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Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Discreet Traveler

I wish I had been wrong in predicting that the U.S. Senate would cave on immigration reform that would benefit families like mine. But, the Senate has caved on a lot lately. Meanwhile, a terrorist act last night in London has, predictably, been blamed on "immigration" by the head of the British National Party. And, the Obama administration is officially admitting what was already known: that it uses targeted drones to kill American citizens. I need to limit my "rants"--er, critiques--to one paragraph at a time! 

So, I'm relaunching my 'blog as THE DISCREET TRAVELER. Part travel log, part travel guide--anecdotal, based on my own experience--and part critique. If you've read Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad, I'm going for a twenty-first-century version of that, but a shade less satirical. Twain makes fun of the places he visits, of his fellow travelers, and of himself, but ultimately concludes:

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

This "blog" (Web log) is a record of travels, like the log book of the ships I read about in stories as a child, and longed to sail away on. And a soundtrack seems as good a launching point as any. On a train from London to Edinburgh, I pop on my headphones and out comes "American Idiot," by Green Day. "American Idiot" is what the songwriter assures us he does not want to be.

I am not a travel writer, but a writer who travels, as much as I possibly can. I would go so far as to say that I am only a storyteller, and began writing stories down, as a way of creating adventures that I had not (yet) personally had. If life is a journey, then my life has been a lot of smaller journeys. The next song, for instance, is Willie Nelson's "On The Road Again," which also plays in my first novel, Arusha. I remember this song on the country radio station many mornings, as I rode the school bus. I grew up in Carter County, Tennessee, trying not to become an American idiot. I wanted to travel the world, further than anyone in my county school had been or even heard of.

So much for the TRAVELER. As for the is my goal to tread, and to help my readers tread, as lightly and thoughtfully on our travels as we can. The joy of this earth is that we, all living creatures, share it together. Getting to see as much of the world and its people as possible, with as little negative impact as possible, requires an open mind and a willingness to learn. Observing, maybe criticizing, but with a discretion that never veers off into paranoia. The better part of travel is discretion, as Falstaff might have said.

So welcome to my journey of today. Our last song is Dido's "Life For Rent." The train conductor asks us to have our "travel documents" handy, and my first thought is, What travel documents? Scotland has not yet declared independence; it's part of the United Kingdom. So we definitely don't require passports.

It turns out he only means tickets. Still, it starts me thinking. When do you need a passport? "When crossing national borders" seems a good answer, yet as England to Scotland proves, what border means, and what nation means, is far from straightforward. And I intend to go far.

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