To Travel is to Possess the World

Thoughts & Reflections, World Travels 1 Comment »

Following is the introduction to the book “Burton Holmes Travelogues: The Greatest Traveler of His Time“. Holmes lived from 1870-1958, visited nearly every country on the planet, and shot over 30,000 photographs. His description of a life of world travel speaks volumes to me.

These words I have set down in many an autograph collector’s book.

They are, I think, true words. I know that through travel I have possessed the world more completely, more satisfyingly than if I had acquired the whole earth by purchase or by conquest. There is no implication of selfishness in the kind of possession of which I speak. Whoever possesses the world through travel takes nought from any man. No one is the poorer because you have made the whole world yours.

You have gained everything, but you are no monopolist. The wealth is there for all to share. It is not yours alone. You may invite all men and women to travel with you in imagination and they too may feel that they, like you, are rich in vivid mental pictures of places worth going to, of people worth knowing, of things that are world famous.

I have tried to convey to others with the spoken word the enthusiasm for travel that has been mine. I have done my best to make my hearers SEE the things that have thrilled me in the course of my more than sixty years of travel.

Now I am asked to do this without the aid of pictures glowing on a screen, without the help of the spoken words which can be made to mean as much by a shading of a tone or the stress of an inflection. Now I am at work with nothing but a sheet of paper and a pen to help me re-create the atmosphere of “otherwhere,” to help me make real to those who have not seen, the things which I have seen and can still see so vividly with the mind’s eye.

Word pictures are hard to paint. We are told that “words are the only things that last forever.” Therefore words should be the most durable pigments with which to paint pictures of the things that have seemed worthwhile, the things that have become one’s property, in the sense in which travel endows one with a title deed to the entire world.

One great advantage of possessing the world through travel is that one may enjoy all the satisfaction of possession without the responsibilities of ownership. Now, in days when our most valuable assets become or threaten to become our most crushing liabilities, it is good to contemplate property which cannot depreciate but must increase in value, property which cannot be taxed by federal government, or state or city authorities, property which calls for no repairs or alterations.

Everything from real estate to diamond tiaras has had its vaunted worth reduced to pitiful and sometimes complete inconsequence. Stocks, bonds, and all manner of gilt-edged, beautifully engraved certificates of value, to secure which we have slaved and saved and denied ourselves the joys of travel, may sink in worth to such a point that it will seem absurd to pay the rental charges on a safe deposit box.

The only things which are still worth what they have cost me are my travel memories, the mind-pictures of places which I have been hoarding like a happy miser for more than half a century.

I have done my best to convey with “word pictures” the things I have seen and can still see. I have been aided by all the increasing wonders and beauties of photography. I still recall with pleasure my first camera, a heavy clumsy box with six double holders for 4×5 glass plates purchased in 1883 with my life savings of $10.00.

In the past I have reproached myself for my extravagance, my lack of foresight, for my disregard of proper provision for the future. My wise friends saved and economised, went without things they wanted, denied themselves the costlier pleasures of the table, the bouquet of vintage wines and the, to me, supreme joy of going places and seeing things.

And now where are we? We, they and I, are all at the same dead-end of life’s highway. They are weighted down by all the leaden burdens of their golden hopes gone wrong. They have their memories, but these are memories of wise, dull and frugal days of piling up with hard earned dollars in safe places where those dollars would increase and multiply and be there to console for all the pleasures that their owners had denied themselves and all the fun that they had missed.

I, too, have nothing but my memories but I would not exchange my memories for theirs. I have a secret treasure upon which I can draw at will. I can bring forth, on the darkest day, bright diamonds of remembered joys, diamonds whose many facets reflect some happy dream come true, a small ambition gratified, a long-sought sensation, caught and savoured to the full, a little journey made, an expedition carried to success, several circumnavigations of the world accomplished.

Yes, it has been a good life. And it is good to rest, with nearly all of one’s dreams realized. Dreams of going, seeing and doing most of the things that seemed worthwhile – good to know that I have, in my own way, possessed the world.

– Burton Holmes 1953

A Story For You, A Favor For Me

Adventures, Give Well, Plans & Itineraries, Thoughts & Reflections, Travel Stories, World Travels No Comments »

For those of you who have been following my travels on and off for the past few years, enjoying my writing and photography, sending me flattering comments and emails… Thank you! I am glad to have been able to inspire and entertain many of you.

I have another story for you… and this time I am asking for a favor in return.

Please continue to travel with me by supporting my project. It will be VERY much appreciated.

Even a little bit will help…

OneOldPen.org

CLICK HERE -> OneOldPen.org

As for upcoming travel adventures…a friend and I are seriously considering a month-long rowing journey down the Guadalquivir River in Spain this spring…

Providence Country Day School

Thoughts & Reflections 1 Comment »

Yesterday I visited Providence Country Day School and talked with the kids in two art classes about travel, art and life. I told them some stories about the places I’ve been, things I’ve seen and done, people I’ve met. I told them about the poverty in southeast Asia and India, about the exhilarating experience of paragliding over the Swiss alps, what got me started travelling, why I do it and how I afford it.

MOre+JOhn+and+class.jpg

The class and their inspiring teacher (and my friend) Dayna Mondello were gracious to provide plenty of questions, which I enjoyed answering as well as heaping bowls of nuts and berries and a can of flavored soda water.

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Just the Accent

Thoughts & Reflections 1 Comment »

Contrary to purported “plans”, I’ve travelled very little since my return to the states in December. I wouldn’t say my fears of getting stuck at home have come to fruition. I have been enjoying it here.

However, Providence is finally starting to feel stagnant. Familiarity is becoming monotony. I’m ready to go.

It’s not exactly a desirable thing; this travel bug. There’s a big part of me that would like to get settled into one place for a good while so I could get down to business with the big ideas wobbling around in my head. And probably more importantly, my friendships and family are not well suited to deal with all this hopping about.

It’s just that I’ve yet to find peace in a single place. Well nowhere I’ve tried anyway. So I figure I’ll try somewhere else. And at worst just keep doing that until some place gets me to stick.

In August I’m off to England…probably London in fact. It might not seem like it makes a whole lot of sense to pick the most expensive city on earth, (if it’s not, then it has to be close…one British Pound costs over two US dollars now!) but I’ve got some pretty good reasons.

Actually, I’m lying. It’s the accent. They just sound so damn smart.

So For Now

Thoughts & Reflections 1 Comment »

Evidently I don’t write as much when I have a travel partner. It’s a whole different experience really. Not a bad one, just different.

I am fairly excited to spend the summer in the Ocean State. I have found few better places on this earth to spend July and August.

So for now, I’ll be here in Providence, working up some new travel funds and studying hypnosis, magic and Spanish.

Come fall…onward.

A Sense of Urgency

Thoughts & Reflections 5 Comments »

Re-entry to American life has been an interesting experience. At first it was a breeze; much like my short visit home in June. Then as the fresh voices and faces faded back to familiarity, that thing they call “reverse culture shock” began to set in.

It is the shock of my own culture, what it is but which I never realized, that has startled me.

It is the frustrating disappointment in the involuntary lethargy of American life. Millions of minute conveniences fill every gap of motion and exercise we might reap some small benefit from and the food we consume satisfies our desires first and our health somewhere later.

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To Be Continued…

Plans & Itineraries, Thoughts & Reflections 3 Comments »

In many ways the past year came and went incredibly quickly, yet it feels like I have been traveling forever. And at this point I feel as if that’s exactly what I’ll do.

There have been times when I tired of moving around. I will probably never spend a single year traveling so many different places again. It wears me down and the best experiences came when I got to know a place and the people.

Yes, traveling forever, in some form or another, I believe to be my likely destiny.

Maybe I’m still young with the idea. Maybe it will fizzle out. Maybe I will soon find my way back onto the straight rails of life.

God, I hope not.

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Shop as Usual | Change the World

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I came up with an idea of a way to give back to the world after my travels this year, but after I built the website I thought it might have been too late in the season to get the word out.

Then all of a sudden it started to work. Over $300 in purchases have already been made through my new website SHOPandCHANGE.org.

If you could be so kind as to do your Amazon.com holiday shopping through SHOPandCHANGE.org and send a quick email to some people who trust you telling them to do the same, there might still be time to raise a bunch of money for charity.

Remember to include a link to http://shopandchange.org and tell them they can donate without without having to spend anything extra!

Thank you so much and enjoy the holidays!

Moving Fast

Italy, Switzerland, Thoughts & Reflections 1 Comment »

Moving fast has its long list of drawbacks. I always enjoy a place most when I can slow to the pace of life there, meet locals and get a feel for the culture. However, I am finding it can also be exhilarating to move quickly.

On Sunday morning, I woke up in Venice and ate breakfast sitting on the stone walkway along the Grand Canal. Then Mike and drove Northwest. The sky was blue and made for a clear cut, jagged horizon at the peaks of snow covered Alps. By afternoon, we were crossing the Italian Alps, watching the snow get closer and by sundown, crossing into Switzerland, the weather had gone from mild in Venice, to the dead of winter. The road was covered in patches snow and mountains we rode through already preparing for avalanches. I’d never seen so much snow in my life. Entire mountains, over 10,000 feet high, were completely blanketed so that not a single rock or tree was visible. All the white made size and distance difficult to estimate.

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Back in Venice

Italy, Thoughts & Reflections 1 Comment »

Walking in Venice brought back memories I’d almost forgotten. Standing in places so far from home where I had stood five years ago, often froze me in thought of passing time. On a bridge over the Grand Canal, I gazed at the empty façade of a hotel, where once before I had watched red, white and green flags wave, lost in daydreams of Italian history. Approaching a café I had flashbacks of sitting at an outdoor table, discussing plans of travel with a hostel friend. Coming down a set of stairs, I found myself in a spot where I had once sat up all night with an older Russian girl who was drunk on wine, listening to her tell endless tales of home. In these moments of reminisce, I found it shuttering that Venice had been here so long before me, welcomed me once, awaited my return and will be here still, long after I’m gone.

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