Why I Travel

Who’s Going With You?

About a year ago I downloaded an ebook titled ‘Don’t Go There. It’s Not Safe. You’ll Die’. This book’s title amazingly encapsulates the sentement of many of the reactions or questions I get from people I talk to about this upcoming trip. As the trip is two and a half years away I do have my nervous or doubtful moments.

The way in which people express their concern to me really does depend on our releationship. My father has the ability to be amazingly blunt and has expressed his concern for the idea of crossing into Mexico and the danger of the Cartels. The irony that my father has walked across this border isn’t quite lost on me but those were safer times, wern’t they? More recently my students found out that I would be traveling to this area of the world. Beyond their very touching anger that I would not be at their commencement ceremony they also wanted to know what would happen if I was kidnaped or left for dead in some ditch. My nonchalant response that I would deal with that when if it happened did not sit well with them.

The other question I get often is “Who are you going with?”. This question has been with me for as long as I have been traveling. My first real overseas trips were either done with friends and family but more recently I have done quite a lot on my own. In the beginning I spent quite a lot of time trying to convince people to come with me but for a variety of reasons (family, availability of time, not interested in that location or that method of travel) no one would come. I realized that if I waited to find company then I may never go where I want to at all.

I will say that I do have my fears. Gangs and drug smuggling, petty crime, robberies and vandalism, corrupt police and government officials are all things I should prepare for but my biggest fear isn’t any of those. I can be / am an introvert. My biggest fear is that I will travel all of this way but not make the most of it. Traveling through countries where you don’t know anyone can be quite isolating and not knowing the language does make things worse. After trips in the past, a month has been just enough and I have looked forward to friends, family and home. I worry that after a few months I will lock onto the end goal and miss the stuff inbetween in a rush to go home.

In the end I will just have to go and find out. Then again my answer to the question of company is …. You are welcome to come if you like, only you will need your own vehicle.

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Swiss Conversations

When I am traveling I live for nights like tonight. Traveling alone is not an easy thing to do and can be quite isolating. For a long time I didn’t go places that I wanted to because I could not convince my friends to join me. They always had a reason why they “couldn’t” go, either family or money or something else was holding them back. So something happened (can’t remember what) about 7 or 8 years ago that I call the F#@% it moment when I said I am going… you are welcome to come but I am not waiting for you to make up your mind. So I tend to travel alone and I meet who I meet, and tonight I met Dan (Daniel).

Dan must have had the most amazing day because all he wanted to do was talk about it and through the evening sitting out on a roof top patio at a Swiss Gasthaus I heard the story. Dan is 70, originally from Holland and was trained as an aeronautical engineer but decided fairly early in his life and mandatory military service that sitting in an office was not for him. So he became trained as a teacher and went to Kenya to teach on an island in the middle of Lake Victoria. He told me of stories of trying to make the lessons have meaning and in trying to show the kids that physics and math were interesting subjects by burying treasure around the school and giving grid coordinates to find it or by using cheap flimsy air mail newspapers to create hot air balloons that worked indoors but quickly caught fire when let off outside. After that he must have traveled around a bit because he eventually ended up in Australia where he now lives. When he arrived there he became a carpenter, met a girl who he married, together they raised 4 boys but unfortunately after doing so they split up. And so Dan was traveling around on his own in Europe as well, back for only the second time in something like 13 years.

His main story of the day and the reason why he was so excited was his meeting with Zep the farmer. When driving past Dan had seen this man walking along at the end of the day with his farming tools over his shoulder. The look of him called to him and so Dan found a place to park his car and walk back and talk to this man. I don’t know how long they talked but they at least discussed the amazing thing it is to live in this area. Zep told Dan about the reasoning for a local church that they both were looking at was because of Foot and Mouth disease. Apparently there had been a time when the disease was coming up the valley and the people of the village had prayed that if god had stopped the disease from spreading they would build a church. You can guess the result.

I love having these kinds of encounters on my trips. People who are traveling always want to talk. It has been harder this trip as language has been a barrier. People all seem to see that I am the fish way out of the water here (unless they are other tourists in Amsterdam who kept stopping me for directions). Conversations seem to be nothing more than to the point and what we need to figure out at that time so I really enjoyed my time listening to Dan’s stories, and the nightcap of Glenfiddich we shared really helped as well :).

To catch you up on where I am. Yesterday I rolled out of a very sleepy Strasbourg and drove by back roads again to Triberg, Germany. I followed this here because the Lonely Planet book that I bought said that it was the king of Cockcoo Clocks and the highest waterfalls in Germany. On arrival I went for a hike up to see the falls which where not impressive in their size but I found the entire area very calming. As I hiked down I also thought of how much I enjoyed the little town so I decided that even though it was only 1 pm and I had thought of going further that I was going to stay, and so stay I did.

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Triberg, Germany. That is Hotel Pfaff on the corner where I stayed the night.

This morning I went south and into Switzerland and find myself at Gasthaus Waldheim in a little town called Furstenau which is south of Chur (don’t forget to check out the map of the trip if you want to know exactly where this is by clicking here). The plan is to stay here tonight and tomorrow as I think I may take a ride up the Stelvio Pass tomorrow if it is nice enough. I am in the Alps now but the cloud cover is around the more impressive peaks at the moment. I am hoping that it will lift soon and the view will be worth the trip. If not, well I am sure I will figure something to do.

Anyways, I leave you with today’s favorite picture. There are little fountains everywhere around here but this is my favorite one, Hope you like it too.

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I hate having a constantly running nose!