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Saturday, October 22, 2016

On the Road: Traveling Wishes

My friend Mindy once told me she tried to be a traveler as opposed to a tourist when she left home for any period of time, and I always thought that was wise. Of course, you don't have to travel far to learn something about people, which is the point, I think, of going anywhere.

In Mark Helprin's book A Winter's Tale a young woman gets a job at the New York Times and is told to walk around the city all day, find interesting people and talk to them. I can't think of a better job for a writer-- or anyone else, for that matter.
And I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.

In The Beat on Ruby's Street, Ruby is fascinated with Jack Kerouac and his book On the Road because I think she understands the most important thing about travel is getting inside the heads of people who live completely different lives. Ironically, Ruby has hardly been anywhere beyond her home turf of Greenwich Village.

In book two, I'm setting things up so Ruby will have to travel nearly as much as Kerouac did. I guess I need to travel vicariously through her, but I also want her to share what she learns about people outside of her Beat-Generation community.

My own traveling life hasn't been nearly as extensive as I'd like, but I promised myself to try and see all the places (or at least half) that interest me in the next decade. My son and I both want to see every country that starts with the letter "I.".

Besides travel in the U. S., Canada and Mexico, I visited Paris, Amsterdam and a little Swiss village on a college trip and have been to Ireland and Israel since then, but that isn't nearly enough to make me the traveler I want to be. I just think travel teaches us (and our kids) so much more about the world than we could ever learn in school.

My son has been to Italy and Israel though college trips: a summer studying opera in Italy and two school semesters in Jerusalem. When he talks to me about meeting Palestinians and Israelis, traveling to border areas or singing for Italian audiences, I can see how his experiences changed and and are still changing him. I tell him my biggest travel wish is to get to Prague, because any country that elected a playwright for its president is a country I need to see.

If there is a way for your son or daughter to travel, and/or for you to go with them, I hope you will. If you can do it while they're in elementary school, all the better. And it doesn't have to be some exotic destination either--even walking around your city talking to people you find interesting could be a great experience. Because isn't the best travel about how far our minds can take us, wherever we go?

Ideas on traveling with kids can be found here:

Travel with Kids: Why You Should Do It and Do It Now

15 Places Your Kid should See Before 15