Book written by Mark Tully
Travel at its best is really setting aside our normal day to day life and observing the world with fresh eyes. Perhaps I flatter myself, but I like to think that it is one of those times when the spectator can become an artist absorbing new experiences and transforming them into pictures and stories.
I grew up in the Midwest, but was born on the East Coast and was raised by parents who held onto many of those East Coast ideas their whole lives. So, I am of two minds about many things. For instance, travel to exotic places can’t be that different from spending a few days wandering around New York City. On the other hand, why would you want to go somewhere that you can’t reach by car?
Three stories from India:
An acquaintance in India (I had known her for a few hours) discovered that my family and I would be travelling around the country by train. She beckoned me to her office and was so concerned for my family’s welfare that she made sure we could reach her and her office 24 hours a day.
Prompted by warnings like the one mentioned as well as the aggressive nature of touts and souvenir sellers, I was wary when we visited the Red Fort in Agra. Using the public facilities, I found myself sitting outside waiting for the rest of my party. This other dad managed to get my attention despite the heat and a language barrier and my wariness. We ended up empathisizing about having to wait by the toilets and had our picture taken together. His daughter (the photographer) spoke English. She explained that he had always wanted to meet an American and his day was made. I realized then and there that I needed to be a better traveler if I wanted to be a better person.
In Goa, I woke early one morning and went for a walk on the ghats alone. The local folks were already busy with their day before the tourists and the heat became overwhelming. At one point, the ghats rise in a shear precipice. I stood there admiring the painting on the wall and listening to the cricket game at the top. Suddenly, the ball came tumbling down and rolled off toward the water. Some young faces peered over the edge and bemoaned the loss. I wandered over to the ball and tossed it back in one go. The praise for my arm and expressions of gratitude…
Guidebooks are as often a pox as a blessing.It is nice to have a map if you want to end the night in your own bed. At some point though, questions start coming, the kinds of questions that tourist books stridently ignore- a lot of “why” mixed with a pile of “how”. Because you have to start caring about the place you are visiting if you are going to be open to the experience.
Travel memoirs can be useful, but a great journalist that writes in your language and shares a similar cultural viewpoint can be invaluable. The thing about great journalism is that it has an opinion. Yet, it still presents all sides- it does not refuse to look hard at root causes. So, I carried Mark Tully and William Dalrymple around with me and devoured their wisdom.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 217 more to go.
New additions to You’ve Got to Check This Out release regularly. Also, free humor, short works, and poetry post irregularly. Receive notifications on Facebook by friending or following Craig.
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