Category Archives: Point of View

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

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

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.

Why Live in a Small Room?

bed jump
A small room forces you out of the room. It cuts down the number of anchors you can keep. A bed, two chairs, and a desk. Clothes in a duffel on the floor. Forget A/C, put a fan in the window and bring in the world.

A small room amplifies the assertions of what you put on the walls. If you’ve hung maps, you’re that much closer. And you can only fit so big a mirror (which some would argue is healthy).

A small room demands you prioritize–which books do I need right now? One string of Christmas lights can do wonders. In a small room, it’s easy to figure out where to put what you pray to. In other words, a point of focus is easy to find.

Photo by Chrispitality

Go to the Best Hotel in Town for Free

By the end of this post, you’ll know how.

The Hotel Bethlehem used to be the go-to spot for all facets of tycoons hoping to cut deals with Bethlehem Steel.

Today, it still has the white-gloved doormen, martini bar, and 20 foot-high red neon sign on the roof begging for a superhero fight scene.

And it still has that ambiance of no questions asked, unless you look like you don’t belong here. To be welcome, all you have to do is look like you belong.

Now like any top hotel, the clientele is unpredictable. Anyone could be a steel heir, or just dumb enough to go into debt for a few nights’ stay. To be warmly received at the Hotel Bethlehem (or your establishment of choice), clothes are a negligible 5% of the charade.

It’s all about walking in the front door and breezing past the desk like you’re finally home.

And that’s what’s best about the free stays here–having to force yourself into believing that you’re on the road, staying in the penthouse, and sorry, can’t talk now, I’m mini-bar bound. So what that your visit will just be a quick trip to the lobby bathroom (hidden on the second floor next to the restaurant). It’s a journey.

Plus, drying your hands on fluffy Ralph Lauren towels adds nicely to the illusion. Try it and let me know what you think.

Photo by Marty.FM via Flickr. Hotel Bethlehem — Bethlehem, PA.