Before the internet brought finger tip knowledge, I would begin planning trips far in advance, or I would plan no more than a route and from there we'd wing it. I remember using snail mail to request information from Germany and Austria as we planned our first trip "abroad" and the excitement Ken and I shared when packets arrived in our mailbox.
I remember the anticipation we felt while poring over maps of places which seemed so very far away, scrutinizing the colorful brochures and advertisements accompanying the map--learning of a country through its own propaganda as it tried to lure visitors. That trip we found our lodgings as we went--it was all a grand adventure of great fun. We had my mother-in-law with us and I loved it--I loved her.
Europe wasn't crowded that year as travel was not yet an infatuation of the masses and, those that might have gone were advised by our state department to stay home. There were bombings in Berlin--one of the places we were headed--and other acts of cold war terrorism. Americans were scarce that year so we were treated well as we listened to shop keepers rant against President Regan whom they saw as their nemesis. He wasn't popular in Europe.
That trip gave birth in our souls to the magic of travel--the need to experience new cultures and new people. We learned that the world is small and the unknown is to be explored. We saw beauty and depravity--churches and Dachau--quaint Bavarian villages and the great symbol of the Cold War--the Berlin Wall. We passed through Checkpoint Charlie into cold, drab, silent, oppressive East Berlin. The whole world opened up to us in this trip to just two countries.
Since then we have been to five continents and many countries. We're more sophisticated travelers than we were then. Though, I am not sure that the innocence of the awe and wonder we felt then has been duplicated even as we walked the Great Wall of China or had elephants cross our paths in Tanzania. Maybe while on a magical Galapagos island, standing by the blue-footed boobie--uncontaminated by fear of humans--and watching her gently tap her egg to release the baby inside comes close to the original wonder.
As time has passed, planning has become easier. First it was the increased viability of long-distance phone service, then came the advent of the fax machine--what a wonder that was--and now the incredible magic of the internet. A click, a picture, an e-mail, a question and what took weeks is complete in as long as it takes the person at the other end to answer. Convenience has replaced anticipation; google or mapquest encroaches on the mystery of highway lines and insets; planning endangers the serendipity. The world has become smaller--nothing seems too far away.
Planning is still much of the fun of traveling--the anticipation is palpable. But, I sometimes miss the old way. There was what seemed as pre-bonding with countries when large envelopes arrived with foreign stamps and letters from tourist boards and welcoming bodies. So much of the mystery of what the experiences will bring is lessened with the pictures, virtual tours, web cams and google zooms which the internet brings us.
So--is serendipity lost? Can it still be experienced? Of course, it isn't and of course, it can. No matter the planning and pre-arrangements, there are always curves in the highway shielding what is beyond. There are country roads leading to the unexpected. There are cultures asking to be understood. And...mostly there are so many people to meet. Serendipity is an elixir of life. Without the promise that it's there to experience, we can all stay home, hibernating in our own shells, venturing nothing.
God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.