The Hitchhiker’s Guide To Humanity
(print only) Thailand On 500 Baht A Day
Please Stay Home
Rough Guide To Your Own Backyard
(print only) I Disagreed
(print only) Globetrotter Dogma
Discuss Travel in Café Utne’s: cafe.utne.com
Everyone fantasizes about setting out for uncharted territories, places they’ve always wanted to visit. Everyone, that is, but the few people lucky or brave or accomplished enough to make travel a regular part of their lives and work. What do they dream of? To find out, we interviewed five well-traveled visionaries. Their responses remind us that it isn’t such a small world after all. By Andy Steiner
ANN BANCROFT(polar explorer)
NORTHERN SOUTH AFRICA
Ann Bancroft has been to the ends of the earth. Literally. So you have to wonder if she has any vacation fantasies left to entertain.
‘Actually, there are quite a few places I haven’t been to yet,’ Bancroft says, just a few weeks after returning from Antarctica, where she and expedition partner Liv Arneson became the first women to ski across the continent. ‘I haven’t been to China or the Middle East or India. So there’s still a lot of the world left for me to explore.I have been to Africa, but one place I’d really like to spend more time in is the northern reaches of South Africa.Welaunched our latest trip from the Capetown area, and it was so beautiful that Liv and I both said we’d love to go back and do some hiking in the north of the country someday.’
As a child, Bancroft lived awhile in East Africa, where her parents worked for the Presbyterian Church. That early taste of travel sprouted a lifelong passion for exploring new lands. Bancroft applies the experience of her expeditions to the rest of her life, even in travels to less-exotic locales. ‘When you have time in a place, the layers start to appear,’ she says. ‘Getting the opportunity to spend more time somewhere is really a privilege. You get to uncover layers you didn’t know existed. There is a bigger story out there than what we hear or see or assume.’
Travel tip:Pack the one thing from home that will make you feel comfortable. ‘Maybe an old sweatshirt or a photograph. It helps you remember where you’re from, even when you’re far away.’
(creator of the cartoon strip ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’)
Surrender Dorothy. Alison Bechdel didn’t need to find Oz to discover that there’s no place like home. She’s known it all her life.
‘I don’t like to travel,’ Bechdel says. ‘Never have. I used to think I need to see the pyramids before I die, but then I realized there are pictures. I don’t have to go.’
Not that Bechdel’s never been anywhere. Book tours and speaking engagements take her around the country, and an ‘ill-advised relationship’ once caused her to move hundreds of miles to Minnesota. But Bechdel, who grew up in central Pennsylvania, gravitated back East when the relationship fizzled, eventually settling in the Green Mountains outside of Burlington, Vermont.
‘Why would I want to be anywhere else?’ she asks. ‘Right now I’m looking out my window at a rose-breasted grosbeak. There are the mountains, and the fresh air, and all kinds of places to ride my bike. But I have a feeling that I would feel the same way no matter where I lived. I just like to stay home.’
Travel tip:Don’t go, but if you must, take your own pillow.
MICHAEL FRANTI(hip-hop musician)
For Michael Franti, a trip to West Africa would be a homecoming many generations removed.
‘Historically, that’s where my roots are,’ he explains. ‘That’s where my family’s originally from. I’m thinking of setting up a tour in South Africa soon, so I’ll get to the continent. I hope to keep traveling once I’m there.’
As founder of the hip-hop groups Spearhead, Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, and the Beatnigs, Franti has played concerts in many parts of the world. The opportunity to travel and connect with people in other countries was one of the reasons he pursued a career in music.
In his passport, Franti has neatly printed the message ‘Love the world, not just your country.’ He says, ‘The only place I get dirty looks for that is in America. But I don’t consider myself just an American. I’m a citizen of the world.’
Travel tip:Visit the city neighborhoods people warn you about. ‘In Sydney, I asked around and everyone told me, ‘Don’t go to Redfern.’ So I went there, and it turned out to be just the place I wanted to be. I was looking for people like me in Australia, and I found them there.’
JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL(environmental activist)
TIBET & JAMAICA
In 1997 Julia Butterfly Hill, like many other 23-year-olds, was planning a trip around the world. Instead, she ended up living in a tree for nearly two years.
‘I’ve always wanted to travel to places that were steeped in a rich spiritual culture, places that intertwine spirituality with everyday life,’ says Hill, whose triumphant crusade to save Luna, a thousand-year-old California redwood, made her an international celebrity. ‘During the first three months I spent in the tree, I read a lot about Tibet and Jamaica, thinking I’d go there. Then the media hit, and my life changed. Now I’m traveling around the world, but for a different reason.’
Since climbing down from Luna in December 1999, Hill has made her home on the road, traveling to rallies, conferences, and speaking engagements to spread the message about environmental justice and respect for the natural world. She hasn’t made it to Tibet or Jamaica yet–she’s had only one vacation, to Oaxaca, Mexico, since her feet hit the ground–but she hopes to soon.
Since Hill now spends much of her time in city hotels and suburban conference centers, she’s learned to look for natural beauty in surprising places. It’s one way to keep sane, she says. ‘I keep my eyes open for the unexpected. If I’m walking down a city sidewalk, I’m looking for the blade of grass that’s pushing through the cracks. It’s my own personal kind of vacation.’
Travel tip:Try to leave your destination better for your having been there: ‘Pick up trash. Feed the poor. Be respectful of other people’s customs and their land and space.’
JAMES HILLMAN(psychologist, author)
IRAN OR, BETTER YET – HEAVEN
James Hillman can’t book a charter tour to his dream destination. But if he plays his cards right, he’ll get there one day.
‘Maybe I’m thinking about mortality,’ says Hillman, 75, ‘but you can tell your readers, ‘When he was asked where he’d like to go, Hillman replied, Heaven.’ ‘
Hillman was born on the road–in an Atlantic City hotel room. He studied in Dublin, Paris, and Zurich, and for 10 years headed the C.G. Jung Institute in Switzerland. Truth is, he’s been just about everywhere you can think of in this earthly realm, and he wonders if physical travel isn’t best suited to youth. ‘Travel is very important for younger people,’ he says. ‘It stimulates the imagination. It gives you images to live on later in your life.’
These days, Hillman’s travel fancies lean toward reliving experiences from an earlier part of his life. ‘I would love to see Esfahan in Iran once again,’ Hillman says. ‘The mosques are so extraordinary. . . . I would love to see the tombs of the kings of Luxor again without a mass of tourists. I’d also like to travel comfortably on slow steamers, but that doesn’t exist anymore.’
Travel tip:Forget AC/DC adapters and solar-powered alarm clocks. The key to packing is in the basics: ‘There are certain places in the world where the best thing to take is toilet paper.’
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