Not about cathedrals.

Although it doesn’t quite rise to the level of this election year’s Pledge of Allegiance moment — did Barack Obama call Sarah Palin a lipsticked pig, or did he not — I’ve found the examination of this even more minor issue fascinating.

That is: Is the fact Palin got the first passport of her life only last year significant?

Roger Ebert says yes (original link dead; Free Republic copyright violation substitutes):

And how can you be her age and never have gone to Europe? My dad had died, my mom was working as a book-keeper and I had a job at the local newspaper when, at 19, I scraped together $240 for a charter flight to Europe. I had Arthur Frommer’s $5 a Day under my arm, started in London, even rented a Vespa and drove in the traffic of Rome. A few years later, I was able to send my mom, along with the $15 a Day book.

You don’t need to be a pointy-headed elitist to travel abroad. You need curiosity and a hunger to see the world. What kind of a person (who has the money) arrives at the age of 44 and has only been out of the country once, on an official tour to Iraq? Sarah Palin’s travel record is that of a hopeless provincial.

As you can imagine, this column has ignited the knuckle-draggers, including James Lileks, who does his best imitation of a minor character from Sinclair Lewis with this zinger:

We have cathedrals; they’re just younger.

I suspect I know why Palin never traveled: Children. She married young and every few years she’s had another kid coming along, and if there’s anything to make a woman say, “You know, maybe another year in Vegas isn’t the worst thing in the world,” it’s the idea of making a trans-Atlantic flight with a small child. Also, and this is harder to quantify, but my guess is, if you live in a place like Alaska, the priority for your time off is pretty simple — sunshine and warmth — and Arizona or Florida is where you go, maybe Hawaii. Or it’s entirely possible Ebert’s suspicion is correct, and she really has no curiosity about the rest of the world. In which case it’s not exactly a campaign issue, but it is interesting.

I remember hearing the same thing about George Bush, and reacting the same way. Bush, son of privilege, a man who had both the money and the time, reached his late 40s without having traveled more widely than North America. (Like all good Texans, he’d been to Mexico.) If this makes me an elitist, so be it, but if you’ve got the resources, you should travel, and travel outside the country. When the Powerball tops $150 million and people around me spin lottery dreams, I don’t even have to think about it. I’d take the money and hit the road, and I wouldn’t come home until I got tired of it. And then I’d hit the road again, and I’d do the sort of travel I’ve only fantasized about: A month in Shanghai, summer in St. Petersburg, beaches in Corsica. India. Japan. Brazil. The Galapagos. Australia. Africa from top to bottom. And that’s only the beginning.

Without making this a discussion of Palin’s provincialism or lack thereof, where have you traveled and where would you like to travel? What was the biggest surprise of the trip? And do we think the dollar will ever recover enough to make travel outside the U.S. possible for the middle class again? (If the answer is no, name a place where you can still get a lot for a little, because my feet are itchy to be on the road again. I thought I’d take Kate to Europe by now, but when the cost is X thousands of dollars, plus 40 percent currency-exchange adjustment, plus 26 percent VAT, the answer is, “Maybe next year.”) And finally, why is it important to leave your country once in a while (and how do you explain that to a pinhead who think it’s about touring museums and cathedrals)?

And if you’re not in the mood for that, here’s some bloggage, an amusing piece from Slate: Walter Sobchak, neocon. Yes, with clips from “The Big Lebowski.” What’s more delicious?

Me, I get to interview a Rockette today. Envy me, world.

Posted at 8:54 am in Current events, Movies |

71 responses to “Not about cathedrals.”

  1. alone in the dark said on September 11, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I think the best thing travel has done for me (mostly in Central and South America) is to simply lift the veil from my eyes and force me to understand that we are all people. I think the natural human tendency is to believe that your group is special, somewhat elevated, and travel is a good way to take that starch out of your collar.

    Also, you get to eat really good, really interesting food and watching world cinema is a real eye-opener. Do you know how many African filmmakers could run rings around Spielberg if they just had the money and time?

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  2. Snarkworth, semi-demi-lurker said on September 11, 2008 at 9:32 am

    I can’t imagine trying to take the Palin brood on the Grand Tour. Plus, she probably had limited financial resources until her recent discovery of the per diem system. So I don’t fault her as much as Bush, who had plenty of cash and no kids until his mid-thirties.
    We traveled little until the past four or five years, when the kid/money situation improved. Netherlands, Italy, Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Norway. Leaving for England and Wales next week.

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  3. Julie Robinson said on September 11, 2008 at 9:37 am

    When I was 18, my family spent Christmas in Guatemala, since my older sister was there on an exchange program. She was living with a family and doing nutrition education and community organizing.

    Our family didn’t have lots of money but we were wealthy by the standards there. We could get clean water by turning on the tap, electricity by flipping the switch, all the (safe) food we wanted by visiting the store. We could choose the clothes we wanted to wear from a closetful. We could choose the candidates we wanted to vote for without being intimidated by the gun toting soldiers at the polls. None of this was possible in the Guatemala of 1974.

    What I found in Guatemala is what I have found in all cultures–we are more alike than we are different. Sorry if that sounds like Mitch Albom. But the moms and dads of Guatemala wanted the same things as the moms and dads of the USA: a safe and nurturing place to raise their children, and the hope that the next generation will be better than us.

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  4. Heather said on September 11, 2008 at 9:37 am

    On my first visit to Europe when I was in college, I remember very clearly a sort of fish-out-of-water feeling–that is, that I would have to adapt to living by other’s people rules and customs, because they couldn’t care less about those in the U.S. It sounds obvious, but I think you really need to leave the country and physically be somewhere else surrounded by non-Americans to truly understand it.

    Oddly, I get a similar feeling in line waiting to renew my driver’s license, but there it’s more of a sense that my rights are no fewer, lesser, or greater than anyone else’s, no matter my income or skin color–I have to wait in line like everyone else. Pretty powerful.

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  5. Colleen said on September 11, 2008 at 9:50 am

    Pretty much what everyone else has said… I went to Hungary my senior year in college, and am DYING to go again sometime. It was eye opening on so many levels. What we think is “old” in America…isn’t. And it’s just so GOOD to get out of your country….to see that several time zones away, there are lots of people living happy lives, NOT wishing they were Americans, but proud and happy to be who they are.

    Yes. Takes the starch outta your collar. In a good way.

    Since then, I’ve done the usual Bahamas, Cozumel, etc touristy thing.

    My parents are spending their retirement traveling, and I say good for them. I love that they are still so intellectually curious that they want to go exploring.

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  6. Randy said on September 11, 2008 at 10:07 am

    My wife gets to travel to Europe on business once in a while, but she has very little curiosity about it, and only stays for the work, then heads straight home.

    I can’t wait to get there someday, in the meantime I’m planning to visit Quebec City, since it’s a way to get a feel for Europe on the cheap.

    I do love it when people talk about going to “Mexico”, or the “Dominican”, or “Jamaica”, as if they experienced the culture, when all they really did was isolate themselves in a resort, and maybe take a bustrip to some little tourist town to buy trinkets.

    One time at a party this woman revealed to us, in very solemn tones, that many people in the Dominican are quite poor, and if it wasn’t for the tourist industry, they would be far worse off. True, I suppose, but she was kind of patting herself on the back, as if she had performed a good deed by tipping well for her all-inclusive cuba libres.

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  7. Laura said on September 11, 2008 at 10:09 am

    My sister and I took a long weekend (Thurs-Mon) to Paris a few years back. We worked on maintaining a perfect wine/coffee balance while shopping/site-seeing in between. We both had kids at home, but so what? It felt so wrong, yet it was so very right to do. It took me about a week to recover, though.

    If you’re looking for a trip that had a little more depth, my husband and I took an extended European vacation (about 3 weeks–France, England, Netherlands) when we had some money, but no kids. Anne Frank’s annex in Amsterdam made me weep. Plus, the general joy of soaking in other cultures was exhilarating. I’m hoping we can take a world-explorer-type family trip to sometime, but no plans (or $$$) right now.

    I’ve never been to Canada or Mexico. I know. I can’t believe it myself.

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  8. Joe Kobiela said on September 11, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I would love to pay my respects to the men who gave me what I have today. Freedom. I would start with the airfields in England, Those bomber crews were amazing, then Normandy, and pay my respects, Sainte-mere-eglise would be next to honor the 82nd and 101st airborne,guys 18-19yrs old jumping into the dark at 800ft,they had big ones, made of brass. Next would be bastogne, then on into Germany. Those guy can never be repaid. Pearl Harbor, so I would remember to never let my guard down, Wake Island, Brave Marines, and then on into Japan.
    I have never got to travel out of the U.S. except Canada, guess I was like Mrs Palin to busy trying to survive, that is one reason she is connecting with people, She is one of us.
    Just a side note on the per diem deal. She has done nothing wrong and in fact spent 1/5 LESS than the person she replaced.

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  9. moe99 said on September 11, 2008 at 10:20 am

    I’ve been to Europe 4 times and Australia once. I lived in Brussels for a year while getting my LLM in International Law at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. I lived with an older Jewish couple who had survived the Holocaust because he was a chemist with a Swiss pharmacuetical company (they had come from Poland so he could attend the University Libre de Bruxelles and get his Phd). After Kristallnacht, they gave their son to a gentile couple in the country and they left everything in their apt, going to live in the factory. No one ratted them out. They made it through and I heard a few harrowing stories about it, especially after we watched the first night of the American Holocaust series that was being broadcast in Brussesl for the first time. Their son became the dean of the law school at the french University of Brussels and I corresponded with him irregularly over the years after my couple died.

    PS. I’ve been to Mexico and Canada more times than I remember and to the Caribbean twice, once for the honeymoon from hell

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  10. Jen said on September 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Ahhh, I’ve already been daydreaming all day about where I would go if I only had the money. Alas, the wages (and work schedules!) of a journalist and a social worker definitely do not allow us to go much of anywhere. A daytrip to Indianapolis with my in-laws last month was a major treat for us!

    I’ve been to Europe once, traveling around Germany with a group of Jewish Studies students. THAT was quite the experience for a sheltered non-Jew from Nowhere, Indiana. The things that struck me was how old everything is, and how much history has happened there. Cathedrals, for example, are cool in the U.S., but seeing them is nothing compared to the awe I felt when I stepped off the train in Cologne, Germany, and saw the huge cathedral there. They started building it in 1248 (at least, that’s what Wikipedia says) and finished it in 1880. There’s just nothing that quite compares here. Not to mention just how cool to talk to people with a different worldview than Americans. Even little things, like views on nudity and sex, were interesting when compared to Americans.

    I have also been to Canada, but mainly to Toronto and Niagara Falls. The biggest difference I noticed there was that there were a lot fewer billboards. I have also been to the Bahamas on a band trip in high school. Most people stayed completely on the resort’s property, sipping virgin pina coladas and ogling the hot hotel workers. I did that, too, but my friend Theresa and I also made sure to at least take a bus trip around the island (the only way we were allowed off resort property). We went to the Garden of the Groves, a touristy tropical garden; an open-air market that looked pretty “authentic” to me at the time; and the Freeport International Bazaar, I believe, which was VERY tourist-oriented. It probably wasn’t very representative of how the majority of people in the Bahamas live, but at least we got a little local flavor and history.

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  11. mark said on September 11, 2008 at 10:46 am

    I’ll answer, and I’ll even play by the rules for a while. I’ve never been to Europe and it’s not on my near term list. I’d certainly go if an opportunity presented itself, but I don’t view it as a priority. For me “Europe is for wheelchairs.”

    Barring major upheaval, the things I think I would value and enjoy most about Europe will still be there in another 20 or 30 years. Architecture, art, history, food, etc. And it is and will be Americanized enough to accomodate such infirmities as I may have. The water is safe, the trains run on time, and the electricity seldom fails. They have toilets that flush. Police and courts function much as they do here. American fast food on every other corner and cultures where afternon naps, children drinking wine, and an appreciation for the more interesting animal parts are about all that might shock or challenge my Midwest sensibilities.

    I see Europe as a fabulous, expensive and popular museum. The default destination for Americans who want to be, or claim to be, well-travelled. Something I ought to see someday, but not in any danger of closing soon. Perhaps I’ll change my mind when I finally get there.

    I prefer to go where history is being made rather than where it is being preserved. Certainly I could learn from seeing what has gone before, but my most eye-opening experiences have been in the more dynamic spots; the places I think will have a much greater impact on the world your daughter will inhabit. By all means though, travel with her as much as possible- even Europe.

    Here are my recommendations, both remarkably economical and both centered on Southeast Asia:

    First, for either trip, if you can, route yourself through Hong Kong and stay a night or two. I think it is the most amazing skyline in the world. As a friend said- “it’s like they gave an unlimited amount of Lego to a thousand creative 10-year olds. A vibrant, clean and efficient city.

    Take the ferry from Kowloon to Hong Kong, preferrably at night. Accomodations are very expensive. Everything else is very reasonable. Shop at the Stanley Market. Have an afternoon tea at the Lobby bar at the Mandarin Oriental and watch the wholw world come and go. Public transportation is easy, cheap, efficient and very clean. Truly a world class city.

    Then (trip 1) fly to Saigon and spend a week or two in Vietnam. Lodging is very inexpensive throughout the country and in the larger cities you can have 4 star accomodations for about $100 per night, Holiday Inn quality for $40 per night and very clean, comfortable and safe loging for much less.

    Flights within the country on VN air are very cheap. Otherwise travel by Charter bus or private car (SUV) with driver. Do Not drive anywhere! You will die in a firey crash.

    Go north to Hanoi and stay in the old city. Very Communist but the art is wonderful. If you feel touristy check out Uncle Ho’s mauseleum and what remains of the Hanoi Hilton (when I was last there admission was 15 cents and included a set of ten museum “postcards.” Walk around the beautiful lake in the middle of the City and see where McCain was hauled from the water. Enjoy the night markets.

    Maybe go to Hue for history or DaNang or Phan Tiet to relax at a beach resort. Food is great and cheap. The three of you should be able to eat very well on $20-25 per day, less when you get the hang of it.

    Vietnam has 80 million people, half of whom are under 30. The Communists screw up a lot, but they educate their children. English is widely spoken (with varying fluency) and the people, especially the younger half) like America. Your daughter will see poor but bright, hardworking, family-oriented, beautiful people who have no intention of staying poor. Everyone has a cell phone even while most don’t have a flush toilet. This country is one that will be changing our world. Best, however, to see it while you are in good health and can handle some of the inconveniences.

    On that toilet thing, sad to say but as a caucasion I could wak into any modern office building, hotel or retail complex to escape the heat or use the facilities. Many Vietnamese would be barred entry without first explaining their “legitimate purpose” for entering. This, too, will change.

    Then, (trip 2) fly to Bangkok and spend a week or two in Thailand. Enjoy Bangkok and head north to chang Mai or south to the beaches. Thailand is my favorite country. Still inexpensive, although the dollar has fallen against the Baht. Wonderful people, amazing food, great beaches. Thailand is much better known so I won’t bore you with my favorites unless you want particulars.

    If time permits, consider a two-night trip (you don’t need more) to Angkor in Cambodia (about a 1 hour flight from Saigon or Bangkok). Any other means of travel is suicide. The temples are on a par with the Great Wall for achievement and more interesting. If you have seen 1 mile of Wall…

    All of these places are very safe. Violence is very rare. I’ve felt far more at risk in Acapulco and, well, Detroit, than in Bangkok or Saigon.

    Rules violation: Call me a knuckledragger, but every time some celebrity related figure like Ebert says something like “Palin is provincial” I hear the feet of working class Americans heading to the McCain camp. My ex-father in-law was “provincial” to the extreme (“I won’t set foot outside this country until I have seen all the great things inside it”) but one of the most accomplished men I have ever known. Do I think he would have enjoyed/benefitted from travel? Sure. Do i think the lack of travel was even a small flaw in his character or a disqualification from the many positions he held? No.

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  12. ellen said on September 11, 2008 at 11:04 am

    Nancy, off topic, but wanted to show you this:

    Eric Berger, the Chronicle’s science correspondent, deserves a Pulitzer or a least props on Romanesko for his coverage of Hurricane Ike as it approaches Houston/Galveston.

    For the last couple of days, he has been interviewing experts, explaining surges, why the projected paths differ so widely, and what the advisories mean to Joe Citizen. And every day, he has been doing a live chat and answering questions like, “My wedding is scheduled for Saturday at Woodway and Post Oak, do you think my guests will be able to get there in the storms or should we postpone?” with patience, calm, and hard science.

    For all you have written about local media coverage of weather events, thought you would be interested in seeing an amazingly good job.

    I don’t regularly praise my local newspaper, but in this instance, they have actually figured out how to meld old school newspapering with new technology into something reader relevant. I wonder how this could be carried over into other subject areas?

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  13. MichaelG said on September 11, 2008 at 11:05 am

    I love traveling. I can sleep on airplanes. Airports are fine with me. I’ve been to a bunch of countries in Europe and Asia as well as Canada and Mexico. I enjoyed two government sponsored trips to Vietnam in the late ’60s. My big surprise came in 2000 when I spent three weeks in Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City. The people there were friendly, open and cheerful. They loved Americans despite the years we spent assiduously fucking up their country. Everybody has a relative in Sacramento or Orange County. The way I travel is to find a spot and stay there for two or three weeks. Then I walk, walk, walk, take public transportation. Take the bus to the end of the line just to see what’s there. Hang out, wander, hang out some more. You can get a real feel for a place that way. No, I don’t get bored. The hotel in Saigon where I stayed in 2000 cost me $18 per night. Not the Ritz. I was the only gringo there. There’s great food to be had from street vendors. But the big surprise was how they liked Americans. I spent a couple of days in a pedal powered rickshaw operated by an old man. Despite the language barrier, we exchanged war stories like any pair of old vets. He took me to museums, shrines – all kinds of war sites I would never have seen otherwise. It may sound morbid or something to most, but that war was a big part of my youth. The Binh Than Market is worth a trip itself. Great food, great sights, great people, great trip. I could live there.

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  14. moe99 said on September 11, 2008 at 11:15 am

    Nice story about how a dog helped a woman’s depression.

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  15. john c said on September 11, 2008 at 11:20 am

    Most have said what I’d say. Travel, apart from the pure joy of seeing new things and meeting different people, is sort of a reality check on the way we live here. Spend a week in Spain and come back resolved not to work work work while life passes you by. Spend two weeks in a dormitory in Ireland and come back thanking the good lord for excellent plumbing. At the end of the day it’s about opening your mind. Some people want to do that. Others don’t.
    I will say this, though. I highly recommend international travel for a young couple before they marry. The wife and I went to Ireland in 1992, after we’d fallen in love but before we got engaged. I didn’t look at it as any kind of test then. But looking back, I think we learned a lot about each other, all of it good and most of it revolving around the general idea that we both like to experience new things. I’m smiling now as I think of how, after we both fell in love with the creamy dark magic that is fresh Guinness, we fell into the habit of ordering “one pint and a half.” That’s Irishspeak for a pint of Guinness and a half-pint of Guinness. Several minutes later they would arrive and we would sip and smile and sigh. Then we’d talk about where we’d go tomorrow and then sip some more. We always finished at exactly the same time.

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  16. alex said on September 11, 2008 at 11:23 am

    I was well-traveled as a youngster, thanks to my parents, but have only seen the continental U.S. and Europe. They left the kids at home to do all the really fun stuff, like multiple African safaris in various regions, as well as travels to the middle east and Asia. And lots of time in Europe without the kids.

    If I weren’t financially strapped by my new, lowlier position in the changed economy, my travel destination priorities would be Galapagos and Easter Island. Why? Because I’ve been reading about them since childhood thanks to Heyerdahl and a few other authors. My dad took my brother to Galapagos a few years back, but I wasn’t able to go on that trip.

    All of my life I’ve been an avid student of colonial and pioneer history, so in these days of unaffordable foreign travel, I’m spending more time getting to know places I’ve read about right in my own backyard. This weekend I plan to hit Delta, Ohio, and Lenawee County, Michigan, to see some Underground Railroad sites that I’ve been reading about.

    Travel is indeed about curiosity. You couldn’t give me a vacation in a place like Vegas if it were free.

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  17. nancy said on September 11, 2008 at 11:30 am

    Thanks for the sketch of Vietnam, guys. That’s on my list, and if the airfare hump can be overcome, I think it’s doable.

    As for the “provincial” comment: When Ebert made his first trip to Europe, he was probably earning about $150 a week, and even then, that wasn’t much. That’s his point. You don’t need to be rich to travel, you just have to have the desire, and the curiosity. The lack thereof is what makes you provincial. The older I get, the more I’m convinced that curiosity and a sense of humor will take you further in the world than just about anything else.

    Yesterday when I was talking to the journalism students, someone asked how you prepare for an interview, and the cornerstone of the answer is always, “Be a curious person.” Even if you don’t have time for a full Google and documents search — and frequently you don’t — just wanting to know about others will carry you through. No one would criticize Palin if she didn’t travel because she didn’t have the money, as most people do. But when you think that what many average Americans spend to be herded onto a cruise ship and force-fed around the Caribbean would pay for two weeks exploring a Central American country, well, that’s saying something.

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  18. A Riley said on September 11, 2008 at 11:31 am

    I think we’re starting to talk about the difference between tourism (sunshine, shopping, & drinks with umbrellas) and pilgrimage (getting into the meaning of the place). Not that pilgrimage excludes tourism-related activities, as Chaucer knew well!

    I’ve gone along on some pilgrimages — singing with my church choir in Italy and France, and accompanying another trip to the Lutheran heritage sites in the former East Germany — and I’ve got to say that visiting cathedrals, etc., is different when you’re with a group that wants to experience the meaning of the place.

    Edited to add: and part of the meaning of the place is the surroundings, which includes French wine & German beer!

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  19. mark said on September 11, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Michael G.:

    I share your love of VN and Saigon in particular. January of 2000 was the first of many trips. I eventually found the Spring hotel in Old saigon, a block off Dong Khoi street. Great room for $22.00/night with breakfast and laundry service.

    I like to hang out as well. You’re a brave man, though, to take to the streets in a rickshaw.

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  20. Connie said on September 11, 2008 at 12:08 pm

    Well growing up in Michigan kinda makes you think Canada is sort of another state. Can’t count how many times…. and Mexico on a family trip. I spent the summer before my hs sr yr in Germany on a YFU program, and while I had a wonderful time I got real tired of being expected to defend why the US was in Viet Nam. And as to the Viet Nam trips, well my husband’s been there once and I suspect he has no desire to visit again. I hear that now we are sharing a computer again he is reading, so I have to watch what I say about him. Hi sweetheart.

    I grew up in one of those small W. Michigan Dutch Calvinist towns and my most amazing growing and learning experience was when I got to MSU as a freshman. Black people! Catholics! Cute Catholic boys who went to all boys schools in Detroit! The world was suddenly different than the one I had known.

    My daughter spent last spring semester in Paris, London and Belfast. And I paid for it. But someday Paris, London, and Florence. There is still a lot of this country I would like to see as well, finally got to Boston in 06, Niagara Falls in 03, and it is usually a librarian conference that gets me to those kind of places.

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  21. Peter said on September 11, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Wow, where do you start.
    Mom took my sister and me to Europe as small children on the family tour – except for my parents, all my relatives are across the ditch. There’s a lot of memories on that trip: one of them was when we visited my aunt in Vienna – 20 years after the war, and they still had a few piles of rubble left over from the bombing.
    Went on a few trips to Europe on my own and with my lovely wife, and next summer we’re taking the son along to do the family tour as well – he’s all excited about taking the TGV and checking out the cathedrals.
    But that’s my point about Madame Palin – I can understand if you live in a lovely place like Alaska you may not be into cathedrals, trains, and different cuisine. I have to admit, I’d like to go to Alaska one day, but if I don’t I won’t cry over it.

    Nancy, I’ve been to Brazil and Indonesia on business, and I would like to go back there for the heck of it, especially Brazil. Each time I went I was going to spend some time on business and some time on touring, but the business end took longer and I never got to travel very far. I’m keen on visiting Ouro Preto, Brasilia, and Igaucu Falls. The exchange rate there isn’t bad, but a lot of items are expensive because tourism is geared to the upper class with plenty of disposable income. I heard Uruguay is a cheap deal, however.

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  22. Jason T. said on September 11, 2008 at 12:26 pm

    Nance, I thought you’d stopped reading Jimmy.

    But your Sinclair Lewis line made me snort coffee out of my nose.

    For the last seven years, we’ve all been all minor characters in a Sinclair Lewis novel; unfortunately, the novel was “It Can’t Happen Here.”

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  23. coozledad said on September 11, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Here’s a short promotional film from my favorite travel agency, Banquet of Life Tours:

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  24. MichaelG said on September 11, 2008 at 12:36 pm

    I felt kind of ugly Americanish having an old man schlep my fat ass around town on a rickshaw but it’s his livelihood, he didn’t seem to feel badly about it and we both had a good time. He kept wanting me to come back another day. I understand the Commie g’ment of RVN, in the brilliant fashion of g’ments everywhere, has banned rickshaws. I saw Hue, Da Nang and Phan Thiet during the war. I’d like to see Hue today. It was a mess then just after the Tet offensive. Nha Trang is a beautiful beach town not overly ruined by tourists.

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  25. Kirk said on September 11, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    My travel history is pretty Palineqsue; even she has me by a hemisphere (but I have been to Alaska). Several trips to Canada, both east and west coast, a few stops in the Caribbean and Bermuda. I’ve always thought I’d like to check out Iceland, because it sounds weird as hell.

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  26. beb said on September 11, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    I’ve never much liked to travel. Oh, sure it would be interesting to see Stonehenge or the Colisieum but once you’ve seen them, then what?

    Moreover I think travel is over-rated when it comes to deciding who our rulers should be (we used to call them Leaders but that was when law-breaking could actually send them to prison.)

    Case in point is that John McCain has been to Iraqi many times, yet somehow he still can’t tell Sunni from Shia, or is familiar with when the Anbar Awakening began (hint: it was before the Surge.) He also confuses taking a stroll in a Baghdad market with 100 soldiers and three or four helicophters with visiting an Indiana farmer’s market. Not even the huge flea market in Shipshiwana requires an armed escout. For all his traveling and for all his pride in his Foreign Policy expertise remains a singularly clueless and belligerent man.

    I don’t know that Abraham Lincoln ever traveled much. Did he ever go to California, or New Orleans? Atlanta? Boston? It didn’t stop him from being a great president.

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  27. Catherine said on September 11, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    The Silk Road. Yes, I know parts of it are quite dangerous. But it ties it all together for me: the way that economic ties bind us and separate us, the lovely and mysterious ways in which sharing materials helps us share cultures, the idea of long risky trips from which one might not return. Someday, I’m gonna do the whole. darn. thing.

    And, actually, Alaska. Never been, want to get there with my kids before it’s gone. I think I’ll hold off calling her provinicial until I’ve been to her state.

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  28. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 11, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    We just haven’t had a trip that wasn’t tied to a professional conference for one or the other of us since ’95: we need to join some international organizations that require attendance at their assembly. The Lovely Wife wants us to take the Boy to DisneyWorld before he gets much older, and we hope to pull that off next summer — will hitting all the nationality areas of EPCOT count? (joking)

    Beyond that horizon, i’ve fully heard and accepted Rick Steves’ oft-repeated dictum that foreign travel isn’t a chore or a lesson, but it is an experience that you can get in no other way, and that is one of the few things you will possess all your life. Just going to Canada a few times (Stratford, Toronto, Sudbury, the Soo) has been worth a bit of broadening, and ten days in Israel carried the handicap of 39 other clergy, but i got two days of free roaming and most evenings out and about that i’ll never forget (such as the Ramallah taxi out of Damascus Gate).

    I hope to do more overseas travel, but i wouldn’t underestimate just how much “differentness” you can get out of the continental 48, let alone those last two add on states, plus a territory or two. Weeks in New Mexico in Rio Arriba County, up along the Chama River on ancestral homesteads with charters from the King of Spain dated 1612, and weeks on the Navajo/Dineh Reservation can open up some new mental horizons along with the amazing sunrises in Canyon de Chelly.

    Roger Ebert should know better than to pitch a fit that helps the McCain-Palin ticket like that, but this is the same guy who wrote a rant in the Chicago Trib about Garrison Keillor, saying (paraphrase from memory) “no one goes to grandma’s house across the creek to eat a turkey pulled from an oven with a kerosene lamp on the sideboard.” Roger needed to get out more in his own state, not to mention country.

    MichaelG, you weren’t too awful mean, and i do move my lips sometimes while reading, so we’re all good. Many here are convinced someone did/wanted to/tried to ban books, and i find myself utterly unconvinced that it happened there, then. Call me “in the tank” and i’ll put on my Dukakis helmet and roll away, smiling and waving.

    New consensus building initiative — i will vote for any candidate who proposes binding legislation that no public building can be named for any elected official unless they’ve been demonstrably dead for 25 years or more (maybe with an exception for Congressional Medal of Honor winners, but those guys usually say no to naming buildings for them anyhow, so forget the exception).

    “The Robert C. Lebowski Center for Achievement” should not be something any living Lebowski in office gets to smile upon in the flesh, but only in the spirit. Can i get an “amen”?

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  29. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 11, 2008 at 1:21 pm

    Lincoln famously made it to New Orleans as a young man; in fact, historians widely believe he brought back [koff] a souvenir of his visit, which led to his wife’s death from paresis many decades later after his own assassination.

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  30. brian stouder said on September 11, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    I don’t know that Abraham Lincoln ever traveled much. Did he ever go to California, or New Orleans? Atlanta? Boston?

    As a young feller, he and another went down the Mississippi to New Orleans on two occasions,and the human cruelty of slavery made a distinct impression upon him.

    Other than that, he surely saw most of Illinois from his circuit-riding days as a prarie lawyer, plus other states (Ohio, for sure) when he campaigned for Whig candidates; and he travelled to New York City (passing through Fort Wayne) to give his Cooper Union address, and repeated that speech in Massachusets and other places.

    Mary says they spoke of travel after the end of their White House stint – he mentioned wanting to see the Holy Land; but that was not to be

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  31. brian stouder said on September 11, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    cool article:,linc090908.article

    September 9, 2008

    ROCKPORT, Ind. — A recreation of Abraham Lincoln’s 1828 flatboat trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers is getting under way. The flatboat trip will go from Rockport, Indiana, to New Orleans, and it includes stops in Cave in Rock, Elizabethtown, Cairo and Metropolis in Illinois.

    The trip is part of the nation’s two-year celebration of Lincoln’s life and legacy. Lincoln was born in Kentucky in 1809 and spent 14 years of his youth in Indiana. The 60-foot-long, 25-ton flatboat is scheduled to make a total of 21 stops on its journey before arriving in New Orleans on October 5th.

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  32. Rana said on September 11, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    Reeling off the list, the countries besides the United States I’ve been to are Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, Australia, Spain, and Japan. Among those places that I’d like to visit are Russia, the Himalayas, New Zealand, the UK, Iceland, Antarctica, Africa, and South America. (The rest of the world, basically!)

    For me what is so valuable about the experience of travel is the way it takes you out of your ordinary life, with everything about it that you take for granted, and shows you that your life is not the same thing as Life. You learn about foods that become your favorites, but which will never be found in the US. You fall in love with a street and a neighborhood thousands of miles away from where you were born. You stay in the homes of friends and realize that in some places the bathroom and the toilet are two different rooms. You sleep on a bed stuffed with horsehair under a tin roof and surrounded by cinder block walls, lit by a single dangling light bulb, and learn that this is the good life for some. You prize yourself on your literacy and fluency with words, and then find yourself unable to understand a saleswoman asking you about how to wrap your purchase, or wandering around a city unable to read even a single sign, let alone figure out what the words mean. You return to the States and realize that Americans speak at louder volume than Australians, that they smoke less than Spaniards, that they’re taller and more diverse than the Japanese, that they are fatter than Panamanians.

    In other words, you learn that you are not the center of the world – and, even better – you come to believe that this is a good thing, something to treasure.

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  33. moe99 said on September 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm

    Connie–Youth for Understanding. I was sent to Offenbach, Germany to stay with a family there the summer of 1969. Highlights included doing the family ironing for them, teaching their daughter better english because she was coming to the US the next fall to be an exchange student. Said daughter was into smoking and picking up American GIs ( I got into the former but not the latter). The mom had a nervous breakdown while I was there, spent a whole day locked in her room screaming. Didn’t dare say a word about what was going on until I got home.

    I did manage to make off with a fork w/ a swastika on it when the family went for vacation to a familienfarienheim in Innsbruck, Austria and took me. They were using nazi flatwear in the dining hall. Gave it to my brothers upon return so it’s now lost to the mists of time.

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  34. Dexter said on September 11, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    As I suspected when I read the thread topic, you folks are a well-travelled bunch. I pale by comparison, as I have only been to Canada a dozen times, Mexico once, Japan, and Vietnam.
    The most beautiful place I ever saw was Cape Breton Highlands in Nova Scotia. My trip to Vietnam was as a soldier, and my brother and his wife went there on a bicycling tour; I’ll hook up a link to their tour guide.
    I have always wanted to go to Europe, and planned trips twice which had to be cancelled due to dire circumstances regarding death and end-of-relationship consequences. I seethe with envy when I get postcards from a friend who’s whizzing around Rome or London or touring German castles .
    It ain’t over ’til it’s over. Someday,maybe.

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  35. Dexter said on September 11, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Here’s the link to the tour guide my brother and his wife used for their recent Vietnam cycling tour:

    Also, there is a free domain movie on fstv (Free Speech Television) featuring a 1998 bicycle tour by USA vets , from Hanoi to HCMC. Easy links , Google fstv.

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  36. Rana said on September 11, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    I’d add that even if you can’t travel much outside the US, living in different parts of the country can be almost as valuable. Despite us all being Americans, life in the cities versus the country or the suburbs, in Arizona versus Oregon or Virginia or Indiana, can vary considerably. You can get that a bit traveling, but living in a variety of regions and contexts really drives that home.

    With regard to Sarah Palin, I was surprised by her comments in her original introductory interviews to the effect that she was looking forward to learning about more of the country than Alaska. I found myself wondering how many people, in their first job interview, admit to knowing so little about the company or job for which they are applying.

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  37. Dorothy said on September 11, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    I have only been overseas once, and that was to Manchester, England after my daughter finished her semester abroad there. We flew over to Dublin and took the train to Galway – I’d give anything to go back to Ireland and see more. Being from a family of ten was not conducive to travel. But if I won the lottery tomorrow (or in 10 years), travel would be first on the list of things to do with the big bucks.

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  38. LAMary said on September 11, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    I went on longish trips to Europe after graduating from high school and college. The post college one lasted over a year because I met some fine people who let me live in their house in the Netherlands.
    I know that I will somehow help my sons take a trip somewhere outside of the US when they finish college. I learned a lot by being away, got some perspective, and I saw the Cologne Cathedral lit up at night, in the snow, when I got off the train.

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  39. Jen said on September 11, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    I would definitely like to go back to Europe again – I watch Rick Steve’s Europe on PBS and dream about traveling there – but right smack on top of my list is Israel. My mom and grandmother have both been there and talked about what an amazing experience it is, and a friend of mine spent a semester abroad studying there. I know it’s dangerous there (some days more than others), but there is so much that I want to see there. China is on my list after some people I know went there.

    I agree about traveling in the U.S., too, though. There are a lot of things I haven’t seen in my own country that I really feel like I need to visit – like, Washington D.C. for example, or San Francisco, or New Orleans. Alas, hopefully someday I will win the lottery or something. If I had the money, I would travel a LOT more than I do right now.

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  40. LAMary said on September 11, 2008 at 5:15 pm

    I think everyone should see the four corners area at least once. Go to the Grand Canyon, but also go to Grand Chaco Canyon, and Mesa Verde. Eat some green chile and Indian Fry bread. See monument valley. Head up the western slope of the Rockies and then head east in to South Park County, a high wide valley. Eat sourdogh pancakes in Montrose, Colorado and then see Royal Gorge with hundreds of canyon swifts looking like little fighter jets.

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  41. Catherine said on September 11, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    What Mary says, and add Canyon de Chelly, Santa Fe, Abiquiu and Taos. Go to the Crownpoint rug auction. Visit some trading posts, like Hubbell. Experience any of the pueblos (my favorite being Acoma, YMMV).

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  42. Bill said on September 11, 2008 at 6:05 pm

    On several of our first offshore trips, we would only make a reservation for the first night. Thereafter, we’d take the train or bus and seek out bed and breakfast accommodations or cheap hotels. We still talk about several nights in a rural German farmhouse where the family consisted of 4 generations. Grandma slept on a pallet in the kitchen. There was hay in the attached barn. The farmer would go up into the hills to tend his crops. This kind of travel meant schlepping our own bags. We can’t do that anymore, but we discovered Elderhostel ( They offer hundreds of worldwide trips that are relatively inexpensive and offer more opportunities for education than commercial tours. The best was Athens, Thessaloniki, the Greek isles by small ship, and Turkey. My advice: take out a loan and travel while you can still handle your own luggage. Best domestic trip: hiking from the south to the north rim of the Grand Canyon and back.

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  43. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 11, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    Israel — infinitely less dangerous than you think, and i wandered in some of the dangerousish spots. Both Palestinians and Israelis know that tourism is at the heart of the economy, and unless you’re planning a walking tour of the mosques of Gaza unaccompanied, you’re as safe as you are touring the Maritime Sailors Cathedral and the RenCenter and Greenfield Village and the Ambassador Bridge in the Detroit area. Walk too far in the wrong direction looking lost, hapless, and carrying salable goods, and something could happen, or a local is as likely in either place to trot up to you, ask where you’re looking for, and steer you right.

    A tour guide in Israel will help you keep from getting soaked in fees and bribes and outright extortion getting into the various sites; a medium priced guide will more than pay for themselves by the time you’re done, even with a gracious tip. Don’t know about Detroit . . .

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  44. Crabby said on September 11, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    While in the Army I went to Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Panama, Alaska.

    I work for a multi-national manufacturer with plants in about 25 countries and my employer has sent me on trips all over, China (Hong Kong, Beijing, & Tianjin), Malaysia, Phillipines, Germany, Czech Republic, Canada.

    Have gone on vacations to Mexico, BC & Alaska.

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  45. moe99 said on September 11, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I’m very sorry, but I interrupt our idylls abroad to bring you some humor:

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  46. coozledad said on September 11, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Just saw the dipshit on youtube. If anyone believes the dipshit can function as president, then they’re just fucking sad, Sorry. I can’t see any way around it. We don’t need any more fundy defectives in government. Churlie.

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  47. beb said on September 11, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    I have definitely been educated today. I apologize for my ignorance.

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  48. Deborah said on September 11, 2008 at 9:53 pm

    Next summer we are going to Finland to see the Alvar Aalto buildings. Our vacation travels are mostly to see the architectural sites… Italy, France, the UK, Spain. My husband’s been to Egypt and Brazil. We both lived in London for a short time, for work, both worked for the same company back then. I’ve traveled to Thailand, the Philipines and Portugal for work as well. My husband had a project in China, he traveled there a lot. We have taken our daughters on many of our trips. I was raised in a religious family. I must say honestly that it was when I started traveling that I lost my religion. I realized there are many points of view in the world, how could I possibly continue to beleive that the view I was raised to beleive was/is the end all be all answer to everything.

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  49. Amy W said on September 11, 2008 at 11:55 pm

    Have been to Canada several times – the east, including Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto then New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, plus spent about an hour in Mexico once, but didn’t make it to Europe until 2 1/2 years ago at the age of 45, when I convinced my husband that February 2006 was the perfect time for all of us to go to Rome. Well played. It was, actually – my daughter was in 8th grade, and could easily miss 10 days, the younger two were portable and cooperative (at 18 months and almost 4 years) and the exchange rate wasn’t too revolting.

    We couldn’t do it now, for both financial and scheduling reasons. I would love to be able to toss everyone on a plane and go off somewhere again, but it’s just impossible right now. Hey…SOMEONE IN FORT WAYNE, BUY MY HOUSE. ANYONE.

    I think, aside from the interest of a particular place, the great lesson that travel teaches you is adaptability and flexibility. And there is just no replacement for seeing that the way “we” do things – whether that “we” be Hoosiers or Southerners or Yankees or Americans – is not the only way.

    Give me money, where would I go? Literally anywhere. I can think of a few places I’m uninterested in, but not many, honestly. Right now, I’ve still got Italy on the brain (partly because my son is in Rome right now), so I think I’d go there – to Umbria then over to Venice – if you dumped the money in my lap.

    Glad to read the good stuff about Vietnam. The son who is in Rome will be heading to Saigon to teach English in a few weeks, assuming he, you know, gets a job there.

    (I would echo comments about the benefits of traveling in the US as well. Going to Arizona three years ago was a revelation to me. I’d love to go back there and hit that Four Corners area myself.)

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  50. moe99 said on September 12, 2008 at 12:02 am

    Okay, the former owner of my house is a graduate of Columbia and I get all the alumni association trip literature. Today this arrived:

    “Around the World by Private Jet”

    An exploration of the World’s Greatest Treasures and Legendary Places.

    Cusco & Machu Picchu * Easter Island * Samoa *
    Great Barrier Reef * Angkor Wat * Lhasa, Tibet *
    The Taj Mahal * Tanzania Safari Adventure * Luxor, The Pyramids & the Sphinx * Fez, Morocco

    February 2-25, 2009.

    You are advised deep into the brochure that “our programs are classifed in three categories: Value, Superior and Luxury,” and that this one is rated ‘Luxury’

    Care to guess what it costs? $56,950 w/ a single occupancy supplement of $8,545.

    Well, now there’s a tour, I could get behind.

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  51. Kim said on September 12, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Oh, totally unsurprising that so many of the NN.C folks have seen a nice chunk of the world. Very nice, reassuring and (no kidding) insightful.

    We were headed w/the family to Switzerland this spring, but circumstances sent us to the Grand Canyon. Hiked to the bottom and back up – highly recommended. Fewer than 1 percent do that, apparently, but it was a grand experience. I’ve been pretty much everywhere but Africa and Asia (desire but no money, no desire but opportunity declined) and love the experience of going out of country and being a stranger in a strange land, but there’s nothing quite like a back country hike in a national park in the good old U.S. of A.

    Been away from commenting due to insane work stuff, but still reading – ya’ll are a swell crew.

    Coozledad, a belated personal welcome. You kill me – in a good way. I watched the Sarah P. video and heard my Canadian colleague saying, quite unequivocally and about MY country, “If you elect her … you will get the vice president you deserve.”

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  52. Jolene said on September 12, 2008 at 1:24 am

    Those of you contemplating a trip to Vietnam (or wanting to be reminded of your time there) might want to read Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam. I’ll let you click though to the Amazon blurb to get a sense of it. It’s sometimes used in high school and college lit classes, but it’s perfectly good for grown-up readers. It’s been a while since I read it, but what’s stuck with me a sense of teemingness,* if there is such a thing. There’s one scene in which he describes crossing a bridge crowded with farm animals, bicycles, cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and people on foot. And over all this hangs the odor of fish sauce.

    *The population of Vietnam is 86,000,000. Its area is roughly comparable to the state of New Mexico. It must, indeed, be teeming w/ people, and given how many of them there are in that amount of space, I’d be surprised if there’s room for much else.

    P.S. Favorite travel books: Topic for another day?

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  53. Jolene said on September 12, 2008 at 1:27 am

    Kim, I don’t know how many more years of the leaders we deserve we can put up with. I’m hoping for the leader (I think) we need.

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  54. marcg said on September 12, 2008 at 4:04 am

    Travelling with children is no problem, as long as they are properly prepared for it. Sure they have their moments, but travelling with me has its moments, too (and I am not a child, despite what some might say).

    I would recommend anyone that wants to go to Europe for the first time, on a budget, go to Portugal. There are usually cheap flights to Lisbon, or you can get there from London. If you are afraid of different cultures, try Gothenburg, which is about as much like a U.S. college town as you are going to find in Europe.

    The main thing is to just GO!

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  55. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 12, 2008 at 7:11 am

    Ooooo . . . travel books: H.V. Morton was a lucky young journalist standing behind Howard Carter when he opened Tut’s tomb, and the curse didn’t touch him. He rode his stories in London dailies about Egyptology into a career writing the original “In Search Of . . .” or “A Traveler In . . .” books. Many were written in the 20’s and 30’s, but they wear well as snapshots of a time long gone while still immersing you in a different society to Morton, let alone to today.

    Lots of them are available cheap, used, and they are fun reading along side the more modern and ironic travel writers. There are a few entirely out of print that you can find posted on-line.

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  56. alex said on September 12, 2008 at 8:06 am

    Well, cooz, if Palin doesn’t even know what the Bush Doctrine is, it does kind of dispel the argument that the Republicans intend to give us four more years of Bush.

    Think maybe they’ll try to spin it that way?

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  57. brian stouder said on September 12, 2008 at 8:24 am

    it does kind of dispel the argument that the Republicans intend to give us four more years of Bush

    it strikes me that the cluelessness and the bluffing, coupled with her eager-beaver bluster (regarding going to war in Europe) captured ‘the Bush doctrine’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one) perfectly!

    edit: say, how did the Rockette interview go? Was it 9/11-related?

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  58. Kirk said on September 12, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Favorite travel book: The Innocents Abroad, by Mark Twain

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  59. MichaelG said on September 12, 2008 at 9:03 am

    And I’ve also been to Bakersfield and Fresno.

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  60. mark said on September 12, 2008 at 9:31 am

    Favorite contemporary travel book: A Cook’s Tour, by Anthony Bourdain.

    As to the “Bush Doctrine”, congratulations to Alex and Brian if they view it as something well-defined or accepted (in terms of meaning) by even a majority of those learned in the area, let alone universal acceptance (in terms of meaning). It’s not like asking a 10th grader to write a two paragraph essay on the Monroe Doctrine, where I suspect that the people who post here could more or less agree on the elements of a passing answer.

    Palin should have gone with her first instinct, which was to challenge the question. But she was hesitant.

    I don’t agree at all with Gibson’s assertion of what constitutes the “Bush Doctrine”. And I have never heard of the National Security Strategy Statement of September 2002 being referred to in a consensus way as the “Bush Doctrine”. If that is really what Gibson meant, then Palin’s initial “In what respect?” response was particularly (if unknowingly) apt, as the Statement comments on and reiterates a dozen or more national security policies.

    To me, the Bush Doctrine was whatever Bush needed to be to justify his post 9/11 actions. I wish Bush had a “doctrine” instead of a string of inconsistent actions.

    I liked Palin’s answer regardless. Preemptive action justified by substantial evidence of imminent danger. Hans Morgenthau would be proud.

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  61. brian stouder said on September 12, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Mark – We have stumbled into agreement, more or less..

    It gets no better than this, and on a Friday to boot!

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  62. alex said on September 12, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Really? For years the pundits and wonks and everybody were hammering away at the Bush Doctrine and its disregard for the Geneva Convention. Were you sleeping through all that, guys?

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  63. brian stouder said on September 12, 2008 at 10:02 am

    Were you sleeping through all that, guys?

    psssst- Alex, mark agrees that

    … the Bush Doctrine was whatever Bush needed to be to justify his post 9/11 actions.

    and that Palin represents a continuation of Bush’s capricious, undefined, unilateral “doctrine”….

    so that McCain = Bush’s 3rd term!

    Just so, I say

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  64. alex said on September 12, 2008 at 10:13 am

    No, I was sleeping through the post. Still haven’t gotten my coffee this A.M.

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  65. moe99 said on September 12, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I’ve always understood the Bush doctrine to mean pre-emptive strike, which was a significant 180 from our prior policy.

    Ok, here’s James Fallows on it. His use of the term ‘preventive’ is what I meant by my use of the term ‘pre-emptive’ so obviously I’m not cut out to be a VP candidate either. What I did know is that we changed the rules so that a barely credible (and in hindsight a lie) assertion about WMDs was enough to cost our country 7 years and 800 billion dollars and counting of war and its blowback. Where are we going to get the wherewithall to pay our creditors back on this? We certainly aren’t making any financial sacrifices for it in the present.

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  66. Jolene said on September 12, 2008 at 10:43 am

    Funny . . . I was just looking at Fallows too and was going to link his comments here. He’s the greatest, isn’t he, moe?

    Do look at what he has to say. It’s worthwhile for the analysis, not just to learn the distinction between pre-emptive and preventive as conceived by Bush.

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  67. Jeff Borden said on September 12, 2008 at 10:58 am

    Like Nancy, my favorite dream is to have so much money I could travel anywhere in the world anytime I wanted. I’ve visited several Caribbean islands, Columbia and Panama and most of the capitals of Western Europe -still missing Madrid and Lisbon. While I’ve enjoyed the sights, the intangibles have been the people we’ve met.

    Sitting at a table along the Spree River in Berlin when two strangers plopped down: a German woman and her Polish husband, who makes string instruments by hand and winters on Cyprus; the elderly couple in the 6th Arrondisement of Paris who spoke zero English (and we spoke guide book French), who nonetheless helped us find the nearest Metro station with pantomime; the writer in Prague who claimed to know Vaclav Havel but wanted to discuss Robert DeNiro movies.

    Mark Twain wrote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”

    It’s the above statement that rings so true and reflects so badly on the Bushes and Palins of the world. It’s the fact that they weren’t intrigued by the idea of submerging themselves in a foreign land and letting it wash over them. I almost feel sorry for them.

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  68. LAMary said on September 12, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I’ve never been to Fresno. Driven by it, but never stopped. Is it as fabulous as I’ve heard?

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  69. Gasman said on September 12, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Half my family is Canadian. It’s amazing how different perspectives can be merely by crossing a river or an imaginary line on the ground. They clear their throats politely when we say that the U.S. is the “greatest country in the world!”

    On one of my two trips to the Czech Republic, I took it as a great compliment when locals told me they thought that I was German, Austrian, Polish, Hungarian – anything but American. Not that I am ashamed of being American, but they didn’t perceive me to be the stereotypical loud, pushy, arrogant bully that far too many U.S. tourists are.

    For the curious, traveling abroad makes you aware that the universe actually does not revolve around the U.S.A. and there are masses of humanity that could give a fat rat’s ass about our obsessive navel gazing. If you eat the local cuisine and knock back local beers and/or distilled beverages with actual locals, you come away with a sense of common bonds, of their loves, dreams, and hopes which are remarkably similar to our own.

    Tim Cahill, a writer for Outside Magazine told the tale of two teams searching for a sunken WW II era Japanese sub in waters surrounding a remote Pacific island. A French team – it had to be Cousteau – blew in for a couple of weeks and conducted their search without success and left and apparently never really interacted with the locals. An American team came in afterward and the first thing that they did was to throw a big party and get hammered with the local fisherman and pearl divers. They got to talking and the Americans asked the locals if they knew about the sub. They not only knew, they showed them where it was! All it took was to treat the locals with the respect that they deserved.

    To the incurious, travel seems a waste of time. That reminds me of the illiterate Texan farmer who loudly proclaimed, “Readin’ don’t mean nothin’. I can’t read and it ain’t hurt me none.” That is logic you simply cannot argue with. You don’t know what you don’t know, you know? Especially if you ain’t willin’ to explore a bit.

    We’ve already had an incurious president who was intent on a policy of xenophobic jingoism. Anyone care to argue that that has been a good thing? We don’t need a VP nominee who is cut out of similarly threadbare cloth.

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  70. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on September 12, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    Gasman, all my favorite archaeology stories are like that. Sit on a porch, drink an iced tea, buy some beers down at the inn, get led to a site. Blow in as Mr. Academic Poohbah, get led ’round and ’round the local circuit of dry holes, give ’em something to laugh about for years at Legion fish frys.

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  71. Michael Einheuser said on September 13, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    You don’t need to win the lottery to have the life style and do the travel you describe. Parental responsibilities are a challange but read about the Four Hour Work Week.

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