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!
Early last year, before the global pandemic put the kibosh on the trips I was going to take, I was lucky to do some traveling. I have officially postponed my trip to the Middle East until the fall of 2021, and I’m about 50–50 on whether to postpone further.
I could just skip adding any new content on my blog, but I thought I might share a little about my past travels from the perspective of time.
I’ve visited all fifty of the United States. To be fair, I shouldn’t say I visited them all. But I’ve at least been in them all. Some of them I have not seen nearly enough of to make a judgment. But all I can do is offer an opinion based on what I have seen of each state.(more…)
Note: I began writing this post while I was traveling in Poland in April 2019. I didn’t finish during the trip, and have finally completed writing about these heroes now in July. Most of my research comes from Wikipedia.
“This is what I want you to understand,” said Mateusz as he drew lines and dots on his crude map of Poland.
I have been thinking a lot about the situation here in Mexico that has led to long lines for gas and an explosion killing 90-some people in the state of Hidalgo.
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.