Answering Sir C, sort of, or regarding certain aspects of travel

Sir C is right in saying that few people have the resources, the freedom, and the gumption to assume the traveling life before thirty, but in my case the gypsy life was forced upon me -- we had been made political refugees -- while I was still in tender teens. This would have been an unhappy fate for most, but it proved a happy one for me: once I was forced to assume that life, I found that I had a natural proclivity for it; took to it like duck to water; and have not made the least effort to settle down since.

In fanciful hours, drink in hand, I am tempted to look for genetic causes of this proclivity: my ancestors were sword-carrying, horse-mounted military gentry; as soon as ice melted on the Dnieper, they hit the trail and spent the next 8 months of warm weather campaigning as far as Crimea, Moscow, or Istanbul: they covered several thousand kilometers in the course of a typical summer. And their ancestors (they claimed) were Herodotus' Scythians, a nomadic tribe which had once ranged in the great open spaces between the Danube and the Tian Shan. I like the idea of a Scythian gene knocking about somewhere in my DNA.

But that's stuff and nonsense: I want to say something important here.

The model of one possible successful traveling life is this: one arrives at his new home with the intention of being there three to five years; one then does his level best to enjoy being there (make friends, go to theater, try all the weird food); but when the inevitable comes -- the urge to move on -- one moves on to another place which he chooses to be his home for the next three to five years.

Myself, I do not do too much research in advance, as that could only slow me down and -- possibly discourage me from going. My reasons for choosing a new destination are usually not good: because the girls (I think) are good looking; or because I think the literature beautiful; or because I want to see more of the puppet theater; or because I need a climate change.

Usually, these assumptions turn out all wrong -- girls are not half as pretty as I had imagined; the climate is warmer, but humid; and absolutely no one reads the old books; but that's the way it works: you can only find out how a place really is by going there. Advance research is mostly bunk. I am one reason why: if I find a place I like and others ask me how it is, I lie. It's terrible, I say. (There is only so much meadow; what nomad needs other nomads in his?)

There is one more thing I would like to say in this connection: that most people who do dream of traveling approach the project the wrong way. First, they assume that the model for traveling is 1) set aside the money, 2) go and burn it while traveling; which sets the cart before the horse. If the point is to be there, then why waste all your time here making the money to go there? It's much better to go there (wherever your there is) and look for ways of making the money on the spot. Be there already. Now.

Most people also assume that travel is a visit; but that's nonsense. Who wants to be a tourist? The way to do this right is to go and live there (however short). That's when you learn how it really is.

So, to all of you who dream of going places but never seem to, here is what you must do: pack your bags -- pack as light as you can -- and go, now, today, this afternoon. Best sell the house and all the stuff you have accumulated there, too, while you are at it. Nothing concentrates the mind -- and offers as much hope of assures success -- as a singularily focused mind.


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