.   Mostly the energy level needed was minimal   and the actual activity of touring involved was nominal, maybe because the landscape was the feature?  I termed it LOW SATURATION.  Some touring people expect and even demand constant activity -  I guess they think they’re getting more bang for the buck. The level in Norway, for me, was perfect. There were no tourist “shrines”,  and  actually minimal tourists.  I don’t recall there being much more than a very few of those “educational opportunity emporiums” or money spending  options  and we didn’t miss them a bit.  Imagine that. This all adds up to something really special.

  Inger was our very attractive and  highly  laudable  tour guide;  here again for the entire two weeks.  She extolled us with first- hand experience and advice, and even recommended an appropriate book to me entitled “How to marry a Norwegian” as I just so happen to be married to a Norwegian.   She was responsible for another one of those phenomenal tour guide stories.  It seems that in Norwegian mythology the responsibility for creating the universe was assigned to Ravens, who in turn took it upon themselves to assign the job of designing the Earth to the Trolls who’s signature occupation just happened to be Gods of CHAOS- I’d say it came out just as planned.  How could it have been any more perfect?

Highlights of our visit:  I especially loved the delightfully art deco town of Alesund, I loved the puddings which made up for the rather uninspired food, the North Pole and a visit to the  Laplanders or as they prefer the Sami and  their reindeer,  and Vigeland Park which  is noteworthy for its unique statuary – by Vigeland which Viking attempted to ignore but for my insistence – I remembered it as being outstandingly unique and it is,  and   the  people may have been  a distraction but  were also an enhancement.  One of my favorite museums and one which I have recommended highly is the Resistance Museum in Oslo.  It depicts the incredibly brave and heroic role of Norway during World War II:   the immense amount of courage demonstrated is truly awesome.   An intriguing fact I learned of probably in the Museum was that the first factory to manufacture heavy water was in Norway. As a component of early nuclear energy research it was obviously of enormous strategic importance to all involved.  I found it intriguing and curious that it was produced from fertilizer – could it be somehow that this happened to be the reason it came be produced in Norway?  The story of how it was kept from the Nazi invaders and found its way to the allies is astounding. 

This was one country I had the fortune to visit in its pretourist state -1951 maybe.  I was relieved   to find that much of it has managed to remain fairly remote although a tremendous effort has been made to connect this hugely disconnected mountainous country using roads,  tunnels and uniquely I thought, constructing garage-like covers over the mountain- top roads.  Very impressive.  In the past The Hurtegruten Line, which is the mail packet cum ferry as well as a very popular tourist ship, served to connect at least the coastal portions of the country,  the myriad numbers of headlands, fjords and islands, but most of the land remained totally isolated.  Oil instead of industry, and no acknowledged tourist destinations at least to  my way of thinking has been a definitely advantageous factor.    With all this I was given the impression that it still is a pleasure and I felt encouraged.

 I understand the oil is coming to an end.  This is bad news for them, of course, but I still hope it won’t have too detrimental an effect on its pleasantness.

One other fact of interest:  it was very early in my life that I experienced an introduction and connection to Norway.   My Father was working in Germany with UNRRA- placement of populations displaced by the war.   As director of the camp my Father was also responsible for and we were housed in the staff billet.  It was here that I met Odd Asbjornson and his wife – the first Norwegian I ever met:  I was, who knows why,  duly impressed.   What probably makes this such a distinct memory was their dog which   was guilty of climbing on the dining table.   Mother found this offensive, but   his American wife Willeta denied.  This is the kind of event which might impress an eleven year old, for sure.  Impressed enough for it to have remained   positively and deeply etched in my memory as a commitment to Norway and Vikings and consequently I married one.  This is probably a bit dramatic but I like it.

RUSSIA  - this was alsoby Viking – they (Viking)  had gained my attention.  This was strictly a river tour for a change:    MOSCOW TO ST.PETERSBURG by canal -   plying the “Waterway of the Tsars”.  This was a canal which  was  built by Peter the Great and completed by Stalin;  though by that time it no longer had a purpose.  It has subsequently become the bailiwick of tourists.  

What I was familiar with about Russia and most notably about Moscow I learned through reading, mostly in the form of Cold War spy literature.   Moscow bore no resemblance whatsoever to the sagas I’ve indulged in, for instance, no Cold War fiction was complete without a visit to the notorious Gum department store on Red Square which always came across as the epitome of grim.  It is now an inordinately  upscale shopping mall. I was disappointed.

A visit to the Kremlin Museum was especially incredible as it was the repository of    the Russian royal regalia. Who ever thought I’d be saying any of this?  Ahh…  Not to forget the subway expedition:  the Moscow subway has a reputation for being elaborate and unique, but a tourist destination?  Hmmmm.  I thought it was very brave indeed to attempt herding 200 jet lag befuddled, non- Russian speaking Americans through the subway system -  They made it.  Actually I should have been somewhat inured because the night before we were taken to the circus.  It was such a   tiny auditorium that we were virtually sitting in the ring with the wild animals:  I was a bit insecure about this one too.  As we toured Russian we saw:   lots of icons, minimal but awesome antiquities, multiple really lovely domed  churches, elaborate palaces,  very nice non- Soviet style Russian paintings, a profusion of wedding parties in St. Petersburg,  and  along the waterway we viewed sinking churches as evidence of the drowned landscape. There were basically few of what Viking liked to refer to as “educational experiences” in the form of manufactories:   what, no rugs?   Even so, our opportunity for shopping was very well covered:  there were ample and delightful  gift shops which included excellent selections of amber,  as well as a  fortunately timed  exhibit of purchasable lacquer boxes,   and there were tons of kiosks full of local crafts both in the vicinity  and along the routes to various attractions.    Besides the circus we also were taken to what was supposed to be a Kirov ballet performance of Swan Lake. And as a bonus I learned how to convert centigrade into Fahrenheit:  very useful.  (Centigrade twice plus 32 gives you an approximate Fahrenheit temperature.  Close enough).

As we plowed the canal we were entertained or subjected to,  depending on  how you look at it,  very lengthy lectures presented by obviously reluctant crew members.   Reluctant:  I say this because I got the distinct impression that lecturing, especially lengthy historical lecturing, was not their thing, and I  suspect they were uncertain as to what was politically acceptable.  This whole situation could not have been easy for them.  It was here, however, that I encountered the intriguing possibility that a large segment of the population preferred the old ways, as it guaranteed certain lifestyle necessities  which were no longer assured.  This alone was an extraordinary insight.


EGYPT -  another  Viking,  another river;  lots of boat, a bit of camel, a bit of towed felucca(no wind), a touch of plane, a hot air balloon which was fortunately skipped, and another dam.  Imagine that.

Flying of course is the only way to adequately experience the fact of Egypt; the desert, the Nile, the contiguous oasis; this provides the ultimate view. I am a rock person and this panorama of desert landscape thrilled me.  I felt this flight was stupendous.

The food was outstanding, the accommodations (although the boat was sadly not Agatha Christie Victorian.  I did see one though, and the Lake Nasser boat almost was one), the fellow travelers were good company.  Unfortunately the itinerary was a bit rough:   too much walking due mainly to the number of temples plus a few other badly planned exigencies,  far too many 6 AM wakeups,  all those temples which God forbid we miss nary a one, and finally no time for shopping.  There were few “factory as culture” gambits, and sometimes they are desirable:  we visited virtually none but the ubiquitous rug knotting demonstration.  We should certainly have encountered papyrus and cotton in some form as both are of major significance,  and there were multiple alabaster outlets in front of Nefertiti’s  Palace which being a rock person intrigued me, but no deal.  I believe the major issue was lack of time – too many temples   squashed into too little time.  There was a somewhat  undesirable  dependence on buffet meals,  although what else – this was the best fish I’ve ever had - could it have been on the ship, and  there was no recognizable  booze:   Egyptian gin? EEEK!, and no ice onboard - I suppose because tourists can’t do water. This was on the Lake Nasser boat and I suspect it might have been considered a bit primitive.  I don’t know that this prohibition was true in Cairo.   Perhaps the water and fresh fruit and vegetables were off limits to tourists elsewhere as well:  I don’t know.   I ate lots of lettuce-type salads I think, with no side effects, but I had forgotten and may have been dumb lucky but they sure were good. 

Abu Simbel was an add on – at that point I would have said a necessary one.   I was curious to see what the well published French effort did to save this awesome treasure (sorry to say the appearance and  effect from any distance  in the landscape is rather bazaar -  it sticks up like a sore thumb – but the phenominal statues were fortunately saved),  but it definitely was not worth the 3-4 extra days.   Lying around in the pool was terrific if that’s your bag, otherwise a quick flight down from Cairo would do it.  (I talk about this pool-sitting bit as a really appreciated  pleasure later in my search for an epiphany, gin or no gin).  Accessibility for the non- mobile was frightful.

I hate to complain but it was here in Egypt with the Pyramids and the  Sphinx that I experienced the worse reaction to population over- kill.  Maybe what made it so overtly objectionable was their position as one of the optimal attractions of the world: being so covered up by tourists had the most disastrous effect.  There was no way you could feel the sense of awe appropriate to such a shrine.  Isn’t that sad?  

Over the years I have sustained an enormous involvement  with the lore of Egypt;  mainly thanks to art, literature, and Agatha Christie and Elizabeth Peters.  I’ve always loved the art, artifacts and geology: not necessarily in that order.

I have many intense happy memories from this trip anyway:  The imposing creativity exhibited in the temples was stupendous literally,  the above epiphany I to get to later,  and my  personal discovery:  the laundry carefully strung along balconies with immense and obvious consideration and care as to  appearance; composition,   arrangement  carefully by size, color coordinated, layered:  I saw it everywhere.  It was almost as if it was a national competition.  FOOD OF ANY SORT:  GREAT FOOD;  Nile fish, chicken livers on a Cairo buffet, smooth rice pudding with mango;  all- time favorites. I HAVE A photo taken ALONG THE NILE I sure would love to revisit:  IDEALIC, PASTORAL, the feluccas parked alongside the Nile meadows maybe with a tour, for lunch?  I think you can arrange a float down the Nile and maybe I could stop at Edfu to once more admire the hint of color.

 INDIAThis was also Viking River Cruises, this time with no rivers;  that’s quite a trick.  In lieu of rivers however, we had:   tuktuks,  busses, trains, horse drawn carriages, safari jeeps,  trains complete with multitudes, and elephants.  I am inclined to agree with the Brits:  This was the “’ Jewel in the Crown”.  

My first true awareness of where I was  came in the form of a PYRAMID of COW DUNG :  almost shocked me out of my jet lag.   It was a carefully stacked up,  fully five foot tall pyramid shaped  construction of cow dung bricks.  I saw further examples of this apparition but this was by far the most spectacular.

 Other amazing offerings of this truly amazing country:   THE TAJ HOTELS chain  as being THE most superlative  hotels I’ve ever encountered,  PALACES, many converted  to a Taj Hotel including that special gem the LAKE PALACE of Udaipur,  COWS,  bat trees, monkeys,  Jodhpur the CITY of BLUE, MAMMOTH FORTRESSES,  A Disney movie filming (Paul might not approve but it did offer the opportunity to converse with locals),  VERY COLORFUL SARIS the hallmark of Rajasthan,   the TAJ MAHAL (oh yes, filigree  limestone decorated by finely inlaid gemstones, ),  Mahatma Gandhi, and the particularly fanciful form of driving Indian style which is immensely creative even discounting  the onus of driving on the wrong side – actually this didn’t ever seem to enter into the equation.  It may not be pc on my part  when I point out the women seemed to do all the work:  dung piling, road building, and  a lot more invisible-type work  and all in those ubiquitous saris while the men seemed to  lounge around on metal- strung cots drinking ? Smoking hubblybubbly pipes ?

Naturally the educational opportunities were frequent and ubiquitous – that makes sense; after all, this is where we were introduced to the term by the tour guide as part of his introduction:  rugs, craft demonstrations,  thrusting hands full of bangles and necklaces, and a very earthy pottery “studio”?    Oh my god, I almost forgot the biggie,  gemstones specifically EMERALDS:   cutting;  glitter and glitz and bright lights, trays full of set gems, lots of emeralds, the works.  Admittedly this whole extravagant show of opulence got a few of us into some rather equally spectacular trouble but that’s another story. There were demonstrations of Turban wrapping, and snake charming - but not one showing how to wrap a sari.  Could this have been for the sake of modesty, or could it have been considered too common an activity?  Apparently turban wrapping styles are unique to specific regions.   This type of production was frequent:   it was here that they demonstrated a fine sense of theatre  complete with audience participation designed for the utmost enjoyment  of the viewers.   Obviously tourist acquisition and entertainment was a major priority here.   I was highly entertained by the plenteous trucks BEAUTIFULLY decorated and happily seen PERFORMING BALLET AS THEY NEGOT IATED THE 2 LANE “SUPER” HIGHWAYS.  And then there were the JAINS- they who are purported to eat nothing “living” which goes so far as to mean roots, seeds, etc.  What on earth do you think they actually do eat?  Every time I saw one my mind set off into a tailspin  as it started sorting through every conceivable food element in search of the answer to that question.  Eventually the process would wear me out and I’d be off on another tangent.  Being a foody this concept of restriction, especially such a huge one, just threw me:  Wikipedia is no way specific on this.  There were   glorious produce markets but none for me – fresh produce seems to have been a nono,   a tiger spotting Safari involving camping (luxury type) in which I saw no tiger but spied all by myself one magnificent “wild” cat -  it must have been something  but that’s all they called it - and panthers;  two home visits and a rural farm environment visitation (I felt uncomfortable with these although  it was presumably a benefit for the hosts as well).  And COWS!!!! 

This definitely was a great trip.   We won’t mention how many photos I took, but I will be quick to specify that I have made good use of many of them in my art work.  This doesn’t happen often but the subject here was outstanding:  colorful, intricate, intriguing.  I’m afraid a lot of this is quickly becoming a thing of the past.  I am afraid  that there is some thought that the cows have to go as they restrict traffic.  Imagine that, who would have thought?

SOUTH AMERICA – with Holland America.  Being a foody, I am going to insist on starting this discussion with the flat out statement that the BEEF in Argentina is incredibly wonderful:  I am saying this as  normally a rather indifferent beef eater.  I have made quite a point of stating this but in actuality we encountered  succulent lamb in Chile and the same great beef in Brazil.  Obviously I was deliriously impressed.

  Back to business:  this was an ocean cruise; a ship carrying 2000 passengers.  It propelled us through the fjords of Chile, in amongst glacier country following  Darwin’s route,  around Cape Horn,   east to the Falkland Islands,  and up the Atlantic coast to Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.  One of my main objectives on this trip was to experience the notoriously tumultuous seas   described by Magellan as he circumnavigated the world.  This is a bit of knowledge  gained when I   was little that so impressed me that it remained with me and I was looking forward to checking it out – it behaved like a millpond so it was one of the little travel disappointments I spoke of earlier.   Actually there were many reasons for my interest in traveling to South America:  I became interested in the subject in college to the point where I almost by accident minored in South American history;   kind of the way the rest of my college education went.     Add to that the fact that my brother was stationed on an research vessel  in the Antarctic so he regaled me frequently with enthusiastic  stories,  I have a very close friend who came from Santiago and whose friends I was privileged to meet,  Mark Twain wrote an amusing  description of his trip from Santiago to Valparaiso,  I had a dog named Blooper who  I was prone to introducing  as a Tierra del Fuego Terrier  in opposition  to fancy breed  popularity ( negative snobbishness seems to be important to me),  and of course there has been  a wealth of great literature to stoke my interest and curiosity.   One of  these  describes the adventures of a young woman who walked solo the entire length of Chili - an amazing feat I thought.   And,   did you know the Indians of Patagonia wore only bear grease for clothing?  

Beyond that, my travel objectives do tend to be influenced by uniqueness of destination and South America fits that bill quite adequately.   I suppose I’ve gotten this  impression  I have known no one who has taken this particular route:   anywhere else but,  actually.  It seems to be almost an unknown among my acquaintances  here on the east coast.   A fact of geology affords a plausible  explanation for that fact:  human (and perhaps because of vegetation) movement  has tended to be restricted by latitude throughout history.  This fact is reinforced on the east coast of the United States by our close colonial affiliation with Europe which resulted in a natural tendency for east coast traffic to gravitate towards Europe.   I find this a fascinating situation.  “Guns Germs and Steel “ by Jared Diamond  explains this phenomenon further.

I might also add that the frequency of political unrest in Latin America over the years might also have an effect on general tourist interest and subsequent travel.

The ship offered:   great and open dining  of  local seasonal and fresh produce and a cuisine representative of  the multinationals  encountered on the trip,    a naturalist was on board who gave daily lectures  informing us of what to expect peculiar to the area we would be passing through and who described  by intercom the passing scenery such as Glacier Lane     and around the Horn at daybreak,  and of  course  the incredibly succulent, tender grilled beef and lamb, yummm,  offered in Chile as well as Argentina. Utterly incredible beef – grilled and lamb spitted down in Punta Arenas a favorite with me was the two days at sea between Uruguay and Rio when I enjoyed another of my two favored swimming pool opportunities…had the warm, sunny, swimming pool to myself,   there  was  profuse wildlife,  incredible scenery, and we visited the Falklandswhere we enjoyed  a close encounter  with penguins and a very unique human habitation.  

Our arrival in Rio was timed for after dinner so we could all have the opportunity of seeing one of the most magnificent panoramas in the world from the sea at night:  the night lit city surrounded by  black mountains and towering above was the immense luminescent glowing whiteness of the figure of Christ. This was spectacular, breathtakingly unbelievably awesome: can’t say enough for this one.    I’D SAY THIS WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF THE TRIP and for a long time to come as well.

It was Rio as well in which we were also afforded  the special thrill and much to my horror of riding a cable car from mountain to mountain  for the view;    We were also trained up to the top of the mountain to view at close hand  the statue of Christ and for another incredible view.  Awesome.

 But please not to forget those PISCO SOURS…………it was one of these I was quaffing as I took a flying header out the door of the Inn in Punta :  almost broke my ankle,  I was distracted.  I hadn’t had one of these since our first trip to Peru  where I had come to love them and  with that I was also anticipating a cigarette.  I really was distracted.  

NEW ENGLAND -   Royal Caribbean:  an ocean cruise embarking from Baltimore -  so, hurray - NO airports.  I included this as it was so unique; actually it was so unique that I’ve seen fit to do a few mentions of it along the way.  Specifically,  cruising around our own country – actually down the Chesapeake Bay and under the Bay Bridge which is one of our usual hangouts -   felt totally weird.   The result of  cruising our own country may have been weird but it sure was a lot more relaxed than the alternative trek up the New Jersey Turnpike which is a major impediment and  why it’s seldom done.  True, you forfeit independence, but  this is a preferred  way to get there to enjoy our New England  heritage and a taste of those celebrated  lobsters.


MEDITERANNEAN  -  Seabourne  -    Seabourne with their mini 200 passenger ships with whom we have toured  the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and shortly Southeast Asia.

You might get the impression that I really like this organization;  and you would be absolutely correct. This is a luxury cruise but not pretentious; very comfortable, small ports, off the beaten path, ultimate travel. Unfortunately they have exchanged their darling ships for bigger ones:  we are assured this should  not affect  us very much but…we’ll see.   One of the best things they have done for us is to meet us at arrivals and departures by chauffeur- driven Mercedes.  This is a nice service which may be arranged extra, and which I find to be very much appreciated.    I shouldn’t mention this fact but twice on arrival we were left cooling our heels waiting for admittance to accomodation which caused  me to pull out a few stops… Not to worry:  this shall be tended to henceforth and I still love them.  No accounting for taste but:  I feel indulged safe protected appreciated welcomed comfortable and secure and I think that should about cover it.

We’re not committed – maybe committable though at our age.  Not only are we set to go to Southeast Asia with them in January 2016, but before that was agreed to we had made reservations for a trip next Oct. The last time they offered that particular itinerary – last year – an individual had reserved the entire ship. This time around I am taking no chances.    I am becoming aware of the possibility of early overbooking:    actually maybe even earlier than I am likely to reach  a decision – that’s not good.  Is it possible that cruising has become so popular that overbooking has become the usual,   or could it maybe actually only involve certain locations?  Has the popularity and population grown so this has become common?   Could this also be at least a partial   reason for the increasing  size of ships;  why even Seabourn has upgraded its ship size?  And I’d sure like to know what they would do at another request to rent the whole ship and there were already reservations.  Might they have to rescind twice our money back being the obverse of what they do when we withdraw our reservation – which is make us rescind at least half the fee.   Never mind:  it won’t happen.  So: early reservations it is.

Istanbul was an add on to the Balkan trip and I am adding it on here so I can fit in a description of one of the niftiest creations I’ve come upon in my travels.  It was here that I had the joy of encountering a totally uniquely unique bridge;   this is the bridge which crosses the Bosporus and is surely the craziest structure  I’ve ever seen.  At first encounter you would perceive it as just an ordinary suspension bridge:  in fact;  it is a bridge  which at night lights up its suspensions like a rainbow, one color at a time, in a sensibly rationally sedate manner.    But then the denouement:  all of a sudden it erupts like fireworks; flashing all its colors in a wildly haphazard manner,  a  veritable spectacular orgy of neon hues, an orgy of joy in technicolor.  Totally unexpected:  it knocked my sox off.  So now I’m in love with a bridge.

GREECE – this was a land tour, the only one we’ve done.  I think this is the best way to tour Greece.  It actually involved one week of bus:  one week of ship.    I remember with particular incredulity   the tour guide Angela who was responsible for  what I would consider a rather unwieldy group:  downstairs in the bus were the Italian speaking  Italians, upstairs were the English-speakers.  She did the entire 2 weeks of extremely thorough history lectures doing this in two languages, and that doesn’t count the activity of group organizing.   Very impressive.

 I don’t remember this travel as especially taxing:  maybe because I was tons younger but also because most  of the ambulating was by motor and not me.  Most disturbing was the fact that meals were continental and one of my main reasons for being in Greece was to indulge in moussaka, tzatziki sauce and Greek salad for two weeks.

I was also there to check out my old stomping grounds. I lived there in the 50’s:  yes, I was trying to go back.   I lived there pre tourist- actually pre a lot of things including I think even Evzone palace guards -  if they had been  there we (my fellow teen classmates) would have “eaten them up.  Yumm.   Not a great idea – returning that is.  I was dismayed to find masses of smog, buildings all over the hills and it was so changed I didn’t recognized where we had lived at all.  I can’t imagine I expected anything else.  This is why I’ve hesitated going back to anywhere.  I haven’t yet returned to Sweden or Germany:   I really am afraid to.  I think it’s true: you can’t go back.   Norway however, fortunately withstood the years admirably:  too remote, no shrines.


EARLY TRAVEL:  Our travels prior to this specific, more recent period, were fundamentally of a haphazard nature.    But we did travel, and we traveled fairly frequently:  A Caribbean cruise was probably the initial excursion:   it was so long ago and so apparently unprecedented an episode that  I have no idea how it came about.  We indulged in frequent England trips and,  as a change of scene, Peru in pursuit of its magnificent “wonder of the world” Machu Picchu.   We were privileged during this period to have the services of the Department of Defense Travel Club:  for too short a duration but much appreciated when we could partake of its services.  It could provide cheap  travel because they were able  to charter  entire airplanes.  Humorously enough I remember grumbling a bit about how I’d love to travel like a real person – oh, if I had only known what a luxury that was.  We took the kids, over Spring Breaks I guess, to the Yucatan and various Caribbean islands; and for some time thereafter went there ostensibly to snorkel; this was interspersed by trips out west facilitated by the occasion of business trips - this has also became a thing of the past as connecting annual leave with business trips is no longer permitted, but we were privileged to be able to take advantage of it while it was available. 

And finally:    it never even occurred to me to count CAMPING, or for that matter any beach visits as I was writing up all these other trips.  Obviously I was too busy to keep any kind of written record so I suppose they got lost in the past as being inconsequential even though they are very valid.  For that matter with as high a stress quotient as they precipitated they should without a doubt   be considered to satisfy  my apparent  need for a trip which would fit the requirements contained in stressing the “comfort zone”.  What an accomplishment.   I’ll go with that.



Honestly, I did not mean to include this heading but there were some things I thought decidedly worth including but which fit nowhere else.  I fully intended  fitting  all topics into logical headings but I wasn’t quite successful:  so here I’ve got my all- purpose subject – left overs.

MY PAST:    I have mentioned this before in passing but it was always too far out of context for much more than a mention, but as I feel the story is still relevant to my traveling life I shall add here a brief word about my years in Sweden, Greece and Germany,  from 1947 to 1953.  As a child I moved to Europe  where my Father was employed. We crossed the ocean to be with him in 1947; the first civilians to do so after the war.  This automatically involved me in a great deal of travel.  I find this has put me in a very odd position and I am confused.  Looking at it from my current perspective:  I lived there, we moved around,   and I would call it travel;  but if I go to Maryland (from Virginia) -  would that not also be travel?   Don’t be silly!  Situating it in foreign territory seems to have put a different perspective to that kind of movement.  Obviously I’ve come on a conundrum that needs no solution. 

In 1947 Europe was a continent suffering from the devastation of the war.  I feel strongly that I was privileged to have  witnessed  the immense impact of the war;  I have seen in person the horror that war caused in bombed out and flattened cities and towns and a virtually destitute population.  I stated before this is a totally unimaginable scenario.  There was admittedly  a great deal of suffering,  but I benefitted as I experiencing an area which time had forgotten; village hamlets with honeydew wagons and piles of manure waiting to be spread, back roads, no contemporary modern development, no cars, few people, no smog, no tourists, actually not much of anything but away from the destroyed hubs was  truly a beautiful part of the world unspoiled.

This one is a given:  there’s never been a moment where I haven’t had too much to say on the subject of  FOOD.   I’ve been dragging this discussion around from subject to subject with no success at actually getting it fit in, but I simply refuse to give it up.  For openers:  I am thinking specifically about our first experience with a tour which happened to be to Greece.  I had every intention of living for the entire two weeks on moussaka, tzatziki sauce and Greek salad.  At this point I’d had no prior group tour experience so it’s no surprise that this plan crashed almost immediately.  What we were served as a group, for as a group we were forced to eat, was what might be called  a “continental” cuisine.  This is a nothing menu meant to satisfy all of the people all of the time;  I consider it a menu only for people who are squeamish,  don’t care, and/or don’t know any better.  This in my estimation is no proper deciding factor when it comes to eating.  On top of that I had to suffer the indignity of “group” meals.  Being nice and trying to enjoy one’s meal I think are in opposition. 

My first experience with food insecurity was in Peru…Peruvian food was excellent, accept maybe what they gave us at very high altitude in Cuzco where I was so afraid of the idea of the altitude that I lost track of my perspective a bit.  Otherwise the food was delicious and no problem although my uneducated stomach had a right to a small rebellion over the onions I enjoyed for breakfast and the multiple Pisco Sours  were maybe a bit on the excessive side.  I came home with a case of “McAttack” which may actually have been triggered by a current popular ad promotion.  Whatever it was that did it:   I have to admit, that quarter pounder tasted heavenly.

Over the years I’ve occasionally had  other  needs  for reprieve.   I found that being limited to either Chinese or Indian food  for an entire two weeks was too much for me.   Actually the main problem may have been twofold;   two main meals a day is way over my quota  but no alternative was offered,   there was no fresh stuff – I gather this absence was proscribed as a health precaution.  But then again, as far as I’m concerned, that was surely a preferred approach to being served  “continental”  fare.    In general  ethnic is preferable.

AND while we’re on the subject:  I’m not really wild about being sociable with my meal.   The issue of mealtime solitude might be confronted at this time.   Here it’s a big issue of habit or what you are used to.  Is it a crime?  How undesirable is this trait?  It’s not exactly on the same level as smoking,  as  undesirable as  an addiction.  Is it?  No!  Many of my pursuits require peace, quiet, solitude as they require concentration:  reading, Sudoku, my art work, and eating -  not necessarily in that order.   It’s not a grievous addiction or a huge personality dysfunction or flaw.   This does have the effect of cutting  oneself  off from humanity  but in this you only harm yourself.  Furthermore, normally it’s not a permanent arrangement ;  that would be considered a very sorrowful situation indeed.  I think though that it is considered by many to be  a somewhat suspect behavior.   I don’t feel this is much of a character trait I feel compelled to change.  And in the end, who cares?

 All kinds of wonderful arrangements are available while one is on a cruise to ensure a pleasurable dining experience.  Although I’m not sociable many people are:  to this end we’ve encountered a practice whereby passengers may find themselves invited to dine with various members of the crew. That’s a great idea;  to welcome and help socialize possibly  gregarious  passengers.  This  may  only be true of the smaller ships, in which case it’s probably a lost amenity anyway.  And you can always  elect  as you enter the dining room, to sit at a table of ten or twelve. That can be immense fun, as you are most likely to have fellow dinners of multiple nationalities and amazing life histories.   But I have trouble eating and conversing  which causes me to lag behind in the serving of the various courses, and this tends to  make me uncomfortable.   The major issue is that I would like to achieve enjoyment equal to the number of calories ingested.   This takes concentration and  allows  little time for distraction.  Breakfast can be a problem:   I really am not up to socializing with breakfast.  So be it.  I think I’m fairly alone in this problem. 

To end this subject on a more positive note as is only appropriate being one of my favorite subjects.    Off- ship food has proven to be markedly memorable   involving:   Croatian truffles –a product of commercial importance and national diet,   a wonderful just- caught fish which is a pleasure I imagine I otherwise never have,  mussels in Cinque Terre  - but I can’t help thinking they are somewhat overrated at least in my experience,  in Portugal a super Portuguese Stew with potatoes, kale, squash and sausages,  and Bouillabaisse    on the dock in Corsica.   Yummm.

TOURISM:  I can’t resist a bit of additional conversation on the subject of tourism and its place in this world.   Whichever way things may progress, I can’t help but feel the future of travel is GRIM,   and furthermore, becoming MORE AND MORE unpleasant.    I think tourism (stated even before I discovered David Lodge) IS IN THE PROCESS OF SELF DESTRUCTING.  A good example of why I have this feeling Is the gigantic airplane I encountered at Heathrow:  This is a superjumbo   airplane   the size of an apartment building:   QUANTAS has introduced a plane which carries 500 passengers, is double- deckered, and an AIRBUS -  not to be prejudiced or anything but  they’ve had a tendency to fall down:  as it is November 4, 2015 another dropped splat in Russia- no known reason,   and I’ll bet there’s more in the offing.  Think of the effect these will have on travel!  And the thought of a crash is grotesque.  Considering that lately there  has been some problems  with landing …(I think I wrote this prior to 2014; a year in which there were four hideous airplane disasters). . .   The airports have already become nothing but a fright and imagine serving these mammoth planes, projecting masses of lines including the most recent and even more objectionable security.  Bigger airplanes;  airports attempting to process masses;  ruining more of the environment;  enjoyment no longer.  That’s size of plane:  there’s also the issue of pinching the tourist tighter in an effort to be more cost effective:  smaller seats, pay per bag, no food – this is all so detrimental I don’t even want to think about it.


      Ships are getting enormous as well -- 4000 passengers a pop- their recent record being marred by being stranded here and there and even incurring minor epidemics.  The outcome has been scandalous.   Ports they manage to invade become a sea of humanity and instant gridlock. There are so many cruise ships plying the Mediterranean I’m surprised there’s any room for water.  A recent news article reported that an attempt was being made in Key West to dig a passage through endangered reefs in order to permit passage  to larger ships. It was expressed at that point that Key West is way over its tourist capacity as it is.  I think this is true throughout the world


      A large portion of the world is dependent on tourism  which is in many instances the only industry.   As social unrest tends to have a detrimental effect on the travel industry and,  being so crucial could it possibly in turn  be instrumental in achieving peace ?   Wouldn’t this in turn  have a positive effect on the world economy?   I’m saying couldn’t travel have the effect of forcing the issue of peace?  I know, that’s way too idea.

 But in opposition:  could it actually be causing and/or encouraging unrest  as people living in poverty are more and more being exposed to those who  are perhaps affluent. 

 Actually I suspect  the participants and creators of the unrest  are more committed to their cause than they are to the detrimental effect of their efforts.  Could the cause of politics create stronger ties:  could economics, money, comfort,  or even luxury prevail?

November 2015 – Paris has been attacked by terrorists.  Paris is arguably the #1 destination in the world. This surely makes my questions especially pertinent.

Where are we going to go from here. What comes around goes around…  what we benefit will be directly related to how much we invest/participate  or maybe– we’ll  all just levitate: suspend ourselves above it all… I can just envision the world population all jet setting around spreading the wealth.  (I think I’m coming up with an interesting concept here but it needs further thought)

 INDUSTRIAL TOURISM is a term I’ve encountered.  HOW is it applicable here? I looked it up.  The definition is something like: a type of tourism which involves visits to operational companies and industrial heritage, it offers visitors an experience with regard to products, processes, applications, and historical backgrounds.   Historical examples were  mortuaries  and slaughterhouses.( I hope Viking doesn’t see this one).    From there it has fortunately expanded to include French wineries, chocolate factories, textile factories, and Dutch cheese producers.  Now you’re talking!   This was considered a potential growth factor  to strengthen distinctiveness and image by building on existing assets. To an amazing extent this country has used this element to it’s fullest (fortunately we’ve dumped the mortuaries),  whole massive facilities have developed around particular factories like HERSHEY,  LEGO, CRAYOLA, etc.  BIG BUSINESS.  Sometimes no existing factory is necessary:  take Disney and its’ affiliates.  These aren’t just side tours at this point,  they are entire industries and destinations.

ECO TOURISM is another variety of tourism.  Guess I had better check that one out too as potentially being more up my alley.  And I quote:  “tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, especially to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.”  Oh God!  I’m horrified.  Tell me it isn’t so…..or my original thought:  Oh Glory.  I could certainly blow that one out of the water with little effort.  Pardon me for being cynical but……

     I’ve just discovered there are two cruise categories.  One variety is considered  destination.  I can only assume the alternate to that must be  those  all- inclusive mega ships.   I feel Mega cruise ships are sinful:  I gather this is not exactly a popular opinion.  Let me explain:  there seems to be a difference between cruises which are designated “destination” cruises for touring and those unassigned jobs for maybe just relaxing.  The mega ships would be exclusively for onboard entertainment and therefore could keep its mega passengers to itself:   out in the middle of the ocean would be best..  I’m not too certain this behavior isn’t already in practice, isn’t already in place and in fact a popular alternative.  Whatever way you look at it,  I suspect  It is a necessary evil:


With that thought in mind I remembered the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California.  What a good addition for our home grown tourist destination objective. 

OH YES, THE QUEEN MARY could maybe be considered A STATIONARY THEME  PARK--  well, yes and no.  Yes,  there are accommodations:  “book a room”,    plus other amenities but I’m afraid they are fated to pale in comparison to what’s floating our oceans now..  I wonder why there’s no pool.  But being stationary in Long Beach, which I’ll bet can well afford a few tourists, there are motel pools and maybe even a beach.  YES!!!  And Disney World is right there.  Add a zip line and a climbing hill and what more can you ask?  Admittedly it’s a far cry from megashipdom but it’s a good beginning.

and to make staying in this country even more acceptable we’ve got bits and pieces of Europe all over the place.  Why,  LONDON BRIDGE is sitting right there in the middle of desert  Arizona,  I wonder what they do for the Thames,  but it’s there.  Bush Gardens,  Europe a la Disney Land,  bits of Europe all over the place.  Who needs to go to Europe?  Just think of the fuel and time efficiency and NoJetLag!!!!  And the money STAYS HERE….

So, whatever it is, can the concept be changed?  Is this possible?  It’s an Interesting thought anyway.  Or how about making the entire world a tour destination(yes, I can see that) and then we need not go anywhere.  That would certainly cease the horror of travel and we could simply expand all those theme parks into a travel destination and develop our own all- inclusive  money making  vacationland(am I contemplating here that we should all stay home.  What an interesting idea. Just  think of the savings in energy, environment, time, anxiety,  and quality.  I don’t, however, think we can get this past the travel industry.


Still we go on:   The individual  is becoming more and more like an ant- dehumanized,  less important.     Thought of in terms of masses,   and for so called increased mobility we’ll give up our comfort. Weird and   so sad!  The world has gone crazy.   Everyone is going to have to drastically change their feeling about the travel industry or something will have to give. People are going to have to lower their standards or they’ll have to bite the bullet and just accept what the travel industry cooks up..


THE CAMERA -   This is something I absolutely find essential to vent about somewhere and here is as good as any.  A camera is an essential item of travel gear.  Cameras are actually not unlike the other techie appurtenances  which have over the years driven me crazy:  this one however,  ranks way above all the others.   I don’t think I have ever made a trip without camera trouble and this goes back to the very beginning of my camera days.

The trip to China saw the advent of my first experience with the current breed – the digital.   I went there stupidly packing a virtually untested camera:   an obviously unwise situation,  and it was uphill from then on.   I spent a great deal of time being overwrought over whether I had enough memory, enough battery power,   enough  brain?   And it has escalated from there.  There  have  been  missing parts,  misplacing  of parts,  and of course operational   glitches. The latest of these was an unwarranted, totally undesirable sojourn into moviemaking.   I didn’t even believe it could do that. 

That’s only discussing the camera and  doesn’t include my struggle with achieving hard copies.  Grief, triple copies, anxiety, battles, what have you:   I’ve had them all.

 Maybe that could be another paper.

I’ve always said the joy was in the taking of the pictures and then you could just toss them:   would that ever save time.  The last couple of batches are sitting in the computer totally unadulterated:  no weeding, no sorting, no backup, no double discs, and I hardly ever look at them.  Frankly, it’s gotten so the number of shots I’m ending up with is so outrageously unwieldy that I just don’t have the heart or the energy to mess with them.  As of right now I’m contemplating tossing all the back -up discs.  Why not? 

BREAKING ONES HABITS- and the advantage thereof.   I made a brief statement about this when I was talking about comfort zone stretching but didn’t think it should be explained at that time.   but  it offers me a welcome opportunity to brag a bit.  I implied that there were advantages to breaking ones habits: make a change and you shall open your options,  you might even  discover they’re not worth going back to.      Smoking, martinis, Sudoku:   these were the habits I have broken.   Dropping the martinis gave me time to be more sociable, let me better taste and  therefore enjoy dinner more,  and allowed me more energy and opportunity to be more open to other options,  activities, social activities, drinks –oh, yes, there are better ones, options that is,  out there.  And then there was smoking:   struggling to achieve a smoke was a waste of time, usually unsociable, and frequently uncomfortable   –  outside freezing is not the optimum in comfort and probably adds to the unhealthy quotient.   Sudoku I still indulge in and enjoy lots but in a much more limited fashion.

In amongst my innumerable notes I ran across the following: it appears I chose to compare Viking and Holland America and  came up with a rather amusing scenario: I couldn’t figure out where I was contemplating they might go.   the statement I was confronted with was: Is there any place they (Viking) don’t go?  Can’t be India, there were plenty of both gems as well as cows there.  They don’t go to the Mediterranean probably because that doesn’t much resemble a river and they have recently added an ocean cruise capability.

  I figured I was talking about South America.   I see they maybe they (Viking) don’t go down there(South  America)due to the lack of what they consider education opportunities –those  workshops, factories or museums with which they so amply provide tours.  There aren’t many of them floating around South America.   How would Viking entertain its passengers?     As one of their primary jobs is entertaining their customers and as there are not many “factories” mid sea,     Admittedly there isn’t much to work with;  and besides that not everyone can afford a gemstone or a cow – actually I don’t remember cow buying ever being an issue  but then again my spending habits have changed – thank god.  At any rate,  they’d be in for a struggle. Well, it could be different. 

 (This statement really puzzled me until I figured out the subject matter.  Still it’s rather peculiar/weird but the image is so beguiling.  I do just like the sentiment so,  and it surely did make me laugh.)

MOBILITY -  I’ve unfortunately been hampered by an aggravated condition since a bit prior to China involving varying degrees of  ambulatory discomfort:  I blame it on doing that tour of the Biltmore Mansion in North Carolina from  top to bottom.   I have to admit  it was a  rash thing to  undertake but we just thought we’d get a peek behind the scenes a bit:   not the entire mansion,  furnace room included.  I am given to believe that stenosis can be aggravated by just such an assault:  I didn’t know.

FOR touring I bought a cane which unfolds into a seat.   I also toted a cushion – please note I say “toted’ as in the past.  Carting around all this paraphernalia is a colossal pain. Incidental seating encounters are a real boon – please let me inform you that in Egypt as chance would have it there was plenty of seating – on the antiquities no less (the Egyptian interpretation of antiquities protection),  but not much leaning;  the ideal for that is a supermarket cart.  A push chair would be just the thing but I’ve been resisting that as being far too awkward, and  too close to admitting to being  handicapped ***.   I had enough troubles with the comfort items I already had- I no longer carry the tushkush (I was intent on leaving it everywhere:  I even had it attached  to my wrist with a ribbon  and still I forgot it:  most notably in the Tian, China airport.  I was clueless enough to run backwards through security in an effort to retrieve it.  It’s a wonder I didn’t get shot, incarcerated or worse, but maybe they were making a deliberate effort to be accommodating to tourists.  Thanks to the presence of cellphones,  our lovely and impressively patient tour guide managed to call back the bus with its forgotten bit of luggage before we enplaned.   But that was the end of the tush-kush.

Cruise tours come with specified walking levels but their assessment requires deciphering.  I encountered one specifying 500 yards walking required, which gave me a ball park figure to work with.  I opted for a trial run and I would see if I could make that.  As luck would have it I elected to practice at a local gem & flea market.  This was admittedly an unfair trial location:   where  there’s  gems, I could walk a mile.   My solution:  I select my tours as accurately as I can,  I have my cane/seat and I take my time.

 With the population getting older perhaps more of an effort will be made to ease the activity of travel – maybe design tours with less walking or climbing and more riding  -  my idea of a perfect tour.  That approach is probably either too expensive or too limiting but I am always hopeful.

DEFINITION OF DESTINATION -----Immediately following my opening quotes I discovered I was having a problem with the words “journey” and “destination” and their role in the scheme of things.  I composed a statement discussing this conundrum but ended up rejecting it as being a nonessential.  But  then as I selected the word “destination” as part of my title,  it struck me how very vague and openended this term could be.  It could be an entire nation or even an entire continent.  I felt that it was essential that I establish what exactly I was referring to.  As I developed  this opus I arrived at the opinion that “destinations” as in The Wall of China, the Pyramids, etc. were highly overrated.   Hmmmm…..therefore it’s easy to say that essentially I have been referring mostly to specific tourist attractions. 

JOURNALS -  I have kept journals  forever.   With them and a few appropriate additions I have created a rather hefty volume.    The major issue here is the journals themselves.    I have transcribed them and now there they are in all their massive glory:   transcribed and massive are the key words.   I am in a quandary:  do I transcribe,  do I edit?   In either form I have transformed and therefore lost their integrity.   If I edit I lose the authenticity:   do I really want to do that?    But if I don’t it’s just plain overly voluminous and more frequently difficult to decipher.  My solution;  I have simply stuffed the current notebook in its entirety into the  appropriate plastic sleeve and left it that way.  As long as it’s more or less in one piece and not jotted out on all kinds of little tidbits that’s ok, I guess.  I’m waiting – for an epiphany?


And here it is in actuality and all its glory, warts and all

“It’s the journey, not the destination.”



  First of all I’d like to say I have enjoyed this project tremendously:   I have enjoyed unraveling the spaghetti of my life and travels so much.   I have managed to unravel a lot of unspecific,  unconnected thoughts and I have learned so much, which pleases me very much.   To begin with I was overwhelmed by:   facts, figures, possibilities, undesirables,   frustrations I felt hampered by or was concerned about,    too much information.  I needed to make sense of what knowledge I had.    What purpose did I arrive at?   I am happy so say I have acquired a reasonably clear opinion of what I need when I travel to achieve at least a modicum of clarity,  and that is definitely  something to celebrate.  Being a victim of fuzzy and profuse thinking I couldn’t have stuffed another worrisome problematic issue into the equation.    I’ve solved problems,  gotten answers,  come up with lots of fun things to think about;  and most of all it’s  the rediscovery  of memories, the formulation of thoughts,  and as an added and definitely unexpected and even almost overlooked bonus, I discovered  the art of writing.

 the first thought that came to my mind in  answer to the question of what I had accomplished and how successful I’ve been, was to come up with the idea of FOCUS – CLARITY  --     so I now have a clearer idea of what could go wrong  – everything I held as most fearsome is now highlighted by a clearer definition,  so now I know better what  to stay away from, and how to circumvent it.  I realized that was all too facetious especially considering the amount of effort I’ve got invested in this ---  -   so then I started to think   –  and as we’ve discovered,  being a prodigious thinker I naturally came up with a prodigious amount thoughts………….as follows:

 I should like to have this statement on record and maybe as an apologetic:

+++++I am not a good tourist.  This is something I just have to admit and live with.  I was surprised when this fact occurred to me as I was standing at the tour desk at the National Gallery of Art perusing  their list of current exhibits.  I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of available material as well as exhibits.  I experienced a frisson of anxiety when I perceived the volume of material almost explicitly  demanding attention.   I was enormously relieved to remember that I could disregard the whole issue, lounge in the cafeteria, and dawdle my way through whatever caught my fancy at any speed I pleased:  of course I could do this because I am fortunate enough to be able to indulge myself at the Gallery almost whenever I care to.  Yes, and to reiterate:   this was a huge relief.

And no, I really don’t think I am a good tourist:  I am set in a routine not at all compatible with touring,   I’m not wild about getting up at dawn, I am getting slower all the time, I need my space, my peace, and  a further caveat,  I am hindered by an unfortunate personality trait - I seem to contain the penchant to think that I should see everything offered.   That is slightly nuts and impractical.  Obviously this tendency must be tempered.

Persuading myself to be a good tourist is going to require effort.  Attempting to discover what adjustments might be plausible,  possible,  and needed are what precipitated this written effort and is my basic theme:   what would I do and what could I do to make things easier, more enjoyable, even fun.  Imagine that, fun on a vacation. 

That’s another idea that has only just occurred to me - fun.  It’s certainly a worthy objective.  That thought  sent me off on another tangent:  concern about being happy and having fun.   Somewhere down deep in my psyche I harbor the illusion that if I’m happy I must be on the verge of something unfortunate.       I suspect It takes a curious mind to arrive at anything as bazaar as that;  but that’s how I am.  This is one of those habits I shall have to make an effort to change.  Life is obviously too short not to have fun.  Oh, I do “enjoy”;  it’s the fun and happy I seem to have an issue with. 


I should now like to explore what has become the results and/oroutcome of this project:  what were my objectives, what approach did I develop, and was I successful.


The objective as established:   a search for how to better judge and perceive my travels,  to create guidelines as a tool to gain satisfaction,   to establish a desirable travel philosophy.

Approach developed:  I made use of  the reams of  material stored in my computer and   I contrived a logical arrangement  in which to present it  - that was at least a part of my objective.     By  sorting, aligning, and arranging  I managed to make best use of this wealth of material.  This has been a major occupation,  a truly  grandiose task, and   a huge mess.

I then proceeded to examine each element implicit,  explicit  and unavoidable in my subject.

 These  are  my  conclusions:

PREFFERED TRAVEL:    definitely no more land tours –  no longer an option.    The   BEST way to go in my estimation is to stay in one place and do day trips to the surrounding area.  This approach may have drawbacks but it permits exploring at your own speed and at leisure.     I’m  afraid however this one may be more doable for a younger crowd.   The next best thing is a tossup between ocean or river cruises.

WHERE TO GO & WHY:   It is important to remember the effect of latitude and destination - must establish a compromise between when and where;  they are mutually associated.    We have seen the most basic desirables and we’ve pretty much used up all the available rivers,  so where does that leave us?   There is no greatly desired travel destination remaining.  (This problem is certainly the saddest thing I’ve ever heard;  my heart bleeds but I shall do my best to overcome this disadvantage).  That is not entirely true.  There is also age which is entering in to the decision.  I have elected to play it by ear and elect the most expeditious that appears.

PREPARATION FOR TRIP I strongly suggest developing a complete packing list. Keep it in your computer and USE it -  slight modifications may be desirable for each trip.  Doing this effectively removes what to me is the major unpleasantness associated with  the  process of traveling –I hate making lists- especially one like this where forgetting something can be truly nasty – at least in my book.  My permanent list has stood the test of time. Compartmentalize your packing:  plastic blanket bags are good  -  pants in one bag, tops in one bag, dressy stuff in another bag, etc.   This guarantees accessibility and ease in locating and  is especially helpful if you are having to reallocated every day.   Finding things in the bag was one of the things that drove me crazy.

FIRM UP ITINERARY AT HOME:    That would include CRUISE DAY TOURS,  time on own and any add on stops anticipated– make every effort to leave nothing to chance.  I hate to be so stringent but this is essential if minimum time is available:  saves time, money.   It is our job to consider each trip carefully and firm up plans accordingly.   I make a big attempt to stress the importance of this process because I am guilty of coming up with some doozies;  my tendency is mental improvisation – I do a bit of dream planning  so sometimes I receive a rude awakening    -  I’m afraid I am incurable.   The important thing to consider is the option of minimizing the agenda;   you do not need to see everything.   It is not a bad thing to be selective.   This may very well be a standard approach and is good to keep in mind as it   takes a lot of pressure off.

HOW TO GET THERE -  EASIEST :    if only there was some way to minimize AIRPORTS:   their  size has just gotten ridiculous;  a real disaster.  I have adopted the wheelchair method of airport negotiation.    As much as the method sometimes distresses me,  I simply cannot  negotiate the security/customs lines any other way.  The wheelchair can prove to be a helpful tool as well.    It serves a dual purpose  as it provides wheels:  so we stack the carryon bags on me- and the wheels do the rest.  It’s much better than carrying.

There is virtually nothing you can do about undesirable schedules:   unintended  layovers,   very early departures,  and  any other unpleasantness  I might have missed.  Jet lag is also a given.  I have heard tell that to ease the effect of jet lag one should eliminate booze:  I do believe I’d rather eliminate the flight.  As I can’t do that,   I’ll take the booze any day and hang the consequences.

THERE MUST BE some way to assure of WINDOW SEATS.  I get the impression most of our fellow travelers have attained assigned seats before they even get to the airports.  HOW DO WE DO THIS??? (I now know this is an online offer)>   This used to be really important to me but with time and experience I have discovered I could very well end up with something worse than no window. And now as I am on the verge of undertaking another journey I am struck with the thought that I don’t really need a window seat, I’m happy to be going at all and then  maybe I don’t actually even want a window seat.  Maybe I’d just as soon not to be able to see my possible end.  (maybe that is getting a bit overwrought).  I’ll just let it go either way).   Later on we achieved the advantage  of flying Business and as far as I’m concerned that solves this whole issue.  If you’re going business,   seating  arrangements  simply don’t matter. 

OF FURTHER INTEREST:   TWO major cities in a row is TOO MUCH.  Watch out for  Add-ons.   It is not a bad thing to be selective.   Temper your preconceptions:  this leaves less room for disappointment.   Do the introduction to the city on your time – as  an  overview.    This is best done by Hop On& Hop Off bus tours  - I have yet to encounter a major city which did not offer this amenity.   I do suspect I may be in for a surprise here.   No MORE 8 HOUR TOURS; NO MORE VIATOUR.    Assure both participants to travel are fully aware of all arrangements so there are no unfortunate  discoveries , misunderstandings,  or preventable dissatisfactions;     but with two heads working  you often can anticipate or catch undesirable situations.


The question at hand now is how effective has all this work been.  Have I improved my attitude; my approach?  At the very least I must assure that I get out of the experience as much as possible with as little grief as possible.  BIG ORDER!!


Remember the slogans:   our goals are:  DISCOVERY and THE UNEXPECTED. Considering the amount of effort I put in to identifying and establishing the importance and the effect of my travel adjectives it would seem they deserve to be reiterated  here as I list my conclusions.

I still think the most important thing I have learned; and the most important thing I can pass on is the utmost importance of change, chance, choice:   the importance of being flexible.      Try something new, take chances with choices, don’t always do the same thing – it may be safer but it’s hugely limiting.   In bravery comes response.    There is a  possibility offered here  to gain extra dimension,  depth, and quality  to life.  The something  “unfamiliar” may indeed turn out to be a mistake but at least it’s been a learning experience:  learning is always good.    What’s more,  It has more than likely made the experience memorable;  doing the same thing would not. 

Effect of time and age:  quite some time has passed since the inception of this so called “Golden Age of Travel”:   It’s been ten years since our trip to China in 2005.  Much time, age and gained awareness have accumulated since I started this project and over the years of travel this represents.  Much has happened, much has changed many benefits have been realized:  time has given me time to think, age has offered me broadened perspectives, hindsight has made decisions easier, and even some readjustment to my thinking has been encouraged and achieved.    With time and age has come experience and a gained am awareness.  I especially reminded of all the great things I’ve experienced and enjoyed.  Memories have added depth to my life –and thoughts for my mind … I have learned how adventuresome my life has been and how fortunate I am. 

Time passing can be a detriment as well:  limiting time left in life, time left to explore, limits physical strength and energy,  and certainly has resulted in more deeply imbedded habits.   It  can involve the acquisition of physical  and mental limitations.  Hopefully positive thinking can assist in dealing with the latter but the former…   Age and conceivably even experience  may be beginning to be decisive factors. Hindsight cuts down on freedom of choice. (I suspect it could conceivably be detrimental to be too aware of  and remember too much.)   My stenosis must be considered in this assessment:  it is definitely a hindrance.  I start out knowing I’m restricted and limited in choices of destination:   I can’t go where I want.  Although  I really don’t like it,  it is unavoidable therefore necessary for me to come to an acceptable compromise;  accept this gracefully,  or stay home.  That’s the bottom line.  I am optimistically hopeful that I shall be successful.   All my nonconformist attitudes have become exaggerated enough to possibly prove a real hindrance to travel. Result of newly evolved habits .  maybe a bit of an exaggeration – I do that well- maybe it can be boiled down to simply being involved with getting up in the morning.

What I have learned:

 An essential inclusion to travel advice (if I ever get to that subject:  LIVE FOR THE MOMENT.  Just enjoy what comes down the pike. GOAL:  sit back and enjoy!   I think this shall take more than just stating.  This will have to mean making an effort to enjoy consciously what’s going on around me.  Why not?  Otherwise it’s surely a huge and expensive amount of effort for nothing. Patience.  Grace in adversity.  Live for the moment.  Try to be as receptive, sensitive as possible.   It took a while but I finally arrived at the conclusion that this was the best and only way to appreciate any trip. Get what you can out of it and figure it shall be processed later. This attitude in general did make a big difference and I must remember to remind myself of it often:  Good!  


Uncovered another truth: Something I have just come to terms with is the fact that I seem to be a slow processor/synthesizer:  It takes a while for things to sink in. in other words no “instant gratification” which we tend to expect now days.  It’ll come– must expect/accept/and be patient.

 This makes the above suggestion – live for the moment - even more succinct.   I will reap the true bounty of the trip later but in the meantime I have assumed as much of the experience as I can which will in turn furnish more material for the “reaping” to work with.


And even ANOTHER truth:  what a truly magnificent experience cruising has proven to be.  This is mostly due to the presence of the opportunity to become involved with people from other countries.  I forgot about this superb situation maybe because it is another thing which is so very obvious.  There is no question but that it adds such a depth of experience.


Another good promise to remember pursuant of achieving TRAVEL EQUANIMITY:  NO PRECONCEPTIONS.    I’ve never been too big on  pretravel  itinerary preparations anyway -  it tends to cause an emotional sense of anxiety:  that just may be  fortunate.   But;  whether or not I’m excited by this, I still have to do it or sit on the dock.  In the process of selecting side tours it’s almost impossible to avoid acquiring a certain amount of these undesirable preconceptions.   As I suggested earlier,  the only thing you can do is “temper” these impressions and attempt to be flexible.

I think the impression I give with all this writing is that I am either severely a loner or extremely independent:   I hurriedly hasten to assure the opposite.   I am very well aware of the fact that association with others is of radical importance.  Human interaction is a main ingredient in assuring movement and providing life  to our surroundings – how obvious can that be.  The bottom line to me is human involvement is an essential;   more important  even than the destination – unless the destination is nature – human presence  is overwhelmed by natural phenomenon.  Unfortunately I  tend to get distracted by human interaction consequently I am quite  capable of missing major  attractions. The answer to that  is  I have to watch out and know when I should quit interacting and start paying attention to what’s going on.


I’ve taken up the activity of aggressive thinking:  A product of all this intense thinking firmed  focused/solidified  Attitude.  I’m coming up with strong opinions I never noticed before.    I have a stronger sense of what needs  improvement , concentrating on,  firmed up, or consequently maybe even can be avoided entirely.  That’s bad and good.   All the small stuff has fallen by the wayside.   Should be good,  but must not affect the question of flexibility.

I have gained the joy of writingIt has enriched my life immeasurably.   This is an activity I find as enjoyable, fulfilling,  and satisfying as any of my other artistic pursuits and better yet and  its lots cheaper, consumes lots lets space, it’s lots lighter as  I never carry around my computer,  is as effective as drawing in intensifying perception,  and is a prodigious user of time – of all this time I’ve saved not smoking .   I like to think;  and having retired and quit smoking I have acquired much time to participate in a great deal of thinking.  Writing provides an outlet for all that thinking as well as in keeping thoughts, notes and in acting as a soundboard amply clarifies experience further. 

  I have gained the joy of flying BUSINESS;;;  this is surely a horse of a different color- going business.  A very important fact here is that we { just} discovered Business Class.   I have very much to say about that – it really wasn’t part of this effort and I do have to quit someday but I suppose I’ll have to confront the question of Business in here somewhere because it makes such a huge difference, and even more so negates this particular concern o-o-o I’d even go on the wing or in the hold if its Business.  So that solves that problem.   We may have to hock the house,  but so what.  It could prove the difference between living and dying on our next projected trip to SoutheastAsia which shall assuredly involve a horrifying 24 hours or so of air time.   Oh horrors!  Just as an aside:   suddenly I was struck by the thought the effect Business Class travel might have had on Paul Theroux and I am horrified.   The thought kind of makes me cry.  Undoubtedly and fortunately  it  probably didn’t exist in his day;  he wasn’t the type anyway.  I wonder how he deals with this now.    Is he torn, now that  he may be required to do  travel for business,  is  older,  and richer  and…    maybe none of this matters  anymore  and he can sit happy in Hawaii nurturing his geese.  We do see where this all leaves me:  No worries, I’m old and the only effect it will have is to give me some comfort.  Pretensions as well as appearance have also been ditched and that’s a welcome advancement:  saves time. 

I must remind myself that I must not neglect  the ubiquitous pep talk;  but considering the amount of time, effort and thought I’ve got invested in this thing I should never have to do it again but I came to that conclusion too late – I’d already launched into another.        The current pep talk is heavy on the positive; take it easy, don’t push, be sensible don’t try to do it all, and depend on trust: that it won’t kill me.  Appended to that for good measure is:  try not to get mad if something doesn’t suit you, just forget it,  or,  get mad;  just don’t lose your temper.   Admittedly,  sometimes you have to so maybe its more important to  know the difference and BE SELECTIVE.

      Truer advice was never given:  which may or may not be rational.  So be it. 




An upcoming trip will provide a good test of how worthwhile all this thinking and introspection has been.


Some time later and that which is upcoming – the next trip, that is.  Unfortunately and  regardless of all the excellent preliminary preparations, I managed to achieve grief anyway.   I may have had less problem reaching a decision; but it was the wrong one. It may  have eased the  process but was still unable to  guarantee  the outcome.The process managed to focus my thinking so I could make the wrong decision faster.

The story is:  we made reservations to go to Central American in January, and being late to sign up and being dumb, we went along with the idea of no verandah.  Eventually it sank in that, even with suggestions to the possible contrary, we were irrefutably stuck: in the tropics and I’m going to be encapsulated.  I don’t think so.  Better freak out – bail out - now than on the dock in Los Angeles.   The result of this action was as threatened:  a huge penalty and even more of a huge penalty than I think was warranted.  Grrrr! The only good part of all this was that hopefully we learned a good lesson:  bailing out for any reason is a bad idea.  I shall attempt to be especially cautious from now on.


Just to add to that disaster:   we proceeded to  switch horses in midstream and arrange to go to Southeast Asia – Roger figured it would be different, with Seabourn;  and after all,  haven’t I  strongly asserted that  it didn’t matter where we went as long as it was Seabourn. 

I persuaded myself that was a perfectly rational step; even though travel to Asia is really rough and ahhhh,  the Killing Fields of Cambodia, may be a bit of a stretch, I fear also that we may be fated for a reassociation with nasty toilets (I alluded to this item earlier ).  Dealing with these will surely be more problematic with added age a factor.  The good thing:  it will give me an opportunity to see super rocks and  to learn to appreciate Thai and Vietnamese cooking.   After all, Anthony Bourdain decreed this was the best cuisine anywhere, so obviously I owe it to myself to check that one out.   I am a bit apprehensive.   I trust it won’t kill me. 


     There’s a good chance I shall never finish this thing:   I shall just continue to add on as I continue to travel just like an addendum and maybe adjunct,  as a synopsis of the current journal.   Maybe it can become a more readable version of my journals.  Perhaps I could even plan on issuing addendum from time to time.



Paul concludes his book, “Tao of Travel”, by listing a number of occurrences he describes as being “epiphanies”;  experiences he’s had as a direct result of his travels

  I thought this was a very effective ending as It gives his book, which is a collection of travel writing, a more personal touch as well as tying it to the present.   Furthermore  I loved the idea not only as an appropriate way with which to conclude, nor because of it’s technical attractiveness,  but because of the impact it had on my imagination.   I loved the idea of the search this process could initiate and inspire; the very suggestion of such a pursuit excited me profoundly/intensely. 

I was inspired by the idea of filtering around in my memory in search of experiences:   that excited me, or  impressed me.   It served as a great brain teaser as it inspired and motivated me,  and served to kick start  and exercise my imagination.   I am delighted to have the excuse not only to remember,  but to write.   The effort involved in  formulating  the correct language to express my excitement served to compound any inherent impact and forced an intense effort in the search for truth in what I was saying – in other words, it made me think - hard. 

 What’s more I’m convinced this is an activity that everyone  can partake of and enjoy;  I think it makes a wonderful thought initiator that I hope inspires everyone.  I have enjoyed it so much I feel called upon to encourage everyone to accept the challenge and try it out.  Trust me, its great stuff. 

 And here I would like to formally challenge you, the reader, into a similar pursuit.  What is your epiphany?

I thought it would be intelligent  and rational to start with a definition for this mysterious word he uses in the title of his book : “TAO”.    The dictionary states that TAO is a principal of philosophy and system of religion of China signifying experience of one’s everyday being;  way, path or principle.  The intuitive knowing of “life” etc, etc, and on a more simplistic level it would identify as “way” “path” “route” or sometimes more loosely,  ”doctrine” or “principal”.    So, we’ve learned something.  That’s nice and in fact assertively esoteric  but I’m glad it’s not part of my project:  I thought it was good to know.   So I’ll leave you with that – it’s all yours.  Not especially relevant so to continue: 

More relevantly though is a definition  of the descriptive noun which I’m interested in exploring.    What exactly is an “EPIPHANY”?      The dictionary has it as being “ … AN EXPERIENCE OF SUDDEN AND STRIKING REALIZATION;   A spiritual event in which the essence of a given object or manifestation appears to the subject as in a sudden flash of recognition,  reverence or awe.”   That’s a mouthful.. how about my interpretation:  an explosion in your gut of surprise,  reverence or awe.

Now that I’ve got the objective I’m ready to sort around in all the exciting ideas my brain had already prematurely  come up with.

 Seventy eight years of living is  daunting  in the volume of time it represents.  That’s  a lot of life experiences to filter through and rate;  a big assignment as well as undertaking.    Regardless, I set to in search of  noteworthy events.   I tried many on for size and the end resulted in  the impression of drowning:  I’m  overwhelmed by images,  awash in wonderful memories indeed.   I may even have had  at least a few experiences which could be considered to adequately fit the bill for being “unexpected”, “discoveries”  and even “exciting”, but were admittedly of decidedly a lower caliber than I deem as a requirement.   None were even vaguely uplifting in form and furthermore I was somewhat chagrinned to see a few, usually involving human encounters, were rather negative as they  frequently can  be. Remembrance of these seems to be they sometimes brought the worse out in me.

Unfortunately after all that soul  searching  I fear I found nary an epiphany.  None of my memories seem to warrant  bearing such an impressive sobriquet:  basically or admittedly  not worthy even by a long shot.    I must accept the fact.     The definition is really limiting:   inspiring it may be,  but on inspection one could actually come to the conclusion that it is actually not  even very user friendly.      It’s the spiritual element which seems to be giving me trouble;  I am sorely lacking/ insufficient.  

So what? That’s only normal and in reality what counts at the end of the day is that I’ve had a lot of fun and I have a lot of neat stuff to think about  and I think I’m fortunate at that.

   I shall just gear down a bit in my definition and  therefore my objective  and I will formalize what I came up with and list them accordingly;  epiphany or not.


Of course we all know the ultimate epiphany is music?  This one jumped right out at me and made itself number one on the list,  but after a bit of time I realized I had been suffering from a slight disconnect.   What I was so excited to enumerate  right or wrong, is  actually what in fact is the most abstract of the arts – not the most elemental of epiphanies;  an entirely different issue.  But as I think even further about it;  I wasn’t entirely wrong.    There is no doubt at all that experiencing music - to its fullest - is definitely  correctly to be considered an  epiphany. 


This is then the first thing that came to my mind and I believe the most applicable.   Being aware that all my life China had been considered  another world, one which was basically out of contact and was therefore duly shrouded in mystery.   I grew up with the myth, as did many,  that if we dug straight down we’d come up in China,  but that was about it as far as China lore was concerned.   We had the opportunity to go to China,  much  to my amazement.  Following a day in Shanghai we boarded our small ship and sailed away up the Yangtze.  That evening   I found myself alone in the lounge observing/watching a steady progression of barges gliding silently by through the thick fog and it hit me  -WOW!  HERE I AM  - THIS IS THE YANGTZE RIVER… IN CHINA!!   UNBELIEVABLE. Now that was an awesome experience.

CHERBOURG–it was August 1947.  I was eleven years old.  My mother, brother and I were on a ship, the ship which was the first to carry civilians across the Atlantic following WWII.  We were on our way to join my father who was in Germany working in the effort to repatriate people displaced by the war.  It was a dark and drizzly  dawn when we arrived in Cherbourg harbor; a harbor which had been a major target during the war.  Nothing much was left;  it was a scene of bombed blasted silhouetted girders vaguely visible in the mist.   We were offloaded onto a tug and sent on our way towards shore.  As a parting gesture both vessels sounded their respective horns;  the one on the tug was one big fearful blast above us and to my already  fearful  imagination.   The whole situation was essentially incredible;  one which is still very clear to me almost seventy years later.  This is not a scene one can imagine:  unfortunately it must be seen to truly believe or conceive of.   Is it possible that if this image were more readily visible /conceivable/perceivable  to humankind  there may be fewer wars?  No, I think it’s the step into reality that is making the  impression.  That’s a valid thought but highly improbable.   As it was very soon after the war we were confronted often by this kind of scene.  We were very aware of the effects of the war.  But this is another story; for another time. This made an immense impression on me; whether it’s an epiphany or not is a moot question.

STONEHENGE:  this actually was the next which came to mind.  Just for the record I must state here that I have a passion for England.  I imagine this was our second trip and we were off to the outer shires in search if the treasures of England.  Being rather naïve we were expecting well signposted major attractions.  Can you imagine? (Oh, better indicate this was pre tourist).   It was dusk and we were on the backroads floating over the misty downs in search of one of the most famous places in the country – no, the world.  We may have had some kind of vague map – maybe the one of the whole country, who knows.   (I am a wonderful tour guide);   there was NOT A SOUL around in this totally rural, treeless, rather bleak landscape.  No town, no  billboards?  Huh?  Nothing !  Eventually we came upon a teeny weeny little arrow board pointing “thataway”, and eventually we could see off in the distance WHAT appeared to be a bunch of immense black shapes  standing upright in the gloaming, silhouetted against the horizon dusk of early evening:  STONEHENGE in all its glory.   Totally accessible,  solitary lonesome, not a soul, not a distraction anywhere.  It just was reeking with atmosphere and mood. We had it all to ourselves.  Imagine!  I have heard it is now fenced, sports an information center, and who knows what else.  We were so fortunate.

METEORA:  DEFINATELY must come next.  1953 the country was war torn having just coming out of a long period of German occupation and then political crisis and devastation.   The rural areas were remote, undeveloped,  primitive;  roads were only   vague. There was nothing anywhere to suggest of anything out of the ordinary.  We had no idea what to expect or what we might encounter.  All of a sudden ahead on the horizon appeared massive fragmented chunks of rock structures (these are actually the  eroded remains of  limestone mountains) -  this totally amazing landscape shot up in front of us.  I don’t remember if we knew what we had discovered but we drove up maybe the only perceivable,   and what was actually an appreciably precipitous,  dirt road.  To what?  I’d say we were aware we were seeing monasteries perched in, around and atop of many of the rocks but I imagine we didn’t realize the implications, certainly we didn’t know the particulars.  It is quite possible my father knew but probably not much.  I’m sure there was no admittance and I don’t think that fact was a bit of a detriment to our appreciation and excitement over what we’d discovered.  I have and shall never forget the impact or sight.  Later maybe 1997 I had occasion to visit once again complete with fulsome touring explanation  and of course, I’m sorry, it  absolutely just wasn’t the same.  Visiting one of the monasteries however was excellent.  Another very memorable,  incredible  experience of the earlier trip was viewing the shimmering still dawn harbor of Patras– stunning;   IOANNINA – an ancient walled city at sunset silhouetted against a vibrant red gold shimmering across the lake –stunning;  a line of candle- carrying Easter pilgrims in a town virtually without electricity filing up an unlit dirt  mountainous track towards the church - also awesome.   These were the very awestruck and momentous impressions of a not so savvy unenlightened 14- year old.  Truthfully, there was so much about Greece:    I say “there was”.  On our later  trip  I recognized nothing of Patras, minimally of Athens and the smog enveloping  what had been a  beautiful crystal clear landscape was excruciating:   totally nasty.  How fortunate I was to have had this experienced.

PARTHENON.  As farfetched as it may seem my encounter with this edifice and in the way I encountered it was a complete aberration.  The effect was monumental - oh yah literally. Everyone knows it is  visible  for miles from anywhere. I guess I wasn’t expecting anything much less such an impact.  Somehow or other I simply hadn’t a clue.  Of course I knew nothing of its reputation (why not?) let alone it’s importance;  its  status in the order of things.  So, as I climbed the stairs towards this world class vision I was completely innocent (this was a very real “unexpected”) – and AMAZING TO BELIEVE – also completely alone. (Ok, this was probably 1952 and Greece was still very much off the beaten path- it had just emerged from a vicious war and I think the streets were predominantly dirt or potholes and I really don’t remember one single gorgeous evzone anywhere!    So up I climbed through the equally gorgeous pristine sunshine, up toward the framing  structure and vroom!  there it was in all it’s glory and I was just STUNNED.  It was truly a heart stopping event.  Ignorance is bliss?  Probably the only example of such a thing I encountered in my life.

Ah hah,  here we’re about to achieve another truism -  how to say it  -  I was about to claim youth for this ignorance – I was maybe 13 or-14 – and  It came to me.  If 60 is the new 50, what does that make 14?  Tit for tat?   BUT I think in this day and age smarter may come earlier- at 14 you are 24?  Hmmm.  But  I thought that was an interesting insight.

It is imperative to add that the Parthenon was the towering presence in the city.  This was considered a ubiquitous sight and as such I think it was pretty much taken for granted but I was truly appreciative.  It was lit at night. This sight was at its most splendid,  in my opinion, as it appeared from afar:   to me it appeared to be  glowing as a pearl nestled on  black velvet.    I must reiterate that this was also before the city got shrouded in smog. .  


SO THAT’S FIVE:  he had five so that must have become my goal.  How might I rate them?  The main impression I have come up with isMAYBE THAT’S WHERE WE GET A good EXAMPLE OF UNEXPECTED SURPRISE????   Somehow they’re mostly all “sights”;   not necessarily emotions.   OH NO, definitely emotions.  What I mean is – not  “SPIRITUALLY”  significant insights.   So what do I want;  egg in my beer?  Of course!    What are they missing?  Is it a question of sensitivity?   There were no flashes of recognition?   They were:  not particularly esoteric, fairly minimal, not exactly exemplary, not exactly exceptional, no insights; just awesome experiences.  As hard as I tried I couldn’t come up with anything nearly as esoteric in tone as I thought an epiphany deserved to be..  I’m thinking that some of the time I was too young to have an insight.   Or just too young to recognize one as such?   Probably none of these words were even in my vocabulary.   At any rate, what can you expect of me as a kid?   Maybe I can settle for a trade:   I have had a few in my old age which I found to be amazing events,  they were not however actually related to travel.

 Obviously I’m going to have to judge them and appreciate them for what they are;  I’m just going to have to make do.  That’s  good enough for me.

 How about the story I overheard  relating as to how the French discovered they were smarter than sardines  (being English I had found it improbable that they ever acquired such an enlightenment ever,  but’’’’’’  that wasn’t nice but, I didn’t make this up.  I’m quoting a French tour guide).   In all  seriousness:  I was sitting aside alone drawing and I just happened to overhear this statement and I almost fell off the bench I was laughing so hard.  We encountered other very similar narratives  therefore It became a running joke the entire trip.  That wasn’t nice but it certainly was gleeful.  The punch line, by the way, was that by changing the color of the fishing nets they became virtually invisible to the sardines which resulted in a  greatly increased catch and  a very much needed boost to the economy.

It was about here  that  I just settled down for a great outpouring of any and all memories regardless of their possible rating.

INTRUSION INTO PERSONAL SPACE:  might be a reasonable title for this one. Or “the horrors of acquiring companionship at breakfast”.   This occurred morning one on the Yangtze and I was all set up with my pile of travel material to peruse with breakfast ,  BUT NO!  Somebody had the positively unmitigated gall and audacity  to plop down right  next to me. No peace and quiet for breakfast?    Come on!  I remember that as definitely being an epiphany and I’ve remembered it a long time.  It sure as heck was a biggie whatever it was.   I was simply stunned speechless.  The issue of unwanted acquisition of table companions can often be the case unless you are very prudent or become a bit more flexible.

That may have been AN EMOTION  and it MAY have been an epiphany as well as traveling but it surely seems a bit overly mundane even for me.

So, is this getting to be a snobbish thing?

MORRO ROCK in California (the effect of encountering this positively splendid hunk of geology (a volcano gut of which there are quite a few others in the area) and in such an unexpected place – it is hanging out maybe 100 yards offshore - was outstanding.  This is another happy discovery caused by ignorance.  But this is as it probably had to be.  How often do you think any particular destination makes it into a tour guide?  After all I’d suspect that it was  a  rare  ordinary tourist who was crazy about rocks.  While we’re at it I’m just going to sneak in the  whole  OF CALIFORNIA for good measure.  It’s just loaded with stuff that has astounded and delighted me.  It has become one of my most favorite places in the world;  England being the other. 

ROMANCE:  When at the age of 16 I experience a magical moment as a potential beau surprised me by appearing   unexpectedly at the gate of the 6th Fleet canteen in Athens, asked for me, and on my appearance giving me a great big kiss – t….  Maybe kisses are common but it was my first kiss. Admittedly no way an epiphany but so radically soooooo romantic it just demands to be counted.  Maybe I should knock this one out.  It has very little to do with traveling, I don’t think?

As long as we’re having all this  veritable explosion of intense introspection  but admittedly not particularly  soul searching effort,  I might just as well keep going.–

CLOUDS CUM FOG:  The fjords of Norway and what appears to be fog may in fact be a low lying cloud,  depending on one’s location. The ceiling is LOW and the mountains are – mountains,  and were jutting above the  fog/cloud.  I’m almost embarrassed to mention this it is so nebulous  and there’s  not one iota of emotional tinge,  but honest to god it sure was surprising and enlightening and has come to my mind often and what more can you ask of an epiphany?  It even fits into the travel theme.  I do think it such an odd occurrence.

I was amused and delighted to be reminded of the incidence recently.   It was July 4,  the location was the Pentagon parking lot as was our habitual fourth of July fireworks position.  Although we  had experienced  very threatening weather all afternoon,  the dark mass of clouds thankfully took the opportunity to  float off into the sunset.  All but one little cloud, which carefully insinuated itself smack dab in front (at least that’s all I could see) of the Washington Monument  just in time for the fireworks. There indeed is my errant cloud pretending to be fog?  Outcome of this:  aurora borealis  fireworks. Hmmmmmm.

I continued on in my never ending pursuit of a personal travel epiphany.  These are admittedly hardly no  more than just MOMENTS;  and   actually basically just that.  Admittedly  and embarrassingly enough they are all too innocuous to be considered anything much more than special experiences.  Just some more of the same, nevertheless I think they are worth writing about;  and I’m having so much fun I feel fully justified in continuing forever:  it is my dime.

Shipboard in the middle of Lake Nasser, Egypt:  I am perched on the top deck by the swimming pool basking  and snoozing in the delicious warmth of the sun watching in the distance all those clueless hopefuls trudging across the desert to what looked like a column - an extremely emaciated temple?   I was not smug but I would happily say my situation was one of PURE PLEASURE -  nice to remember.  The mental element may have been there but mostly it was physical and certainly not one iota of spiritual.  

CHRISTMAS DAY IN CANCAN, Mexico:   as much as I loved it, I just don’t think, a  magnificent leisure Xmas eve lounging on the greasy deck of a ferry,  iced tequila in hand,  warm breezes wafting, the beat of smoky music in the air,  oh, my goodness.  Langourous maybe – don’t think this can be counted as an epiphany but I sure was happy - ahhhhh bliss!

POTENTIAL DROWNING;   and then there was the time I almost drowned…. Swimming in the river; Summer camp; I was maybe 10.  I’ll never forget the feeling of just lying back and giving in – and then I got rescued.  This was indeed a really deeply momentous occurrence and maybe even spiritual but I’m sure that word  isn’t  part of a ten year old’s vocabulary.  However this  may just have been the epiphany I was  after.

 Still no epiphany.  I’m beginning to get the impression that this surely just goes to show you how much more intense his travel experiences have been. Not to fret:  after all, it also has been his livelihood.  No, that’s not entirely it.  Face it, there’s a good chance that he as a person is more intense than I am and leave him to it.  We know that’s a real messy personality to live with and who needs it. 

It was then I apparently  was  inspired to take a second glance at what he actually might have said.   I was surprised to come to the conclusion that they were nowhere near as finite as I had thought;  they were actually hardly any more spiritual than mine have been. 

  I may have read them again but I sure managed to miss a very large and significant clue:   Keep reading.

With that vote of confidence and being  on a roll and I really can’t resist wallowing around in pleasure some more. … just a few more.

Capri was magical-I have such strong memory of this that I really don’t want to go back there knowing I will certainly ruin one of my fondest memories;  Stockholm glimmering in the early morning snow as we returned to the city from a period of home leave back to the states, as seen from our train window;  the silence and mysticism  of the snowy dusky  woods in Germany as we walked through the falling snow in search of a small Xmas tree; The icy clarity of the tiny lake in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria, Germany in which we paddled our tiny rubber boat;  snow under the runners of the horse drawn sleigh one pre Xmas evening in Dalarna,  Sweden.

And here’s where the fat hit the fan……I’m finally going to come to.  I was slightly dismayed and still fretting about how and why I didn’t have an epiphany to show for all this work and all these experiences so I did an abrupt halt;  took a moment to double check on the  dictionary definition,  and made a bee line to once again reread his epiphanies;  and what a shock…  I I just happened to stop for a moment  at his introductionto the chapter.   Apparently I was too excited by the whole idea of the concept that I didn’t even notice this particular aspect,  consequently I  missed the real meat of the entire exposition;  I  managed to miss THE BIG CLUE. How typical.

Here is what his true meaning of “epiphany” is:    It includes the stipulation that…  “something unexpected happens that transforms the whole nature of the trip and stays with the traveler”. Furthermore he continues… that the “…fundamental quest in travel, it is the search for the unexpected.”  and “the discovery of an unanticipated pleasure can be life changing”.  Well,  I don’t know if I can go quite that far,  but that sure has  taken the pressure off.   Bottom line:   forget the encyclopedia definition,  ditch the idea of “spiritual”.     I am now satisfied with my solutions:  they are perfectly  creditable.

How wonderful all of these memories are and   Oh, how I have enjoyed this project which has afforded me the excuse and permitted me the opportunity to reencounter some of the most outstanding moments of my life.

I do hope by relating my experiences and sharing my excitement in the search I will have been persuasive enough to have it act as an incentive for others to initiate a similar pursuit:   maybe not in search  of epiphanies, forget the epiphanies,  but something equally as enjoyable.


  As an addendum:   in the process of pursuing all  that introspection I was reminded of this experience.   It only occurred to me that I indeed was privileged to have experienced  this at all but that it might even be considered to be a rather risky travel adventure – certainly off the beaten track, certainly lacking any degree of comfort, and certainly just loaded with the two adjectives I declared to be the essentials of travel:  the elements of DISCOVERY and the UNEXPECTED.  Just fits the bill perfectly. 

I’m not going to call it an adventure – just crazy.

It was RHODES, GREECE, probably 1952:  I was barely 16 years old. Two young female friends from high school – ages 17 and 18 I think - and I managed to persuade and finagle ourselves  a trip.  The parents of one of the girls were in the States and innocent of this project;  otherwise,  I can’t imagine what our parents were thinking – if anything?  We packed cans of tuna fish for meals which we planned on pairing with any old bread we figured we could find somewhere, and that was the sum total of pretrip arrangement.  We went   by ferry, – an overnight trip,  to be followe by a week of visit.  We went steerage -  I think that was more or less a dorm and a bathroom totally lacking in facilities -  but I tend to recall we saw very little of that – I think we spent the time being entertained by the Captain.   How did we know we’d find any place  to stay  when we got there;  as this was long before the advent of tourists there was no such thing as Fodor’s.  I have no memory of how we dealt with this.  Did we stand on the pier and look cute?   We stayed in some kind of garret room;   we were virtually the only non natives in town.   What we did for entertainment:    mostly I remember we managed to stir up some excitement with the young men stationed with the Coast Guard ship anchored in the harbor.   And  the aquarium director gave me a dried  seahorse – I had known nothing of them:  thought they were mythical.  I think it’s curious and interesting that there didn’t seem to be any thought of beach activity – there was in my memory very little of the idea of beaching  in Greece certainly as we know of it on the eastern seacoast of today -  I know most of the beaches  were basically not accessible but it also could have been that as teens we were much more interested in doing other things.  Don’t know. 

I was stunned when I remembered all this. Maybe now such an experience could be possible:   but in Greece,  In 1953?  And remember, no tourist amenities at all – no other Americans or the like either.  OH, yes one of us was kinda Greek – Greek American:  somebody must have been able to communicate.  Now I’m actually beginning to be horrified.  Were we perhaps safer then than we would be now?  Maybe.    I was naïve at 20, can you just imagine how I was at 16?   May have been wild but I was too young to count.  At that age I didn’t have any sense anyway.  Presumes a certain degree of intention?  Intellectual thought –at 15  apparently totally lacking an objective? 

 No matter how you cut it, it was one wild trip:  and really not brave, just stupid.   just spectacularly different unique maybe weird even.   I’m not going to call it an adventure;  just plain crazy.  

Maybe  I  am indeed impressed.   It sure took me long enough but maybe I found the epiphany I was looking for;   maybe this   actually qualifies  as one  of those adventures I have so admired and  been envious of.   I really don’t believe that hard work will be rewarded,  but  look at this.  I finally found something I did that actually fit in to that particular frame I was so envious of.   Maybe I should rethink that attitude.  How about that?



       Travel books I have loved: 

  Uh oh;  I’ve got another description issue:  Are we talking authors or oeuvre?  Does it matter? Whatever!

In composing this list of my favorite travel books, it occurred to me the stated subject heading may quite likely be misleading. I’ve got a wide range of reading interests; what I am inclined to include may only peripherally involve travel.  Nevertheless, I am inclined to forge ahead and include whatever appeals to me.   Whether these are strictly travel literature or not I don’t care and In the meantime, any additional extra dimension should always be considered welcome.


 Richard Halliburton: “Book of Marvels”.  This was my introduction to the world.  The memory and inspiration of this volume stayed with me forever.  It must have belonged to my parents when I was little; somehow it managed to survive all the moves and surely a great deal of disinterest and magically it came back to me.  In its somewhat disintegrated but mended state, it is one of my gems of my collection. 

 Paul Theroux-“The Great Railway Bazaar”, “Dark Star Africa “,  “ The Pillars of Hercules”, ”The Tao ofTravel”, and so many others.

 Rick Steves–“Travel as a Political Act”- and of course tons of tour guides and other tour related paraphernalia.

Gerald Durrell“My Family and Other Animals”,  “A Zoo in my Luggage” and many others.

Tim Cahill . “Road Fever” – This is the first of quite a number of some extravagantly adventuresome travel.

Silvio Micheli…” Mongolia:  in search of Marco Polo”  This has to be one of the most amazingly unique travel books in my repertoire.  Primarily, although it was experienced and created within recent history;his depictions of life in Mongolia was assuredly primitive. It is a mixture of serious travel writing; episodes which I think were strictly flights of fancy; and ROMANCE.

 Bill Bryson–“In a sunburned country”, and of course, multiple others

Mark Twain- “Roughing It”.  His description of crossing the country by covered wagon and that of   Hawaii in 1866 or so are totally amazing.  What else?

John McPhee – My choice here is a trilogy involving the geology of the United States in which it’s not only people who are moving, but the entire continent.  I may be stretching it a bit but but he is an amazing journalist, one of my favorite authors and worthy of any suggested reading list.

Alexander Frater–“Chasing the Monsoon”

Dave Barry“Does Japan”.  Oh, come on; we’ve got to have some fun.  And this was fun, and enjoyable and even informative.

Eric Newby–“A travelers life”, “Love and War in the Apennines” and a wealth of additional travel titles.

Calvin Trillin”Tummy Trilogy”- he is a “foody” as well as a wonderful  journalist. He has done any number of books which involves the  quest for noteworthy food experiences in this country.

Anthony Bourdain–“A Cooks Tour” -  in search of his favorite food in the world.  This is the book that eventually was  the origin of his immensely popular TV program which is interesting as he was not happy with the media which shadowed him.

Douglas Adams“A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” – This is far more far out than I ever care to even contemplate but   I thought a bit of space travel would add a lot to my list and I did love this book and others he wrote. 

Will Ferguson–“Cosmetic Tips from Moosejaw” – this is a super view of Canada.  Our neighbor most of us unfortunately know so little about.

Georgina Howell“Gertrude Bell Queen of the Desert”.  This is an illustration  of the Victorian female propensity for floating around in remote places, especially deserts.

Alain deBotton“Art of Travel”, I have heard suggested this is the master of the genre..

M Shapiro“A Sense of Place”, which is a compendium of  great travel writers

John Steinbeck“Travels With Charley” – had to have at least one animal.  There was a cat one but we didn’t approve because the owner/author permitted that cat to travel untethered; airplanes-city whatever.

Agatha Christie/ Elizabeth Peters….  Their Egypt- oriented literature I think is especially sterling.

Edward Abbey = NOT at all a travel writer but one of my favorite authors so he’s here.  I do remember vividly his description of getting lost in Canyon Land.  It was gripping.