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Farming for Freedom — WW2 Work Song

image of victory job

During World War 2, my grandma sang this song while working on a farm in upstate NY for the summer. As far as I know, this is the first time the full lyrics have been published on the internet.

Farming for Freedom
(to the tune of the Caisson Song)

Up in trees, on our knees,
Picking beans and strawberries,
We are farming for freedom today.

Bit by bees, stung by fleas,
We are working just with ease [?],
We are farming for freedom today.

With our flag in sight
We are working day and night,
Feeding the men in the air and on the sea.

So it’s off we go
To meet the common foe,
Yes we are farming for freedom today.

(Cheer) Keep ‘em eating, keep ‘em eating!

I Googled exact phrases from the song and only found one hit, on page 59 of the autobiography Madame W by Leila Israel Weisberg. The related section is quoted below. Note the slight differences in the lyrics.

Due to labor shortages, New York State had a program which organized volunteers to harvest farm crops. I signed up for the two-week program.

The group of volunteers gathered on Sunday morning for the trip to Poughkeepsie, New York on the Hudson River Day Line. When we arrived in Poughkeepsie we were loaded onto buses and taken to various camps in the area where we would be housed for two weeks. My group was taken to the training camp used by Tony Canizzaro, the prizefighter. The accommodations seemed rustic to me, a city girl, but quite adequate. After a good supper, we all went to bed early because we had to get up the next morning at 5:30 am. Breakfast was at 6 and the area farmers started picking us up at 7. Each of us was given a bag lunch and we were loaded onto the backs of trucks and taken to the farms. We picked cherries, currants, and strawberries and weeded tomatoes. We were paid for our work by the bushel or pint or by the hour when we did weeding. The farmers kept track of what we earned.

As we worked, we sang a song to the tune of “As Those Caissons Go Rolling Along.” I only remember the first verse. It went like this:

“On our knees
Up in trees
Picking peas and strawberries
We are farming for freedom today.”

It was the hardest work I had ever done and I came back to camp each evening so tired I could barely eat and flop into bed. We had to pay for our room and board and after two weeks, my earnings covered all but $3 of the cost.

So there you go, historians.

Are you suffering from hypoanxiety?

If you’re enjoying life, you might be one of the millions of Americans suffering from hypoanxiety. Beware — this condition can spoil your well-educated urban existence.

Symptoms include: Building campfires, riding elevators, committing to relationships, listening to people crunching and slurping without flying into a rage, using public restrooms, allowing your children to play outdoors, eating canned food and consuming less than nine cups of coffee a day.

But don’t worry — The Big City Times can help. A daily dose of the Big City Times with breakfast can reverse the symptoms of hypoanxiety in college graduates. Visit our website — behind the paywall — and join the lonely crowd.

Side effects may include brunch, jaywalking, seasonal wardrobes, eyebrow grooming, sinus headaches and taxes.

Image by roeyahram via Flickr.

Stream citizens: Keep going

Flickr image Davos

This blog’s tagline is, “The road is where you are.” But what does that mean?

It means that you are always traveling.  It is a response to travelers or travel bloggers who complain about being “home” and wish to return to “the road.” It is an admonition to lifelong journeyers to embrace their current location, wherever that might be, with the spirit of travel. It is a dare to make an existential leap — from seeing your life as punctuated by periodic travel, to seeing your life as perpetual travel.

These ideas mesh with Ribbonfarm’s “The Stream Map of the World” post, which proposes the construct of streams and stream citizens. If you’ve filled a passport (or two or three +) with stamps, and made friends from all over the world in the process, you might feel a tension between your weird roving lifestyle and rooted Western culture. The Ribbonfarm post might help you understand the path you’ve taken, and encourage you to continue on your way despite growing cultural/family pressure to pick a spot and stay there.

Fellow Millennials, I’m looking at you.

Here are a few selections from the post, bold mine:

A stream is not a migration pattern, travel in the usual sense, or a consequence of specific kinds of work that require travel (such as seafaring or diplomacy). It is a sort of slow, life-long communal nomadism, enabled by globalization and a sense of shared transnational social identity within a small population.

Stream citizens are not global citizens (a vacuous high-modernist concept that is as culturally anemic as the UN). Their social identities are far narrower and richer. They are (undeclared) stream citizens, whose identities derive from their slow journey across the world.

Selected features of stream citizenship (from a list of 12):

3. Voluntary slowness: A stream is a pattern of movement where individual movements take place over years or decades, spanning entire development life stages. Unlike a decade-long limbo state imposed by (say) waiting for an American green card, which has individuals impatient to get the process over with and “settle down” in either a new home, or return to an old one, stream citizens don’t experience their state as a limbo state. They are always “home.” Being a relatively new phenomenon, there are no streams that are life-encompassing as yet. But I believe those will emerge — distinctive cradle-t0-grave geographic journeys.

10. High adaptability: Nostalgia is weak for stream citizens, as is the faraway-home/near-exotic sense of alienation from surrounding. Stream citizens are both home and abroad at the same time.

12. Lack of an arrival dynamic: This is perhaps the most important feature. There is no sense of anticipation of an “arrival” event  such as getting an American green card, after which “real” life can begin. There is wherever you go, there you are indifference to rootedness. This psychological shift is the central individual act. By abandoning arrival-based frames, stream citizens free themselves from yearning for geographically rooted forms of social identity.

Note: After reading the Ribbonfarm comments and Googling a few phrases, it seems that this meme hasn’t been discussed by the Rolf Potts-inspired Vagabonding blog network, the RTW scene or the Matador Mafia. If it has been and you can link to threads of interest, please do so in the comments.

Photo by Astragony via Flickr.

On travel, routines and bases

Allow me to join this discussion two years too late.

Don’t write off routines. The word routine, meaning “usual course of action”, comes from route — “a traveled way”, “a means of access” or “a line of travel”, according to Webster. In other words, a road.

“But that’s a metaphorical road!” you might say.

True, although “hitting the road” — i.e. travel — is a metaphor itself. It’s not easy to drive from New York to Bangkok. And even for the classic Interstate road trip, being on the road connotes both pavement underfoot and personal development, advancement or achievement — the Kerouac-style Journey of Self-Discovery.

However, a JoSDy doesn’t require an actual, physical journey. Not everyone is down with the barbarian lifestyle. Instead, people choose to have a home base because it helps them pursue long-term relationships and goals. It facilitates sedentary accumulation. (English translation: It helps them hoard stuff). Their base upholds the sculpture of their life. No big deal. More room to stretch out on the Bangalore to Calcutta train for everyone else. (And yes, Calcutta has so much more musty heft than Kolkata, at least for English speakers. The mushy brass doorknob and whatnot.)

A military base supports a field of operations, and some people like this strategy. Again, it’s not always the best. The base itself is not the end, not the goal. It’s the foundation — from the Latin fundus, or bottom — that allows the buildup of funds, or capital: Financial, physical (tangible assets), social (relationships), human (education), or however else you might define it. Robbers stage hold ups for funds because funds uphold existence.

And even nomads have a base: Tight stitching around the bottom of the backpack.

Choosing a city the LeBron James way

Big hoopla tonight over LeBron James choosing a city. Will he stay in his hometown? Where will he go? Cities and teams smushed into one entity. All the speculation about his travel plans is over now. With the words, “I’m going to take my talents to South Beach,” LeBron’s Miami-bound.

“I never wanted to leave Cleveland, and my heart will always be around that area,” LeBron said. “But I also feel like this is the greatest challenge for me, to move on.”

Know how you feel, LBJ.

So much of sports is travel, and rightly so. As you get better and better, you have to travel farther and farther to find people good enough to compete with. From lowly in-house soccer, to the middle school travel team, to an hour bus ride for high school sports, to a four-hour ride in college. Professionals are jetting somewhere new at least every week. At the very pinnacle of world competition, it becomes more practical to pool the talent in a single country (or continent) and duke it out: The English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, the European Champion’s League, the Olympics, the World Cup.

(There’s a strange parallel here with the world of socialites, which has plenty of competition of its own. The more sophisticated you are, the further you “have to” fly to find company that’s not dreadful.)

But back to LeBron. Some people say he went to be with his friends, or where the parties are, or where the income taxes are lowest.

“I think I was attracted to a lot of cities, and that’s why I brought the six teams in that I was attracted to most,” he said. “It came down to where I felt I could win the most.”

The travel serves LeBron’s higher goal. He’s not headed to South Beach to find himself, or for a change of scenery, or for the bikinis, or even the taxes. For a competitor at this level, I doubt those consciously factored in much at all. Sure, he wants a new experience — an NBA championship — but he wants the championship because, fundamentally, he wants to win.

Winning isn’t a new experience to King James. And if he, Wade, Bosh, and the rest can become the team that’s most familiar with the familiar experience of winning, they’ll be champions.

Goal first, city second.

Now that’s probably an oversimplification. How to explain LeBron’s mentioning South Beach before mentioning the Heat? OK, maybe somebody wrote the line for him. But here are two other possibilities:

One, the South Beach party n’ thong scene factored plenty into his decision, but you can’t go to the Greenwich Boys & Girls Club and say that. It’d be like a Bangkok Lifestyle Design-preneur admitting why he really loves Bangkok. Not good for business.

Two, LBJ was able to make The Decision from the pure perspective of competition. Once he made it, though, the fringe benefits of the chosen city started to creep into his thoughts. The temptations reserved for Star Athletes in Miami will continue to, presumably, and it remains to be seen how King James navigates South Beach.

Check out the Steamtown Ice Harvest Train

We move to be moved, but we can be moved without moving.

Here’s a bit of local flavor from around my way: The Ice Harvest Train running from Steamtown National Historic Site (Scranton, PA) and picking up big blocks of the cold stuff in Tobyhanna, PA.

This is how we (used to) do it…enjoy.

Milestone — 50th post! Huge thanks to YOU for riding along these first bumpy months. If you dig the site, how about subscribing via RSS? And if you’ve been quietly reading along, drop a comment!

Being homeless helps you travel

Again, for the millionth time: The choices you make at home directly impact your travel options. We know this.

If you’re committed to the asylum of long-term travel, it helps to spend “at home” time in travel-conducive housing. In other words, to live with minimal anchors. 

The article Men Who Jump the Picket Fence in today’s New York Times touches on this connection, albeit briefly.

First,  in the case of Alan Berks, home ownership is an obstacle to connecting with a place. It gets in the way of spontaneous walks around town, restaurant drop-ins, nightlife, and so on. Foreign travel is portrayed as a bonus made possible by unloading a house (hey honey, we won six months in Honduras, sweet!) rather than a priority which should have precluded the purchase.

Second, in the case of Kirt Greenburg, business travel is seen as an agent provocateur, a gateway drug which leads perfectly good workers to dump almost-perfectly good real estate and start daydreaming about the south of France (there’s that bonus again).

But hey, it’s nice to see the Times giving a nod to the how-should-I-live questions that we put so much thought into.

There’s a lot more to dig into here, but for now I’ll restate the takeaway: From no-longer-on-the-corner cafes to seems-so-far countries, home ownership ties you down both locally and globally.

(Unless you just can’t let go and want to make things super-complicated and expensive. Then you can just take a 36-hour nap and outsource the whole mess to your Virtual Assistant in Dhaka.)

The fruits of falling behind

I’ve been falling behind lately, battling inertia like lots of other people.

I’m not going to describe the malaise — it’s the same as yours. Not going to submit any remedies or prescriptions for shutting it down.

However, one of Chris Guillebeau’s suggestions in that last link is to carry a notepad everywhere you go. Hm — I just snapped the picture above on my desk here in Bethlehem, PA. Wanted you to see the fruits of keeping a pad in your pocket, but not stopping to look in the rearview mirror.

Writing it down doesn’t cut it, you have to take the time to type it all in. Which I haven’t. Yet. But I like to think there might be a couple blog posts in there…

Doing something 80% of the way is more frustrating than doing nothing.

Here’s to a productive 2010!

Thoughts?

UPDATE: Check out Ben Casnocha’s recent post Keepers of Private Notebooks.

UPDATE 1/5: Notebooks almost all in. I’m happy with the word count. And here’s a link to skip straight to Joan Didion’s essay On Keeping a Notebook.

Snow falls in Bethlehem, PA

Dry, miniature snowflakes fell on Bethlehem yesterday, leaving the city sparkling. Residents raised hoods, locked arms, tucked chins, and squinted eyelids against the flying snow.

Throughout the storm, pizza delivery drivers trafficked their cargo with little regard for personal safety. Around 7 p.m., a teal Neon with a silver spoiler, Dominoes sign, and supreme confidence barreled downhill on Broad St., sending crosswalk walkers leaping for the safety of the curb.

Taqueria Mexico Lindo on Main St. remained open for business, but at the peak dinner hour only one sleepy couple sat huddled over the baseboard heater, entranced by Lady Gaga on the flatscreen. The waitress devoted long stretches of attention to her laptop with impunity.

A duo of ATV’s raced through Bethlehem’s alleyways, even passing a police car which declined to intervene.

Someone, somewhere, slipped and cracked a tailbone.

Dark news from the Lehigh Valley

Forget steel. American Weirdness is booming in the Lehigh Valley.

Today’s headline: Teacher dead from heroin overdose on a school night. A beautiful 24 year-old biology teacher, blond. At a high school 28 miles south on the previous day, the same drug lulled a girl to sleep in class.

Bowhunters recently found a decomposed body in the woods near our new casino.

Last Saturday night, someone leapt out of an Infiniti and stabbed a pizza guy in the butt with a pen knife. Thieves are raiding boarding houses, slipping through unlocked front doors and systematically robbing residents at gunpoint.

All the while, Bethlehem is up in arms over an unprecedented hot dog cart, and is four City Council votes away from gifting the town’s historic societies the right to deny any and all vendor applications (and in the process, banning book vendors–sorry, only food, drinks or flowers permitted).

A 65 year-old man in Allentown who bragged about the size of his bank withdrawal ended up smashed to death with a brick. (His former roommate is suspected.) This is what comes to mind as I awake from a nap, without having done any particular research.

We’re America. Recently Obama even dropped by to pick up some anecdotes for a pep talk to the nation.

Photo by Marty.fm.

What would you be doing right now?

One of the first instincts upon a change of location is to start thinking in terms of parallel existence–comparing hours, schedules, routines, and so on.

Sitting on the roof of the hotel, staring at the moonlit Taj, you think, “I’d be walking into work right now.”

This isn’t so much looking back, but looking sideways. Conditional thinking: If I hadn’t decided to make this trip, I would be…

But you made it. You’re here. Not there. I don’t think such comparison is a rewarding outlook, yet I found that line–I’d be walking into work right now–on page one of my India journal.

So why employ this perspective? To relish in new-found freedom? To put an economic spin on the trip and force yourself to make the most of it (to get your money’s worth, considering the lost earnings)? To believe you’ve finally figured things out? To coordinate a prank call to a friend?

Photo of Taj Mahal during Diwali by Deivis via Flickr.

Born to Cover Ground

Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run has been getting a lot of attention this year (here’s [what I think is] the original article that led to the book ).

I haven’t read the book nor gone shoeless (yet), but McDougall’s original article and the media swirl around his book have helped me develop a new view of running. No longer mere exercise, I see it as the opportunity to cover some ground.

Whereas 30 minutes used to be a good workout, now I’ll go out and ramble for an hour, an hour and a half. No idea of the mileage. Up the mountain, into the woods, looping, looping back, stopping to have a staring contest with a deer, walking whenever. This sustainable lope goes beyond mimicking “the behavior of the persistence hunter” for the end of physical fitness: It creates a direct psychological link to the antelope hunter and mammoth spearer within.

From the perspective of place, this returns us (in thought, at least) to our ancestral hunting grounds, the root homestead. In a dispersed world, that’s probably not the same ground covered on a Saturday jog. By running with this mindset, you might be surprised how far you’ll travel both mentally and physically.

And if you live and run where you’ve been all along, what’s that like?

Photo by Casey Morris via Flickr

What if you don’t get the inner journey?

It was the perfect recipe for transformation: A month-long trek around a clump of stupendous mountains. An ancient pilgrim path. A motorcycle through the jungle. A summer of scraping by with a baritone sax.

So what happens when you finally reread your journals and realize the pages are filled with mental dandruff? Quick shots of confusion, desire, doubt, anxiety, concern, what ifs, hilarity, hot temper, the list goes on. You might ask, “What was I thinking?” or, “How could I have been concerned with this crap?”

But really–does this mean you didn’t get the inner journey? Does the absence of fully-formed ah-ha’s devalue the experience?

I’d urge you to take heart. The writing doesn’t make sense because you were working overtime to make sense. What were obvious associations at the time now require lucky reverse engineering to comprehend, if they can be pieced together at all. Or maybe the snippets point elsewhere–clues are often hard to find, frustrating, and ambiguous.

You had the time and freedom to drop down the rabbit holes, far down. It’s no wonder that, in the flat light of the familiar, what you brought back seems cracked. But these aren’t the words of an incoherent stranger–they’re yours. Although the surface might look like so much debris, a veritable landslide at times, there’s no mistaking that it’s the work of seismic shifts.

To put it another way, you brought home an entire river–now comes the challenge of panning for gold.

Photo by Tapse via Flickr.

Travel Self vs. Home Self

mirror

Do you play by different rules at home and on the road? When surrounded by the familiar versus overwhelmed by the new?

It’s a massive challenge to merge the travel self and the home self. To approach the world with open intensity no matter what part of the planet happens to be underfoot.

Do any of the following divides sound familiar?

Work / No work
Save / Spend
Established friends and family / Meeting new people
Cooking / Buying meals
Car or bike / Buses, taxis, etc.
Clutter / Essentials
Presentable / Grungy
Scheduled / Improvised
Routine bites of busy / Big wide life-changing experiences

What Didn’t Go Down in Bethlehem, PA

I took a walk today trying to catch the fall colors with a camera. Didn’t stop in a cafe or bar, didn’t even grab a slice of pizza. The root reason being that I’m saving for travel.

Crossed paths with some strangers:

The green-sweatered man behind the counter at Pat’s News Stand, tired of watching browsers leave fingerprints on the covers of his magazines.

Two homeless guys tossing crumpled cans off the Fahy Bridge.

A waitress sitting in the sculpture garden drinking out of an oversized Styrofoam cup.

Kids popping noisemakers in front of the corner bagel shop.

A church caretaker sweeping the steps.

There were a few words exchanged with some of these folks, sure. But not enough–the curiosity mechanism is still bugging me about each of them: Where would it have gone?

These are the people I’d have talked to if I were traveling.

Got a long way to go.

Photo by Frabuleuse

Can Work and Travel Coexist? A Lesson from Funk.

maceo-parker-rodney-skeet-curtis-live-bass-funk-parliament-travel-photo

When it comes to work and travel, the groove sets up the payoff.

Consider Funk. A bass lick is all the more nasty when the bass has been hanging in the pocket, keeping a low profile. When after seven or maybe 15 bars of solid groove, it pops.

Drops all constraints, steps forward, goes deeper, and realizes its core identity of BASS. In doing so, it opens up a new horizon, or tweaks the accepted perspective, or builds on someone else’s idea. These recurring low-end contributions deliver to The Listener what can only be called inspiration.

Yeah, the groove sets up the payoff.

Bassists don’t only play licks, drummers don’t only play fills. Most of the time, they just groove. The groove has to fit, of course. Sometimes it might be a little cheesy, but that’s OK. It’ll step into something new and overwhelming (if only briefly) soon enough.

Taking the bass lick example to the level of the ensemble, the track below demonstrates what I’m talking about. Enjoy.

Latin Like by Maceo Parker from Dial Maceo (2000)

Photo of the baaaad Rodney ‘Skeet’ Curtis by BedwyrPhoto.com via Flickr

Like it? The newest and best live Maceo is Roots & Grooves. Yes, that’s an affiliate link, and no, you will not be disappointed. Feat. Skeet Curtis (bass) and Dennis Chambers (drums) embodying the work/travel interplay. Recorded in Cologne, Germany with the local WDR Big Band. Highly explosive.

Where Will a Walk Take You?

george washington bridge photo walk walking travel

Have you walked across your city? Have you witnessed the bell curve of its development? Would you take the same route you’d use to drive? Or would you seek out some sort of alternate, foot-friendly route?

Yesterday I read about a back-up plan that many Bihari peasants keep in mind: Make the month-long walk to Calcutta and look for work or beg. After walking the Camino de Santiago, if Burgos and Leon come up together, the immediate thought is twelve days across the meseta… Some of the most fascinating imagery in Stephen King’s The Stand is of walks across a demolished America, and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road only intensifies the scenario.

Think of where you drive most often in the 5, 10, 15, and 30 minute ranges. Consider your nearest big city (especially if you’re in one right now). How long it would take to walk to these places?

Bethlehem, PA, is an hour and a half of crumbling interstate west of New York City. But to walk along back roads and sidewalks until the eventual crossing of the George Washington Bridge and coda stroll down to Central Park–sounds like an adventure. 83.2 miles, according to Google Maps. Four good days.

Four good days is a guess. I have no idea what that walk demands. Don’t know what I’m a day’s or a week’s walk from. To know this place, I think I should.

Sure, the scenery in the Lehigh Valley is a notch or two below the Annapurnas, but it’s strange to have a better conception of the various routes from Pokhara to Muktinath than of the footpaths between my town and its immediate neighbors, not to mention the neighbors I’d have to ask for water along the way.

What about you? Had any good walks lately?

Photo claiming to have three mistakes by Sidereal.

Want To Travel? Start Walking.

Not knowing my car’s transmission would soon be dead, I recently wrote something in praise of walking. Backhandedly, about the negatives of cars and even bicycles. Here it is:

Given the choice of any mode of transportation, I prefer my feet. I don’t have to lock them to a streetlamp before I go into the cafe. They don’t suck down gasoline, oil, rubber donuts, antifreeze, or Windex. I don’t need a ticket to take my feet, and I’ve never gotten ticketed for leaving them in the wrong place. Though they can leave me tired, the next day I’m the opposite of lagged. I don’t have to watch a speed limit, only my blisters and joints. Feet simplify the process of  hm, let me take a closer look. They demand I haul only the essentials. Their convertible top is a hat. My feet aren’t capable of crushing toddlers on tricycles. In fact, when I run into someone, it’s a good thing. All my feet need from the gas station is a Christmas tree air freshener.

Then the car trouble showed up (as payback for a wandering eye?). As I waited for the diagnosis, I went from toying with the walking idea to feeling at the mercy of fate. To staring down a drastic lifestyle change. If the car’s kaput, how am I ever going to (fill in the blank)?

Not having a car is a position many Westerners (whose cities still lack quality public transportation) are put in only while traveling with a certain gusto. It’s no wonder that the prospect of living without a car carries the same what might happen? adrenal vulnerability as heading abroad with improvisation as the only plan.

If you’re looking for a way to prepare for travel (or to get your travel fix while home), try ignoring your car for a couple days. You can catch rides, use finicky buses, or just get out and walk the two miles to the grocery store. If you want a larger dose, a six to ten hour wander packs plenty of surprises.

More on that soon…

Took forever to find a photo for this one — thanks, Looking Glass.

The Hazards of Prolonged International Exposure

The right mix of cigarette smoke and cologne puts me on a sidewalk in Granada. A grey-blue overcast sunrise through a crack in the blinds is another Utica snowstorm. The smell of rare wood burning (a piano, let’s say) is the rush of India.

The more places we visit, the more elsewheres we can be transported to by a strange cloud, a scent, or a song heard through the window of a passing car. Not surprisingly, it’s always the same few places that hit me the hardest. It’s places I’ve stayed in long enough to be able to guess at what’s going to be last to change.

Call it the Stray Dog Theory of Place–if you talk to it and pet it behind the ears, it’ll keep coming back. It can happen in as little as a week (less, anybody?), though a month or more is better. What also helps: Multiple trips to the same grocery store. Witnessing sunrise and sunset. An unexpected soaking or bout of shivers. Conversation with kids and old folks. Getting lost, helping someone find their way, finding a secret spot, sharing it. A routine, no matter how rickety.

I’m still a sucker for towering experiences, the big bangs that can define a town, city or country (whether the reason for the visit or randomly encountered). Along with the in-the-moment adrenaline, an afternoon of Porsche in the Swiss Alps delivers an admirable stuffed Done That to hang over the mantle. But it is what it is. (Yes, been there.)

What I’m more curious about are the slow-to-emerge, long-term effects of prolonged exposure. The rippling impact of investing the time to know a place on the secret-handshake level. So far, I’ve found that the places you’ve given the most to will visit you when you least expect them, triggered by next to nothing, wherever you might be.

Travel deja vu, the return of a place’s State of Place. Elsewhere merging with and warping the present to create a new, unexpected moment of travel.

Looking forward to continuing the experiment.

PS — Thanks for reading. There’s no way one post could have answered the whole question…

Photo by Hani Amir aka Dude Crush

Who Cares If Your Car Eats Into Your Travel Budget?

You’re outwardly concerned about saving as much money as possible for travel.

So what happens when, en route to your Labor Day Weekend bonanza, your car starts giving a death rattle and limps the last 50 miles? When it appears that this might be the point at which an outside force places your lifestyle in greater alignment with your aspirations, and divests you of your cash devouring automobile?

My guess is that lots of travelers, maybe you included, wouldn’t want to give up their wheels. Resistance would precede buses and bicycles.

I’m painfully aware that a tank of gas equals a week’s room with bed, shower, and red vinyl couch in Kathmandu. But because I grew up next to a car collector and rally racer, used to deliver pizzas, and am American enough to believe in the freedoms bestowed by the auto, I had a particularly tough time this Labor Day weekend as I tried not to worry about losing my car. It looked like curtains.

Another post might provide the details, but here’s the quick story. The ugly clanking appeared around 7 p.m. on Friday, 3 hours into the journey. After a highway shoulder evaluation, transmission fluid top-off at the first gas station, and subsequent fingers-crossed to the destination, I parked it.  Joined the country in a long workless weekend and got up at 6 a.m. today to visit the Volkswagen specialist.

The new transmission is going in tomorrow. For the price of a plane ticket to Bangkok.

There are plenty of things I’m willing to trade for long-term travel. But for now, short-term, spontaneous travel isn’t on the list.

Photo of Thai bus driver by Ronn Aldamann