Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A New Year, a New Thought or Two

Wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, I hope this time of year has brought relaxation, time with family and friends, and hope for the new year. In any case, best wishes to you and yours and I'm very happy to be back at the keyboard with an eye for the future. As I swing into the new year, here are a few things I think are important about my traveling life (let's not call them "resolutions" as that will damn them to obscurity and failure):

read up before I go
I like to read about the places I'm going. Sometimes, it's only the guidebook for the area. Best case, it is an eclectic range of nonfiction, poetry, and novels. Seeing the wild swans of Coole Park was made much more significant after having read "The Wild Swans of Coole." As I look forward to this year, I am reserving a book on the history of the Sierra Nevada mountains for our March trip to ski, guidebooks for our April trip to Costa Rica, and a re-read of Thoreau's Cape Cod for a summer trip. What will you bring and where?

take the photos I usually wished I had taken
Occasionally, I look at the photos that other people take on a trip and marvel at the things I missed. I am drawn to photographing architectural details -- clean lines, repeated patterns, weather-worn sculpture, interesting angles -- and so miss the human details. Other photographers focus on the people around them. Not just the ones on the trip with them, but the local residents. Their shots tell stories with a richness and sense of place that mine miss. I will try to include more people in their natural elements. But I want to avoid doing this in a voyeuristic, slanted way. I guess the key is to know as much about what and who I am shooting as is possible. Why do those men line up on that street corner? Is the woman sweeping out the restaurant the owner or hired help? Is the young couple in the wedding clothes who won't look at each other nervous or reluctant? Where will you point your camera this year?

don't be embarrassed to be a traveler
This one will help me with the one above. I am naturally a reserved person with strangers. I get a little embarrassed and am reluctant to engage people in strange situations, thinking they might judge me in one way or another. This can prohibit me from meeting and getting to know real people when I travel. When I do loosen up a bit and talk with those I meet, honestly trying to find out about them and their lives, I come away with a better understanding of where I am -- or at least singing Austrian drinking songs arm in arm with a room full of hearty Bavarians or listening to tremendous jazz in a crazy bar in the middle of Havana. What type of traveler are you? What's your best story of getting to know the local culture?

celebrate the inconveniences
I don't usually have much difficulty with this. I am not one who gets flustered and dejected by airport delays and sub-standard housing. Instead, I am willing to embrace the adventure and live with what I've got. I'm just thrilled to be on the road. However, this is a good one to remind ourselves of. And since the majority of my travel these days includes my whole family, it can be easier to lose that patience and serenity travel usually brings me. What new tips, strategies, technologies, or perspectives will you employ this year to make travel easier?

write, write, write
People hit the road for a variety of reasons; one of mine is to witness the great big world out there and try to bring back a slice of it for others to experience. So, when I go on a trip and then don't write about it, it's a little like keeping my big mouth shut when I know something special and won't tell you. It feels a little bit selfish. What are your reasons for hitting the road? What will get you out on the road this year?
blog comments powered by Disqus