The News About Castro (Missed Opportunities)

“Well-informed sources in Miami announced the imminent fall of Fidel Castro, it was only a matter of hours.” — Eduardo Galeano, Soccer in Sun and Shadows

Before there was a Plan B, there was another plan. No, not Plan A. Call it Plan B-1.

Plan A was Argentina, but that fell through. I hurriedly researched various locations: Iceland and Mexico were chief among the contenders. But one country was at the top of my list: Cuba.

For more than five decades, Americans have been banned from traveling to Cuba. The U.S. has maintained an economic embargo established during the Cold War soon after Fidel Castro took power. Only a small number of people who had obtained U.S. government permission could travel there.

Continue reading →

Bad Things Happen

Gulf of Thailand, Cambodia
October 2010

“I wouldn’t go in there without shoes,” a middle-aged American woman tells me, as I follow a group into the jungle on a remote, idyllic island. “There are termites. They’ll bite you.” We keep going anyway, barefoot. “You’ll be sorry!” she calls out.

Bad things tend to happen to the people who will complain about them the most.

Health

Chiapas, Mexico
November 2016

There are things I am duty-bound to accomplish when I travel. Try the local food. Take pictures to show my friends and family. Get hopelessly lost and discover something new. Buy my friend Karimé a shot glass.

One thing I can’t seem to accomplish is keep myself healthy. I caught bad colds in the Czech Republic, Egypt, and Peru. There were sinus problems in Uruguay. And the past two years, I’ve come home to horrible sinus infections that have led me to try immunotherapy.

Continue reading →

Rain

Copenhagen
August 2015

Rounding the corner from Nyhavn, the inevitable happens. The skies open suddenly and the rain falls. I open my little umbrella and continue on as some tourists duck for cover under shop awnings, doorways, and overhangs. The summer shower is over quickly, and the sun begins to peer out from dim clouds.

As rain goes, it was a trifle. It was way worse in Bergen, Norway. It rains a lot in Scandinavia, so one has to be prepared.

We all want blue skies and sunshine on our vacations. But some days it’s going to rain.

Continue reading →

Can You Take My Photo?

“Can you take my picture?” It’s one of the obligations of traveling alone. Couples, groups, and other solo travelers tend to ask me to take their pictures.

It’s not always when I’m traveling either. I used to live in Washington, D.C., where I worked across the street from the White House. Every spring and summer, families on vacation would descend upon the city. During my lunch hours, people frequently asked me to take their pictures. Sometimes it happens here in Florida when I’m at the beach.

Continue reading →

Blending In

Some things are inescapable. Some people stick out like a sore thumb. If you are tall, blonde, and fair-skinned in a country of small, dark-haired, brown-skinned people, you become a curiosity. And if you are American, or European, or an Asian tourist far from home, you will attract attention.

Some people go looking for it. They wear their home team’s sweatshirt, baggy shorts, revealing tank tops, dress the kids in their school jacket. Those are the people who make the pickpockets smile. The merchants in the market make a note to raise their opening price ten percent — no, make it fifteen.

Continue reading →

The Importance of Getting Lost

That last afternoon in Alexandria, Egypt, wandering back to town from the catacombs of Kom Ash-Shuqqafa, smiling children just getting out of school for the day approached me in the narrow alleys, on the streets, one by one. “Hello, mister. What is your name?” they said in tentative, hopeful English. “Hello, mister. Where are you from?” School kids in Egypt are always smiling, always friendly, always eager to practice their English. They say hello and smile, and are happy if you say hello to them. These children followed and took turns greeting me, until they’d all had their chance to speak to me and the time had come to part ways.

Continue reading →