For the love of travel

For the love of travel

A friend said to me recently “I’ve been to Seattle and I’ve been to the fish market. I don’t really need to go back.” He added that he can look at a picture of a place and say, “That looks like such and such place that I’ve already been to so I don’t need to go there.

I want to go back to Seattle just to get a dozen oysters served on a paper plate at the fish market. And go to the Pink Door for dinner. I want to go back to Penang just to go to Long Beach for dinner. Picture a large seating area surrounded by food stalls with vendors from around the world. Every corner of the world is represented. Waitresses serve drinks but you order from whatever vendor you fancy and pay them directly. I sampled more than my share of food and it was an Indian place that I came to love the most.

I want to go back to Copenhagen just to go back to the Street Food market — and to order a pitcher of beer and fall asleep in a lounge chair by the river. I think I’d also like to go back to that cheese shop I visited and talk some more with the owner about the good and bad of Denmark being a part of the EU.

I haven’t loved every place I’ve traveled. I don’t feel like I need to go back to Utila. But that memory of walking through a bar and having an American girl grab me by my arm and say, “Are you from California? I think I’m supposed to meet you.” — and then my wife and I hanging out at her house the next day and talking with her and her husband while our kids played — all with a Caribbean backdrop — it’s a priceless memory. I don’t need to go back to Phuket. I tell people all the time when they ask my for advice on Thailand that with limited time I would not do both Koh Samui and Phuket. They’re too similar, and of the two I prefer Koh Samui. But I can’t imagine not having seen Phuket. I had to see it. I had to know for myself. Which is why most people I share this advice with ignore it and end up visiting both places.

When I was riding my bike from Stockholm to Copenhagen I was on a ferry talking with some cyclists who were on a day ride from Stockholm. Why had I come to Sweden they asked. “Because I’ve never been here,” was my reply. I wanted to see Sweden with my own eyes.

It’s not just the way it looks or the way the food tastes. It’s the people, the conversations, the culture. It’s one thing to read about China. It’s another thing to share a meal with a Chinese person in Beijing and talk with him about his country.

I don’t know if I’ll ever get back to Granada, Nicaragua. I’d love to. I have great memories of a day at a nearby volcanic lake with crystal clear water and a dinner at this restaurant — El Zaguan was the name. Start with a shot of Tequilla and then go onto sangrias. Appetizers, entrees, dessert. Live music, great service. We were there with our one year old son and he played in a little playhouse they had at the restaurant.

When we were in Granada I had a serious problem with my feet. A terrible rash and swelling that was getting worse and worse. We finally called a doctor. And this Harvard Medical School educated doctor did a house call to our hotel carrying his old school doctor’s bag. I had gotten into some local poisonous plant on a nearby island while hiking through the jungle in sandals.

That aforementioned island with the ill-advised hike in sandals? Big Corn Island. The most westerly island in the Caribbean. It was described to me as what the more famous Caribbean islands were like 50 years ago. I had to go. We spent almost three weeks there. Nobody goes to Corn Island for three weeks. It’s the kind of place people from Managua will go for a weekend away. It takes 45 minutes to drive around the island by golf cart.

I’ll probably never go back to Corn Island. I’d love to, but the world is too big and there are too many new places calling me. Some places you love. They really resonate with you. That’s how I feel about Guatemala. We first went to Guatemala in 2012 and returned in 2015. I want to go back again. But when? I want to ride my bike around Italy and pop around the Caribbean for a month with my kids. I want to take my wife to Cuba and go dancing. I want to go on an African Safari and see the Holy Land.

I’ve been to 49 States. The one state I have left to visit, Alaska, is a state I have reason to travel to on business. It would be good to go to Alaska from a business perspective. I could go to Alaska on my company’s dime. It’s almost crazy to me that I have not gone but I just haven’t been able to squeeze the trip in. Time is the great scarcity in life.

I want to go back to Hawaii. I’ve only ever been to Kauai and the thought of returning to Poipu Beach and the Napali Coast is mesmerizing. I don’t think I’ll like Honolulu as much — the commercialization and congestion. But I have to go. I have to see it.

Confession: I feel like I’ve never really been to Costa Rica. I feel like I’ve been to the Four Seasons in Costa Rica. I feel like I need to go back for a more authentic experience, but I also really want to go to Belize because Belize is the last country I have left to visit in Central America. So which comes first, Costa Rica or Belize? And if I feel like I’ve never really been to Costa Rica does it even matter?

I’m writing this on a flight to Spokane, Washington. I’ve never been to Spokane. After Spokane I head to Coeur d’Alene. I’m planning on going on a run tomorrow morning along Lake Coeur d’Alene. I can’t tell you how much this thrills me. I look out my window and look down on Crater Lake on my flight from Reno to Portland. I want to go back to Crater Lake, and stay at Lake of the Woods on the way. I read my inflight magazine. I want to go back to Portland and drink good coffee and good beer and spend an afternoon reading at Powell’s Books and go into that pizza place across the street from Powell’s when I’ve had too much beer. And I remember a good Vietnamese restaurant in Portland. And now that I think of it there’s a good street food market in Portland. There’s a lot of good food in Portland. And so many hipster mustaches. It fits the stereotype so strongly that it’s hilarious. Yes, I need to go back to Portland.

My professional vocation has provided me the amazing opportunity to see so many nooks and crannies of the United States. Places I would have never visited on my own. Lake Winnipesaukee is a beautiful spot in New Hampshire. It’s the kind of place you go for the weekend if you live in Boston. Mitt Romney has a home there. It’s a long way, though, from where I live in California. But my work took me to Lake Winnipesaukee and a bunch of pie shops in Vermont and I added on a few days on the Appalachian Trail to enter Maine, my 48th state.

Don’t get me started on how much I want to go back to New York City. But before I go back to the Big Apple for the third time I want to get to Paris and Istanbul and Rio for the first time.

I didn’t remember loving London but a few months ago I found a real treasure. When I first met my wife she was preparing to move to Ireland for a year. I was 23 years old when I went abroad for the first time (unless you count those few hours in Canada when I was in college. And there’s another cool story). I landed in Cork and she picked me up at the airport and we went to a pub where everyone was drinking Budweiser and Sweet Home Alabama was playing on the sound system.

But you’ll never believe what I found recently. I had totally forgotten this, but on that trip I bought a postcard every day and at the end of each day I wrote what we did that day and mailed it back to myself. I found all these postcards recently, including the ones from our three days in London at the end of the trip. I wrote that London always be “our city.” Now I am dying to go back to London.

I’m just getting started here, and if you’re a traveler you know what I am talking about. One story leads to another. I want to buy spices in Mumbai and go out on the town in Cartagena. Along the way there’s sure to be some really terrible days. I don’t care. I’ll go anywhere. No matter where, just for the ride.

BTW, here’s a story about a terrible travel day. Travel Sucks.

Hi, I’m Clark. I’ve done a bit of traveling but it’s a darn big world. I’ve spent months at a time traveling in Southeast Asia, Central America, and across the United States with my family. And there’s been a few trips to a few other corners around the world. You can follow us on Facebook and check out my book unWorking on Amazon.

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