I could while away the hours, conferrin’ with the flowers, counsultin’ with the rain. And my head I’d be scratchin’ while my thoughts were busy hatchin’ if I only had a brain.
Who doesn’t love this song from The Wizard of Oz? The Scarecrow and Dorothy singing amidst corn fields and rolling hills; the yellow brick road gleaming like a fresh grill in someone’s mouth. Toto looking askance as if they’d lost their mind, and wondering when the nice men in white coats would carry Dorothy away in a strait-jacket.
I love this song because it represents true vacation ~ no deadlines, no ringing telephones, no meals to cook or children to threaten. It’s a time of adventure and discovery. A chance to travel to other lands and meet colorful characters. True vacation is a time to while away the hours and confer with the flowers. Ahhh!
While I do have a brain (and a very great one if I may say so) I wasn’t always so cavalier about travel. See, deep down I’m a scardy-cat. I’m getting better, but I’m still a recovering scardy-cat. If I were a character on Rugrats, I would be Chuckie — all wringing hands and “I don’t know about this, Tommy.” I never seriously traveled outside of the U.S. until I hit 40 (although I don’t look a day over 30). The Cowardly Lion’s lyrics better describe the person I used to be before I took the plunge:
Yeah, it’s sad, believe me, missy; when you’re born to be a sissy without the vim and verve. But I could show my prowess — be a lion not a mou-ess, if I only had the nerve.
Part of my nervousness had to do with living in a post-9/11 world. Part of it was falling into the trap of most Americans who believe that our country is so vast that any wonderful vacation can be had within our own borders. One day I had to set my nervousness aside, put on my big girl panties, and book my first trip.
I’m happy to say that my cup now runneth over with vim to the verve when it comes to international travel. Since 2012, I have traveled to Prague in the Czech Republic, Bratislava in Slovakia, Vienna in Austria, Budapest in Hungary, Negril and Montego Bay in Jamaica, and all over England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. I’ve “cheated” a little and joined organized tours, so I’ve done very little traveling on my own. However, I spent two days sightseeing in London with my daughter before a tour began; and now regularly extend my tours by spending several days in the starting country, and/or its neighbors, before the official tour begins.
So, how did I gain the nerve to begin to traveling abroad? How is my vim to the verve so fluffy right now? It was part wanderlust and part necessity.
I was bitten by the longing to travel. It bit me so hard that I developed a restlessness — kinda like Charlie Murphy as Buc Nasty in the Playa Haters’ Ball. Pentecostals will know what I’m talking about when I say that it was just like fire shut up in my bones. No, I didn’t get the Travel Holy Ghost (although I did have to learn other tongues to travel to distant lands). I just knew that I had to leave the U.S. and explore and that if I didn’t, I would die of boredom. Or, in the words of Yo Yo, if I hadn’t gotten out when I did, I would have wrecked sh!t and disappeared like a genie. I felt that pent up and restless.
The other reason why I began to travel internationally is because I am an aspiring women’s fiction author, and I needed to research the far-flung places I was writing about. In order to write authentically, I needed to immerse myself in the locales in my books. I wanted to hear the cadence of speech of the locals, taste their food, learn what they care about, and make sure that I was representing their culture accurately. One of my favorite moments was reading an excerpt from a book to two friends I made on tour (the Boogie Down Bronx Twins — more about them in another post) at the hotel in Prague in which the scene takes place. As we sipped wine in the courtyard and I read, they were riveted and gave the excerpt their stamp of approval.
I love to travel and post updates on Facebook so that my family, friends, and “friends” can learn as I learn. My posts were so long that I realized I was blogging and not updating. A few people encouraged me to blog, even telling me that they looked forward to my posts and felt that they were on vacation with me. So here I am. I plan to post some of my old Facebook updates detailing my adventures as they happened. I’ll post what I call “light bulb moments” — those things somebody should have told you before you went off and took that trip (listed under the How to Travel Well menu at the very top of this page). And I’ll try to post anything else that may be of interest to Black folks who want to travel outside the U.S.
Who died and went to Heaven and made you an expert on international travel???
By now you might be asking that question with a roll of your eyes and head at the same time (a skill I have lost through the fog of time). The answer is no one. I just have a blog and you don’t. Truthfully, I am no expert. I am still learning the do’s and don’ts. However, I do believe in sharing my experiences and mistakes. It is my hope that you can take what I’ve learned, adapt it as your own, and do it better.
One of my favorite travel quotes that I now live by is attributed to Mark Twain, and I have the last three words inscribed on the back of my iPad:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
So sail away with me. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Together we can explore, dream, and discover.