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I Tend to Wander

This blog chronicles oddly-themed travel and food adventure in the Americas and Europe

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Well. It seems I Knit

Oooo Lengthening Swath..... In spots, you might recognize K2 P2 ribbing. Knitting has un-bunged creative juices, it seems, and I am sloshing around in heretofore unplumbed Creativity Depths. Like suddenly accessing all that brain you usually don't, all of this juice plumbing has yielded surprising results. I was unaware, for example, that I knew how to increase and decrease, but at times, having cast on 22 stitches, I have shrunk to 18, swelled to 30, and am now holding steady at 26. I am hoping that this sort of flappy scallopy pattern will be much coveted by chilly little Mongolians (did I mention the Dulaan Project?) and the edges can be pulled up around little ears and will be all the rage and mostly warm.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Leit-Motivation: Mindful Meandering or Know Before You Go

All who wander are not lost. At least they shouldn’t be since the best wandering is done when you know where you’re going. Good travel is well researched, and great travel follows a theme, a goal, a quest. In fact, it doesn’t just follow a theme, it chases it, dogs it. It rolls around in it. It revels.

Good travel, like good sex, and mango harvesting, is an experience, an opportunity, to rub your face in your chosen theme; an experience in which every second is revelatory and means something delightful and juicy, and you come staggering away from the whole thing a better, if somewhat stickier, person for it, tied in one more way, more tightly to the Universe.
“Good God, honey. What about spontaneity?” says my husband. And I’d say, spontaneity happens when you’re prepared for it, darling. In fact, what could be more spontaneous than setting off for the the Aegean because you’d like to know more about the millennia-old currant harvest there, reading up on Celtic burial mounds before hiking the Cotswolds, or setting off to seek the origin of the burrito?

With a theme, say…'Mexican Textiles', conversations are struck up with the Zapotec ladies at the market wearing blouses embroidered with a pattern you (what a nice surprise!) recognize; or, thanks to a knowledge of 'Coastal Defenses of the Western Mediterranean', you happen to know a little town on Malta with an old castle and outstanding tapas above a magnificent beach.

Knowledge is the difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. What a difference there is between going to Mexico, and going in order to harvest mangoes in Guerrero; between hiking in Spain and re-enacting Hannibal’s march over the Alps. You can wander the brooding streets of Prague, wishing you could meet somebody interesting, or you can research it and wind up knocking back absinthe at three in the morning with smoldering Czech filmmakers. There’s a difference between sitting in your cubicle gazing at your screen-saver of the Altai mountains and galloping across the steppes with shaggy Kazahk falconers. Face it. Those Kazakh falconers, Mexican mango farmers, and drunken Czech moviemakers aren’t beating a path to your door, you’ve got to beat a path to theirs.

Step one: conjure a theme, list all the classes you’ve ever taken or thought you’d like: History, Architecture, Art, Physics, Engineering, Cooking. Think of what you like to eat and drink: grapes, tamales, mezcal, barbecue, dumplings, sheep eyes; think of music: throat singing and opera; Think of folklore: scary stories and romance tales; think about sports. Then ask who else is thinking about your pet theme, writing about it, rubbing their faces in it. The Internet is a huge resource for contacting experts and letting people know about your interest. Seek out University professors, students, writers, artists, tourism bureaus, importer/exporters, businessmen, farmers’ associations, women’s groups, bands, architects, libraries, governmental agencies, embassies, non-governmental organizations. Connect with them. Go. Meet them. Eat burritos. Let people know you’re interested in more than buying a t-shirt and a hammock (although as it happens you know quite a bit about that particular Yucatecan knotting technique). Then, when you get back, share what you know and what you found out. Ron Mader, host of the Eco-Tourism Center of the Universe,, says, “Share your impressions with tourism boards and media, particularly that which you consult during the planning stage of your trip.” Always sign guest books. Mention your theme. Now you’re the expert.