Thursday, August 27, 2009

Travel - What is a traveler?

In 1971 Monty and I were waiting for the dining room to open in a Pesada in Obidos, Portugal,. We had been traveling around that country and had not encountered one English speaking person for almost a week. In walked a young man and woman who were about as shabby looking as possible. Their blue jeans were torn, and both had needed a haircut for several weeks. They were not promising company, but, alas, they could speak English. What the heck, we engaged them in conversation. By the end of the evening our life style changed forever.

He was an accountant and she was a school teacher from British Columbia, Canada. They had quit their jobs and withdrawn their savings to spend a year traveling though Europe and Northern Africa. They were living out of the back of a minivan they had bought in Germany and had brought only one change of clothing, including the jeans which were by then ready for the junk heap.

They entertained us with stories of places I had never thought we would ever see, such as Russia, Eastern Europe, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco and many more. It was as if we had just met Rudyard Kipling. The theme of their message was that you could go to almost any country with safety and see things that could only be found in National Geographic. That couple, whose names I have long forgot became my heroes. From that day on Monty and I broadened our horizons to the point that we came to aspire to see and experience all within the four corners of the earth.

This will begin a series on travel reflecting on some insights we have gained from traveling to 70 countries so far.

Are you a traveler? Not a tourist. Not a vacationer. A traveler relishes in the sight of new places and people. A traveler is self reliant and not afraid of the unknown. There is nothing wrong with trotting back to the same resort, playing tennis, swimming at the beaches, dressing up for the American Plan dinner. I have been there. It is fun and appropriate in many circumstances, but do not confuse such a vacation with travel. Travel is stalking the leopard hunting its prey in the marshes. Travel is reliving the history of a country as presented in its national museum. Travel is paddling in an underground river in China. Most of all travel rewards those with a relentless curiosity about all that can be discovered about the planet earth.

This series will examine some of the nuts and bolts of successful travel. In the next posting I will discuss how to select a destination. I hope you enjoy it.

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