Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Intrepid Day-Tripper.

Among my friends and family I can count a number of world travelers. It's not that I know a lot of wealthy people (although there are a few exceptions), but rather that I tend to hang out with folks who put a lot of value on this activity. I've actually gotten into quite a few conversations with them about why I haven't been overseas. For some reason, a lot of my buddies seem to assume that I've been to Europe. But the fact is that I never arranged things in my life so that I could undertake such a substantial journey. When I had enough money, I always had other plans. I'd find myself tied down by commitments, or want to save up for some large purchase. Consequently I have enough possessions. I just don't have any interesting anecdotes about foreign countries.

To be honest, there's another reason I haven't done any extensive traveling- I don't like to fly. Even before 9-11 I found the experience extraordinarily uncomfortable. My height always necessitated a request for an emergency aisle seat. This made the experience bearable, except for the added sense of responsibility that it placed in my mind. Unfortunately. the last thing you want to be reminded of when you are flying is that there might be a need for an emergency exit. A couple of times there were no spots in the 'special' row, and I had to sit in a fetal position for an entire flight. Another time I sat next to a born-again Christian with a golf obsession. All these factors contributed to a sense of foreboding. And then the planes hit the buildings...

So for the last several years, I've been confined to land travel. My wife does no highway driving, so that anytime we go on a trip I'm always behind the wheel. That puts limitations on my range. I can do about twelve hours in a day, and then I start going a bit nuts. I make up for these restrictions of movement with creativity. I have been to plenty of places that most Western Pennsylvanians would never consider visiting. This includes a Hare Krishna ashram, an abandoned reformatory, the world's largest indoor Bible wax museum, and Erie. Of course I've been to most of the notable cities within that range as well- New York City, Boston, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Asheville, Chicago, Toronto, Knoxville, and Atlantic City.

I'd certainly qualify as a regional explorer. Whether it's an Appalachian backwater, a rural hovel, a historic battlefield, a beach community, or a dying rust belt town- chances are it has not escaped my interest. It's strange to think about the variability in human experience that lays within 600 miles of any point on Earth. There's plenty of exploration to be done around any such node. While it may seem that I've seen the majority of stuff that is worthwhile, I realize that this isn't close to being true. I could spend the rest of my lifetime not going beyond these (somewhat) arbitrary borders, and never experience everything. I wonder how many people throughout the centuries have never strayed beyond such a circle.

My window of opportunity for overseas travel has definitely passed... at least temporarily. The costs and other responsibilities of raising an infant are a bit prohibitive. I realize that I'm going to have to get really creative if I want to continue taking 'vacations'. No more bathing in the lap of luxury, to be sure. I have to consider the well-being of my child, first and foremost. Yet I really have no idea how people travel with such a young child. Where do they go? How do they get to see anything that they want to see? With as many weeks off a year as I usually get, I'm sure I will find the time to work through some of these issues. As baby E. gets older, it's going to be fun to take him to some of my old haunts. I have to remind myself that this journey is just getting started.

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1 Comments:

Blogger jefg99 said...

"I have to remind myself that this journey is just getting started."

Amen to that...enjoy every day.

9:38 PM  

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