There were always intrepid travelers. Explorers, mountain men, navigators. They were heroes. They braved the seven seas, the untracked deserts, the high ranges. But they were either rich people or in olden times or unspeakably brave, bold and adventurous. I couldn’t do that, not little me.
No, I was stuck in Hicksville, Ohio, in middle school, in the middle class, the middle of the road, the middle of nowhere.
Ring any bells?
Yeah, well, we weren’t the only ones.
That’s one of the reasons why Westerns were so attractive, I guess. They told of adventure, unknown vistas, migration, virgin territory, the Way West. Places where you needed courage, enterprise, self-sufficiency, where you needed your wits about you. No wonder we were enthralled.
But then travel eventually arrived. We could go places. Even before Trip Advisor and EasyJet and credit cards, boys and girls, I know that’s hard to imagine, we could actually get off our butts and visit places. In the US cars, gas and motels were cheap. Abroad, flights became possible, phrase books available. Unbelievably exotic destinations beckoned. Paris, France! Wow! Maybe the land of your fathers, Sweden, Scotland, Italy, Ireland, wherever that was. Later on, even Slovakia, Poland, the Ukraine.
Travel broadens the mind. Like most clichés, that’s true. That’s why they’re clichés. Visiting places opens your brain up. You experience other cultures and ways of looking at things and other political opinions and histories. And smells. You meet people who speak differently and say different things. They eat other food and drink strange brews. It’s wonderful. They have lovely, musical, at first unintelligible languages, and then you begin to get it. Travel. It grabs you. It’s a drug.
Why do you think every damn corner of this poor planet is teeming with American girls and French boys and Brazilian retirees and Danish teachers? They’re hooked. We all are.
And if you have a particular interest , a goal, a destination, well, nothing on Earth is going to stop you getting there now. Jazz lovers arrive in New Orleans hostels in their droves, anthropologists in Borneo, archaeologists in Pompeii, wine lovers in Bordeaux, classic car lovers in Goodwood, and who shall say them nay? Me, I go to Dodge, Tombstone, Las Vegas NM and Wyoming. That’s where I wander. I want to tread where the Earps swaggered, where Cassidy hid in his hole in the wall, where Billy shot his way out of the court house in Lincoln or was shot down in his turn at Fort Sumner. Call me strange (I dare you) but there we are. That’s where I wanna go.
But every so often you find somewhere that still has it. The atmosphere is there. Lincoln NM, Hadrian’s Wall, Urbino, Monument Valley. You can stand there and be there and feel it. The Little Big Horn battle site. It still has a magic. At least for now. And when you find it, it makes all the hassle of passport control and metal detectors and the Motel 6 worth it. It gives you that buzz.