Please note that new entries to my travel blog, “Snippets of the Traveling Mind” will be temporarily on hold during our vacation time in Europe from 9/3-10/14. I look forward to sharing with you personal insights/photos about the places I will visit when I return. Namaste. USFMAN
Ruth and I will set out on our six week tour of Europe next week amidst a daily assault of dire warnings of an impending “American First” crisis. The United States must defend itself from bad deals overseas. Our country’s borders have been infiltrated by a “sea” of illegal immigrants who cannot be trusted. Too many native Americans are losing their jobs to foreigners. Post 9/11 paranoia subjects innocent citizens to possible terrorist attack. Thus traveling abroad in this highly propagandized atmosphere of fear/distrust might seem undesirable now.
Yet today, these two seasoned travelers choose to venture forth, embracing global awareness and trust of those who are culturally different. In doing so, it makes no sense for us to brag about our country’s strengths or criticize another nation’s weaknesses. Always striving to plan our vacations to free us from unneeded city stress, we remain alert to safety concerns as needed.
It’s disturbing to realize that many Americans currently do not undertake foreign country travel. Statistics as to why are truly startling. Only 40% of Americans own a current passport while 29% have never been abroad. Under such circumstances, staying put perpetuates the likelihood of close-minded views. Potential cultural ignorance runs rampant among “blue collar” communities as many such Trump voters who never left their hometowns are among his strongest supporters. Our opinionated President also espouses “us vs.” them” rhetoric to his dedicated, “upper middle class” followers who largely reside in white dominant suburban areas. Under these circumstances, prejudicial intolerance conceivably runs rampant in such sheltered communities.
More Americans should realize that that extensive health benefits have been scientifically documented about traveling abroad. Studies show that as one visits unfamiliar countries, the more trusting he/she will be of others. In addition, research indicates that immersing oneself in multicultural travel experience reduces heart attack risk, lowers stress levels, decreases the likelihood of mental depression, promotes longer life span, and enhances creativity.
I thus wholeheartedly endorse the following actions at home to enhance preparation for successful overseas travel: 1) Consider ways to avoid brash displays of”standing out” in a crowd by paying mindful attention to your attire, mannerisms, and verbal communications. (2) Make an attempt to politely speak in a second language to foreign born individuals especially with regard to thank you, hello, and goodbye.3) Avoid stereotyping those you meet according to media “spun” propaganda. Treat everyone as an individual instead. (4) Frequent places you’ve never been as a way to gain greater cultural awareness.(5) Realize that staring at a computer screen such as a You Tube video to access the world around you clearly cannot substitute for authentic international travel. So live your life more fully. Make the right choice to travel.
“Collectors are not merely possessors; they are themselves possessed by the search and at last by the objects of their affection” (Paul Theroux)
I often wonder why I bother to shop for collectible items during touristic travel. Haggling about price with aggressive sales hawkers does not appeal to me along cruise stops. Nor does browsing in local shops for cheap souvenirs on guided tours “strike my fancy.” Do I logically need to add more bulk/weight to my suitcase/backpack by purchasing items that I questionably need?
Searching my “intuitive, “right brain” for finding further excuse for my vacation shopping desires, I recall my obsessive childhood fascination with collecting thousands of major league baseball cards. For opening a new pack of cards revealed in my youthful eyes then a plethora of fun activities. Rather than staring at the player pictures themselves, I would flip, fold, or throw them in game-like fashion. For added pleasure, I might stick them in my bicycle spokes to hear them snap loudly in rapid succession. For a mental challenge, I recall stacking each card into player position categories and inventing ingenious all star teams. When boredom ruled the day, I could even build my own castle with physical arrays of cards. For such cheap stuff that I acquired in my youth, I clearly realize a buying spirit of “free play” of my mind/body predominated my thinking.
As I stare today at my travel souvenir collections accumulated from our extensive world travels, my adolescent buying spirit for spontaneous enjoyment continues. Our living room cabinets are continuously replenished with fun filled, travel memorabilia, providing a daily feast” for the senses. As I aspire to find “more than tourist stuff” in my enjoyment of the present moment of travel, I thus showcase below some prized collection examples.
(Blow it) A horn purchased at a European airport struck me as a fun way to toot excessively as I watched the World Cup on TV taking place in South Africa.
(Drink it) Sitting amidst strangers in Buenos Aires, I learned how to slowly drink a foul tasting liquid from a “mate” cup at lunchtime to enhance social conversation.
(Play Soldier) Standing near “Checkpoint Charlie” adjacent to the Berlin Wall shortly after its historic destruction, I bought a Russian military officer’s medaled hat to wear daringly there on this momentous occasion.
(Hit It) The opportunity to buy authentic bats at the Louisville, Kentucky Baseball Museum/factory provided me with youthful zest to suit up and hit a fastball again.
(Sing It) A Russian music box purchased on a tour excursion to Moscow became a singing toy for us to feel Russia’s “old country”, cultural presence.
(Shake It) Snow globes come in handy when you imagine this plastic orb suggestion of a frosty night in sweltering Las Vegas or Route 66 in the Mojave Desert.
(Meditate on it) The presence of Buddha as witnessed on our India/Thailand adventures provided a powerful icon of purchase for our self- spiritual pursuits through yoga practice at home.
“People don’t take trips, trips take people.” (John Steinbeck)
Travel excitement pervades the air as Ruth and I fly from Fort Lauderdale to Rome to begin our Fall European vacation. From September 3 – 29, our “Eurail” based itinerary will include Air B@B stays in La Spezia, Italy, Colmar, France, Paris, and London , as well as long awaited reunions with friends in Braunschweig, Germany, and Lausanne, Switzerland. For our final sixteen days of this ambitious adventure, we return home on October 15 from Southampton England via a sixteen day, reposition cruise. Scheduled day stops then include Shetland Island UK, Iceland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Maine, and New York City along the way.
Thinking more closely about the specific sites listed above, I envision a unique array of “now “moments. With mindful anticipation, then, I thus compile my personalized “game plan” for this vacation agenda. As usual, I look forward to sharing many bloggable moments with you when I can. Are there any other topics that you would like me to address in this journey? USFMAN
1 Gaze mindfully out my train window at floral delights overlooking aqua waters along the Italian coast of the Mediterranean Sea
2 Lazily sail on Lake Geneva as I sink peacefully into the misty horizon of the French Alps on the forward shore
3 Walk curiously amidst the battle scarred lands of World War I ruins in Alsace- Lorraine
4 Daringly try a brat and beer for breakfast in a quaint, German cafe
5 Hang out with hungry pigeons on a sun-drenched park bench in Luxembourg Gardens, Paris or Regents Park, London
6 Summon up the courage to speak French as needed in both informal and formal Parisian settings
7 Savor a story told by a “local” citizen about country life survival along the sea coast in Newfoundland.
8 Eat fish and chips in an authentic London pub as desired with no worries about weight gain.
9 Find a lonely spot along the rocky coast of Iceland to watch birdlife, as I absorb raw seaside beauty to write mystical poetry
10 Get lost in an obscure Italian village and find my way through a maze of ancient Roman antiquities
11 Find a new hobby onboard our cruise back to Miami as a viable way to counteract the urge for endless buffet dining.
12 Open up my bedroom window and feel the cool Alpine air of mountainous Switzerland .
13. Discuss alternative viewpoints with strangers about President Donald Trump’s impact from various European country perspectives.
14. Find enough patience to sit through an entire English soccer match in the company of friends.
15.Feel the cool vibe of live jazz at Ronnie Scott’s in London or Le Caveau de La Huchette in Paris.
In a previous blog, I composed a poem about how I played trombone in live, “gig” performance. When not blowing my horn during many tunes, I often banged the tambourine unnoticed instead. Reminiscing how “eyes in the crowd” largely fixated on our lead singer’s, dramatic performance, I now imagine what it would feel like being such an idolized superstar. The following poem inspired by the famous Bob Dylan folk song attached below reflects these sentiments.
Spread Voice To Send Cool As Midnight Falls
Take Notice Bob Dylan Of My Celebrity Calls
Crowd Beats In Pulsed Dance Strong Hearts Eyes Wide
Electric Jungle Gone Crazy No Place To Hide
No Time For False Hero As Morning Light Sprays
Shun Bless, Bleed, Breathe, Brood In Normalized Ways
True Destiny Calls For Blind Superstar Storm
As King Of The Mike Frees Mind From Dull Norm
Put Me Up Front In Sinned Idol Stoned Scene
Never Hidden In Shadow, I’m No Tambourine
“Let us remember that animals are not mere resources for human consumption. They are splendid beings in their own right, who have evolved alongside us as co-inheritors of all the beauty and abundance of life on this planet” (Marc Bekoff)
On many summer mornings in sultry South Florida, I gaze curiously from my condo patio to an unfolding, natural scene of scampering squirrels, migratory waterfowl, and ancient reptiles, coexisting by our adjacent lakeside. Muscovy Ducks huddle together in “busybody” procession. A spiny iguana slowly struts to the top of a sand hill to claim maximum exposure to the sun. A brown squirrel races to my door to retrieve his daily peanut.
How inspiring for me then that the daily survival rituals of one species does not negatively encroach on others in the seemingly endless search to find scarce food each day. Amidst such lush foliage of this subtropical feeding ground and adjoining lakeside glory, nature provides plenty of space for all. Thus, human/animal cooperation rather than competition becomes a most preferable survival option.
On this particular morning, I decelerate in my new SUV to let a a lone, Egyptian goose cross the road nonchalantly in front of my vehicle. Surprisingly, he(she) then veers directly toward the driver’s side door. I then imagine such behavioral movement showing obedience to me as a commanding king. Whether this behavior appears stupid or not, I do not care. For I have observed firsthand evidence for a suitable starting point to see human/animal survival as a matter of trust and mutual coexistence rather than a fiercely contested battle.
In our road trip travels, we have witnessed a similar phenomenon of human/animal symbiosis at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Along its vast stretch of over 1,904 sq. miles, over 67 species of animals, 16 kinds of fish, and 46 varieties of reptiles/amphibians continue to thrive here in spite of encroaching tourist invasions in the surrounding canyon. In the video below, feel how the sheer grandeur of this special place evokes the peaceful spirit of the “Havasupai” Indians who still inhabit regions of the canyon today. Understand how they cling to beliefs that an eagle, coyote… can travel through life within an individual, assisting that person in times of life crisis. Such Native American passion that wild animals can be viewed as a benevolent friend and ally resonates deeply as a source of hope for a fresh spirit of unity in our increasingly hostile country today.
The cars we drive say a lot about us.” (Alexandra Paul)
I knew my wife and I would finally need to buy a new car after undertaking our 5th arduous road trip this spring. You see, my 2008 Honda Accord was pushing 190,000 miles and showing signs of wear. The engine rattled oddly now in idle, tire gauges went on and off randomly, the seat/side panel fabric cracked and tore easily and the exterior paint showed signs of flaking. Yet this amazingly durable vehicle had carried us safely through our latest marathon road adventure of over 12,000 miles without incident.It seemed I would need some therapy after experiencing the potential trauma of giving up this prized possession.
Last week, I read that imposed tariffs in our country would raise car prices significantly by the end of the year. Thus, we reasoned that a better deal for a new vehicle could be made if we acted now. Gathering research online, SUVs jumped out as our most enticing purchase option. I now began the search in South Florida for our favored choice, the Honda CR-V. Over the course of the entire week, I busily assumed the role of prospective buyer, committing myself alone to fending off anticipated high intensity,sales encounters. Fittingly, the “emotional drain” of this experience lingers on in several thoughts below.
1. The Vanishing Cost Paper
During the course of the week, I listened to a multitude of pricing deals presented verbally yet unverified by written estimates on paper. I was told by one dealer that they would beat any price for my Honda CR-V given at their competitors. In addition, written pricing estimates were quickly pulled away from my view after being given little time to look at them carefully.
2. Technology Glitz
A prized “hook” of the dealers in my visit were the added amenities of technology to distract my mind. Did I really need to test the “Bluetooth” capacities of digitized sound systems in a simple test drive of the driving performance a vehicle? Was I- Phone syncing with the control panel truly understandable at the time?
3. Safety Conundrum
For our road trips west, we frequently encounter extreme weather. Thus an all wheel drive SUV seemed a logical bargaining choice for us for safety in our new vehicle selection.Yet, I did not have an opportunity to test drive such a vehicle being told that such vehicles were not available on the lot.In addition to availability, the added cost of “all wheel drive” to the final price, further dampened our purchasing will for such a vehicle.
4. Macho “Uncertainties”
It seemed difficult to imagine bargaining for a new CR-V when my wife was not present. After all, my needs for a car seemed to be an extension of my masculine, “controlling” nature. Hearing thus a family car pitch by the dealer would likely fall on “deaf ears” as I envisioned myself as a confident driver rather than a more passive passenger in this vehicle.
5. The True Value Of A “Trade In”
My 2008 Honda trade has been a testament to efficiency and reliability for the past eleven years. Observing the dealer show little interest in providing just “trade in value” for the car, I would thus sadly question any prospective, new car deal given. Can you blame me?
On the following Monday, my wife would join me in a more relaxed buying effort. With minimal haggling at the dealer on our mind as well as approved, pre-financing for our loan, we would more confidently proceed in our search for the right SUV vehicle then. In the end, a silver 2018 Honda EX Model CR-V with Satellite Radio and only two wheel drive would thankfully become our purchasing choice. Sitting higher in an SUV with a greater bottom clearance and more storage space than our previous car would make our road trip travels practical for us as two seasoned travelers. Do you like the look in the picture of our CR-V?
“True travel requires the simpler stratagems of being patient, humble,solitary,anonymous, and alert” (Paul Theroux)
Have you ever read the travel writings of Paul Theroux? This past week, I delved into his recent novel,“Figures in a Landscape” and became intrigued by his discussion of how our travel choices coincides with core values we believe in as a person. I thus became inspired to write the following poem.
Imagine Your Life’s Path As In Sync With Your Travels
Throw Away Thoughts Of “Red Carpeted” Dreams
Immerse Mind With Strong Heart In Moment’s Unfold
Grow Mindful Alive As Your Ultimate Reaching
Savor Wine Taste On Cool Grass With Bared Feet Calm
For Patience Rewards Those Who Take Time To “Chill”
Spread Kindness To Stranger Help Weak In True Need
For Humility’s Hold Finds No Need To Curse King
Beware Of Bias Frenzy Toss Lust For Blind Greed
For Alertness Means Most In Times Of Least Feel
Sense A Buzz In The Air Catch Wind Of Unknown
For In Improvised Travel You Claim Fate As Your Own
The following poem I wrote reflects about these “inner felt” moments of appreciation.
The only thing that ultimately matters is to eat an ice-cream cone, play a slide trombone, plant a small tree, good God, now you’re free” (Ray Manzarek, The Doors)
Trombone In Band Time I Love Bassy Sound Brass,
Sends Vibes To Cool Minds Who Can Musically Follow
Whether Dance To T’Bone Shorty Or Step To March Beat
In Slide Sensations Of Present You Ascend From Life’s Rut
In Perfections Of Tongue You Often Strong Seek
But I’d Settle For A Mere Taste Of Your Jazzy Slick Beat
Your Bone Blasts Often Hide Behind Melody’s Call
Yet There Seems So Much to Feel From Pure Harmony’s Blend
Hey Man, Poke Me With your Slide Trombone
Help Me Feel Moments Of Now In Your Magical Tone
You can think, talk and act yourself into dullness or into monotony or into unhappiness. By the same process, you can build up inspiration, excitement and surging depth of joy. (Norman Vincent Peale)
Why would a leisurely visit to the Miami History Museum be emotionally draining? Most likely, I was “flashing back” to some momentous, Miami moments in my past. Consider how my graduate degree program in Urban Studies Education at the University of Miami passionately pursued community involvement to attack poverty, homelessness, and racism. Or understand the stress I felt as a public school teacher where I taught underprivileged middle school students to read and learn American History in the impoverished Miami vicinities of Opa Locka and Liberty City. Or picture getting up every day in my late teen summers to wash delivery trucks outdoors in Miami’s oppressive heat and humidity. Or feel my contagious “high” of sitting with rabid football fans at a sold out Orange Bowl rooting madly for their beloved Miami Dolphins.
In my non travel times now, I live contentedly with my wife in the quiet suburbs of suburban Fort Lauderdale. Yet I still look forward to reigniting those urban passions that so deeply impacted me in Miami downtown. In 1968, Miami hosted two, Pop Music Festivals that rivaled Woodstock’s renowned, concert gathering in the Catskills region of New York in the year that followed. Last Monday morning, I would thus revisit the sights/sounds of these memorable concerts in this highly anticipated visit to “History Miami.”
No question, “History Miami” depicted a distinct air of late 1960s, rebellious protest as I remember it. I distinctly felt a “groove” in the air from psychedelic posters, hippie- like pictures, and filmed concert sets observed during my visit there. How cool it seemed as a fervently spirited “Progressive” today to rekindle my passionate disgust for an unpopular war in Vietnam. Given another chance to re-experience the creative guitar licks /seductive lyrics of Jimi Hendrix, in his famous rendition of Purple Haze/Foxy Lady at History Miami, in wide screen video, I deeply felt again a powerful need for political change.
Continuing to arouse my curiosity at History Miami, other exhibits would further provoke my emotional connection to this city. Wildly colorful artifacts of Miami’s Afro-Caribbean influence revealed a vibrant, downtown cultural scene. Descriptively positive letters/pictures from children about Miami provided vivid reminders of my love of teaching. Unique street signs/bumper stickers exhibited Miami’s flair for revealing both joy and sorrow in my artistic imagination.
It seems clear that I am not willing to be satisfied with idle existence in the air conditioned comfort of my home. My curious mind, therefore will embrace deep-seated passion in the present moment wherever I find it. Nourish my brain for knowledge with a good book yet give me a heart that beats to the historic pulse of my “Miami Feel”once in awhile.