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!
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.
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.