September 16, 2011
Why constant, you may ask? Partly because for the last 20 years I’ve been traveling almost non-stop and writing about it for newspapers and magazines. But more because of the word’s second meaning: unchangingly faithful or loyal. I feel that way about travel chiefly because it has given me so much—vastly extending my education, teaching me to understand things that might otherwise have seemed peculiar, making me more tolerant.
There have been bad trips, of course: Bulgaria with food poisoning, second-class buses in Mexico, cheesy tourist traps the world over. And I honestly can’t say I love the getting-from-place-to-place part of travel, unless it’s a trip of a lifetime on the Beijing-Lhasa train or a small ship cruise on Glacier Bay in Alaska.
What I love in an almost spiritual way are places. Idyllic like the English Lake District or poor and haunted like Phnom Penh, all have stories to tell underscoring the variety of life and extraordinary geography of planet Earth. Why did early man arise in Africa’s Great Rift Valley? When did people in the Tonga islands start eating Kentucky Fried Chicken? What convergence of Italian history, art and character gave us the paintings of Piero della Francesca?
So this blog is for travelers who care about the meaning of place—why and how people live where they do, a place’s role in history, literature and art, what it stirs in the soul. Lying on a beach drinking a margarita is good; better is to know why the sand is pink, how the tequila is made and what makes the church steeple on the horizon Baroque.