Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Robert Fulgham, on Life Lists and Travel

(Click on the title bar to go to Fulgham's original, more meandering blog posting.)

"Perhaps it’s useful to pass along some recent thoughts about travel.

"I’ve recognized that my travel motivation comes from being restless and bored with where I am and what I’m doing. Need a break or a change.

"And I’ve slowly learned that that condition and those needs can be addressed without going far, or being gone long, or spending much money.

"Here’s my program - in two parts:

"I thought maybe I’d go to Bali. Never been there. First, a visit to a travel bookstore, got guidebooks, maps, a history, and literary accounts of life in Bali. Also bought a couple of huge coffee-table books of photographs of Bali. A video and a music CD. Talked to some people who’d been there recently. Checked the web. And checked the fares. Bali Time for a couple of weeks for Fulghum.

"If you asked me if I’ve ever been to Bali, I would say, 'Yes, but only in my imagination. I had a wonderful time.' Two weeks on the couch every evening with my mind somewhere else resolved the bored-and-restless syndrome. I even dreamed Bali. And I didn’t come home disappointed or disillusioned by enduring the tourist madhouse that Bali has become. I was already home. Rested. Unstressed. And several thousand dollars ahead.

"In that spirit I’ve also traveled to Tibet, Mongolia, and the west coast of Norway. Next is a journey to China on the Silk Road. I won’t be gone long.

"The second part of my new travel program is more local.

"Never have I visited my own city, Seattle, in the same spirit and style in which I visit a foreign city. Local boredom comes from traveling in local ruts. There are many parts of Seattle I’ve never seen – and many lovely things I’ve missed on the grounds that I’ll get around to them someday.

"Here’s the plan: equip myself just as I would for going abroad. Take a taxi to a nice boutique hotel downtown. Walk or use only public transportation. Eat only at restaurants I’ve never visited. Go to music venues I never attend but intend to. Talk to strangers. The natives will speak my language. Ask directions even if I think I know the way. Get lost. And found. Packing for the trip will be a cinch. No airport stress, lost luggage, or money exchange confusion. And if it proves to be a bad call, as some vacations are, I’ll just catch the bus that stops at my corner and be home again. No problem.

"You get the idea. Treat home as a foreign city. This is now on my Bygod I’m going to do it list. I promise a full report."

[So, readers, where do you want to go? Or have you 'been'? MKS]


Dean Smith said...

Did you know that Robert Fulgham was the temporary minister of the Edmonds Unitarian-Universalist Church for about 17 years? He has spoken at least once at the Shoreline UU church where Jennie and I go. He always packs the house. Quite a guy!

Dean Smith said...

I spent at least 4 times the number of hours researching our recent trip to England than we spent actually there. I've since been back there several times. You could add Google Earth to the tools for 'visiting' distant places.

As you may recall, part of our purpose on that trip was to investigate the history of my Grandmother's gold cross, which is reported to have been found 'under a rock' in the ruins of an abbey in the vicinity of Boston, Lincolnshire. I have since learned that My G5grandfather John Priestley, the finder of the cross, was born in the village of Frampton which is near Swineshead, site of a ruined Abbey. King John was poisoned at Swineshead on October 14, 1216 and died 3 days later. It is intriguing to consider the possibility that the cross could have been lost at Swineshead as John's household staff dispersed after his death. I've been to both Frampton and Swineshead via Google Earth, but I didn't see anything else shining from under a rock. There is a legend of a Lost Treasure of King John in the vicinity -- lost on October 13, 1216 while crossing the fens and never found.

Pat said...

I went to Morocco last night. (I wish) Potsdam now has a wonderful Moroccan restaurant and Ed and I dined with a couple that really have been there. (4 times) I was wonderful to hear their stories of God's reaching the Berber people with his love. Did you know that you can 'roll couscous?' The decor was fabulous. I might be going on a ten day trip in Sept. I need to talk to you!

Marti said...

I am thinking of using Google Earth to explore a question I'm too shy to ask - if the place I'm staying for three nights next week (in Phoenix, AZ) has a pool/hot-tub. I'll just take a peek at their backyard instead...Actually, the couple gave me their name, city, and phone number, but not the address, so finding that is my first stealthy research project.

I don't usually spend too much time learning about a place before I go (though I like RF's idea of doing that and NOT going!). I'd enjoy it; why don't I? I think maybe the fact that I'm usually travelling for work gets in the way, ironically enough. I mean, once I get there, my work often gives me rare opportunities to get an insider's perspective, if not to do the touristy things. But if I have a lot of other stuff to mess with - e.g., the logistics, or looking after the people I'm traveling with, that doing a lot of place-y research in advance seems like extra credit.

And that's where it gets to be a problem. Since my trips are often short, maybe I'm afraid that to 'over-prepare' would make me seem show-offy. If I am doing language-learning, for instance, and my colleagues teammates are not, they get uncomfortable. That was a major disappointment on my last trip to Central Asia. I really wanted to do language but my teammates were intimidated by it (and sometimes by me); they seemed to think that with only 28 days we shouldn't bother. I disagreed, but didn't think I should push it. To be the only one reading history books and memorizing phrases and stuff like that, well, it wasn't going to help with their impression that I was supposed to be the expert and they didn't know so much, so I tried to keep such activities low-key.

I'd so much rather to be part of a group where everyone is gung-ho, or at least where they'll let others really get into it without that being a threat or something!

Ironically I think I ran into the same dynamic with my own family, when we went to New Mexico in the fall.

Makes me think travel with Dad and Jennie would be a better fit; we're more compatible in that respect.

Also when I'm traveling for work I feel self-conscious about using work time to prepare in advance in ways that others don't recognize as necessary, likewise to spend weekends and evenings on such things might seem overzealous - like that would be working overtime. But if I were traveling for pleasure I wouldn't face that kind of judgment, internally or externally, would I? Hmmmm.

Well, perhaps I'll follow Fulgham's example and explore more of the world from my armchair - a case in which one can enjoy all the pleasures and freedoms of solo travel without the burdens!

Pat - your work of course is one way I get glimpses of the world every month; I so appreciate it! I'd love to hear about your Sept. trip plans. Write or call and let me know how I can help!

Megan Noel said...

i was very into new mexico. i absolutely loved it. i am just the sort who would rather do a few things than many, and who would rather let a trip unfold. i am sorry you interpret that as "not being gung-ho." also, as you recall, i had a pretty bad sinus infection and was getting over apendicitis. i thought i did pretty well considering. we may not be the ideal traveling companions but that does not mean that i don't get into things when i travel.