Travel tales of fact and fiction
A good writer is basically a story teller, not a scholar or a redeemer of mankind.
– Isaac Bashevis Singer
If I take these words to heart, everything I write about travel can’t merely be a chronicle of my travels or a delineation of plans. Somewhere along the way I have to tell some stories.
Some of my stories are, alas, not really stories in the traditional sense. My stories of buying a camera or buying new luggage are not filled with dramatic events or interesting characters. There’s no plot to speak of. But I hope they reveal something about how I do stuff.
Sometimes a story can arise from an actual travel experience. Sometimes a picture tells a story or suggests a story that is begging to be told. I hope to write some actual stories, to share a little about my internal journeys, to tell some tales, and to create some narrative. By all means, come along for the ride!
Chapter 9 in Rick Steves’ book Travel as a Political Act covers a topic that is close to my heart and about which I have strong feelings: the Holy Land. In 2013, after Rick got back from his trip to Israel and Palestine to produce a television documentary about this troubled area, he gave a talk in Edmonds, where he lives and where his business is located. I attended, and for me the talk was enlightening. But even before that, I had somewhat well‐baked views about the Holy Land, and as a Jew (at least by heritage if not by belief), my views are often in conflict with the majority of that community. So it’s with some trepidation that I set out to review this chapter from Rick’s book.
The full title of Chapter 7 in Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act is “Europe: Not ‘Hard on Drugs’ or ‘Soft on Drugs,’ but Smart on Drugs.” It’s an awful title in my opinion, but it’s an interesting topic. Rick is a strong advocate for the legalization of marijuana in the United States. He is a board member of NORML and was a co‐sponsor of Initiative 502, which legalized adult recreational marijuana use in Washington state. He says he is not “pro‐drugs,” but that he thinks many European countries have a much smarter, more pragmatic approach to the drug problem than the United States.
Chapter 5 of Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act is about Denmark. I visited Denmark in 2012 and really fell in love with it. I didn’t look upon my visit to Denmark as a political act, so it was interesting to get Rick’s perspective.
Chapter 3 of Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act covers a broad range of topics: economics, diversity and immigration, the refugee crisis, sex, drugs, alcohol, nudity, and the wide range of European passions for their culture. I will only touch on a few of these topics here.
In 2014 I traveled in the former Yugoslavia. I wrote about my walking tour of Sarajevo with someone who had grown up during the siege there in the 1990s. And I wrote about three of the local people I met in Mostar, people who almost made me forget about the beautiful bridge that is the sightseeing star of that city.
I recently finished reading Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act. Originally published in 2009, its third edition was released last month. I found the book provocative and illuminating. I learned a lot and found much to ponder.
This is the first part of my series of chapter‐by‐chapter reviews of Rick’s book. See the tag Travel as a Political Act for my reviews of other chapters as I add them. I think these will be more a series of takeaways than reviews. I want to share what I think were the key points, chapter by chapter, adding my own perspective as appropriate. Of course I am much less experienced than Rick Steves as a traveler and as a travel writer, so I don’t pretend that I can offer anything more than a whetting of the appetite. I would urge all travelers, arm‐chair travelers, and would‐be travelers to read Rick’s book.
I’m a worrier.
I don’t know why I’m a worrier, and I’m not going to worry about why, because I have enough other things to worry about.
But here I am, just about two weeks from my next big trip, and I’ve got all these things I’m worried about. Will I pack efficiently? Will I forget anything? What if the airline loses my luggage? What if I don’t get along with the other people on the tour? I might not enjoy the tour. I might get sick. On and on it goes…
Is there is a difference between being a gay traveler and traveling while gay?
One of the blogs I most enjoy reading is called “Travels of Adam.” Adam Groffman started his blog in 2009, when he was still working as a graphic designer in Boston. He was on the verge of turning 25, and he was also on the verge of quitting his job and embarking on a trip around the world. Since 2011 he’s been living in Berlin. In addition to writing his blog, Adam has a series of Hipster City Guides that highlight what he considers the cool places to go in each of fourteen (mostly European) cities.
Okay, my trip is still more than seven months away, and I’m obsessing about luggage. I think it’s because it’s a tour, and I don’t have any other plans to make. Still, I’m pretty sure I’ve taken it too far.
I returned the bag I got from eBags. I decided it was too big. And I’ve bought three new bags, one of which will definitely go on the trip with me.