June 17th, 2018

I had a very strange experience yesterday in Civitavecchia, the port for Rome. I am making the transition to destination speaker from enrichment speaker, which I have been for five years ( the difference is  often minor, but with destination one ties in the ports more extensively), so I thought I should go in to Civitavecchia to take some photos of what is of interest there.

I was operating on the assumption that I had never been there, but when the shuttle bus pulled into the drop off point, I thought to myself, “wait a minute—this looks familiar.”  Then I realized it was indeed somewhere I had been on a past cruise. I plumbed my brain as  to when and with whom I had been there, and when I finally figured it out, I realized it was with Dan, barely three weeks ago.

Now,  that is weird! One would think that it wouldn’t be possible to forget something so utterly so soon. So here are the options:

1) my brain is rapidly disintegrating

2) all this cruising is turning into one big blur

3) Civitavecchia is really that forgettable

i see no evidence of the first.  As for the second, it is true that it is easy to forget the specifics of each port when they march by in such quick succession, but basically, I do remember almost all of them with at least a few concrete mental images or memories.

So that leaves number three.  No, I am not losing my mind.  Civitavecchia is indeed that easy to form no impression of whatsoever.  However, I did remember with Dan that we found a remarkable open market clearly not for tourists but where the locals got their tomatoes, peaches, and fish.  Here is a photo.

And next time I am in Civitavecchia I will remember the second time, with its big “huh?” moment much more than the first, which apparently I don’t  remember at all.




Am I Planning a Book?

June 13th, 2018

Occasionally someone will write to me and say they are enjoying ny blog and wonder if I am planning to write a book about My Year of Living Travelly. The answer is simple for me: No.

The answer may be simple, but the reasons are less so.  They have to do first with not wanting to go through the—let’s face it— crap that is involved in publication.

And then, putting together lectures is very time consuming. It doesn’t take me over in the way writing a novel does, but it is still a lot of work.  Since I write out my lectures fully ( basically treating the computer as my audience), just for these Med cruises, I ended up with a stack of printed pages that was actually fatter than a novel.  So yes, I am busy writing. It’s  just of a different kind.

But the main reason I am not writing a book about this experience is that I know it would change it—and me—in ways I don’t welcome. With apologies to poet Archibald MacLeish (“Ars poetica” for all you non-English majors), a Year of Living Travelly should not mean, but be.

In other words, if I were to be thinking about a book, I would feel as if I had to find the point, the lesson, the insight in everything, when I really just want to experience it.  It’s that simple.  Even thinking about writing a book makes me feel weighed down, so I shake it off, in favor of heading out gloriously and happily  not in direct pursuit of deeper meaning.

When the phone runs out of juice, or we leave it behind accidentally, our  whole day changes.  With a camera, we are always trying to frame experience. It is great to see with the photographer’s eye, and in some respects we see more intently, but we also give our attention over to the photos more than the  experience of being there, as if somehow the real experience will come later when we get to the hotel room, or the restaurant, or wherever, and look at images of where we sort of halfway were.

That is  what not writing a book is all about.  It hard for me to be all the way in the moment as it is, and intending to write a book could just make it worse.

The second reason?   It bothers me when people claim to be sad I don’t have plans to write another  book, when they haven’t read the five I have published.  There’s  a “new” book—or books— out there waiting for all those folks without my lifting a finger. In my mind, only those who have read them all have standing to hope I write another.  Yes, I know this book would be different—my personal eat, pray, love—but still, my Year of  Living Travelly is also about figuring out what I owe to others and what I owe to myself.  In this case, the answer is simple. Not a book.






Every Little Thing

June 11th, 2018

“Don’t worry, ‘bout a thing, cuz every little thing gonna be alright…”

The club band on the ship was in the middle of that number when I walked around the pool deck yesterday at the sail-away happy hour. It was a beautiful late afternoon in Greece—a little cooler and breezier than the brutally hot weather of previous days—and the perfect recipe for Bob Marley’s sentiment. Everything, down to the last detail, was not just going to be all right, it already was.

Except I had just come from a fresh dose of headlines.  Canada’s leader is insulted as weak and dishonest, while  North Korea’s is treated as a friend.  Children are torn from their parents at the border and kept in atrocious conditions. The support network for Americans ( social security.affordable health care, etc.) is being undermined.  Equity, fairness, and diversity are scorned, and ugliness towards fellow human beings is upheld, and sometimes even encouraged. Regulations protecting the environment and consumers are gutted to make sure nothing gets in the way of the rich getting richer.

I plan to stay away from politics in this blog, but I want it to be an honest record of my Year of Living Travelly, and that requires at least occasional acknowledgment of the emotions I feel at a remove of many time zones,  as I watch what seems to be the deliberate unraveling of the values and institutions that have been the strength of my country and its relationships with the world.

Bedrock becomes shifting sand when our world is assailed daily by the malice, pettiness, and childish tantrums of the most powerful person in the world.  And though he may, despite his insistence to the contrary, not be the best and the brightest, he has unleashed some of the worst and the brightest (and a few utter dunces) to do their mischief on the domestic and world stage.

And the most frightening part is  that it’s not just him.  Republican politicians gloat at a changed landscape that permits them  to act with astonishing meanness of spirit and dishonesty of intent towards the people they are supposed to represent. World leaders antagonistic to democracy see openings they could hardly have dreamed possible to destabilize alliances among western nations and undercut democratic institutions.  Unparalled opportunities exist now to shape the world to benefit the one percent, and in their wake, leave an unlivable world for the poor and an unstable and more seemingly hopeless world for the rest of us in the middle class.

No need to pile on here. I just wanted to say that at most being so far from home makes the present reality more of a drone in the background than the buzz saw it must feel like back in the states.  But the drone is still always there. Tell me, Bob Marley, is every big thing going to be all right too?