What Are We Doing Here?

Giraffe 
For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to
go. I travel for travel’s sake.

 The
great affair is to move.
– ROBERT
LOUIS STEVENSON

Precisely.

A long time ago, when there were still independent
bookstores, I found some little tour books about Soviet cities – Leningrad,
Moscow, Kiev – published by the Novosti Press in Moscow. I still have them
today.

When I see the odd travel guide to an offbeat destination
like Yemen, say, or Gabon, I buy it without even opening the front cover. Far
away places are just plain alluring, and the more exotic the better.

But how to find out about them? Lots of travel books detail
the author’s vast, grimly accumulated knowledge of this or that historical
oddity, and sometimes it’s only tenuously connected to the traveling they’re
actually doing. Lengthy explanations of 14th century funerary rites
in Assam, or the surprising mating rituals of arboreal reptiles can grow
quickly tedious – and I’m pretty sure it’s not just me.

And on the internet, let’s face it: Nobody cares what Phil
and Jenny paid for every hotel room in every town in Andalusia (converted to
dollars, to the penny), and nobody wants to read the loving list of every dish
at every meal Mr. and Mrs. Kincaid enjoyed on this, their seventh trip to Kerala.

I want to know what I’d find if I hopped aboard a flight
somewhere. What’s it like right now?

Since my first meek little trip off the continent, to London
in 1984, I’ve poked around odd parts of the planet, mostly with my beautiful wife Mirja, an intrepid Finn I met in Helsinki.

Jeffrey Tayler says that to stay young, we need novelty in
regular doses. Within the constraints of our day jobs, Mirja and I have seen
little snips of places that previously existed only in books, from Greenland to
Madagascar to Papua New Guinea, to Albania just after it threw off
totalitarianism.

The stuff here on Common Sense and Whiskey may not always be steeped in history or detail. Sometimes it's more about the trip than the destination, and sometimes the other way 'round. I hope some of the stories make you feel how it felt to be there. In any case, I’m
pretty sure everything here is sufficiently unencumbered by ponderous history
and unnecessary tram schedules.

*****

Read some stories.

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