I have been nomadic for most of the past three years, and some days I don’t know where I will be next month. Since I don’t have a home, I am forced to decide where to land on a continuing basis. My friend Emily asked me at lunch the other day how I decide where to go. And I guess I make decisions the same way most travelers do — except more often.
Bucket List Entry
Maybe you have a bucket list. Mine includes saving a life and holding my grandchild (not soon). When it comes to travel, I don’t really have a bucket list because I don’t like confining myself to what I wrote on a piece of paper last year — I want to go almost everywhere. Still, I always have a short list, which is how I decided to ride horses in Mongolia and visit the antiquities in Egypt.
My short list once included attending an Elephant Festival in India so I went to a small town in Kerala with my niece, Melissa (now called “Ari’s Mom”). We had an amazing time but we agreed that the elephants were not happy. So I went to an elephant rescue farm in Thailand where the young elephants helped us cook rice balls for the seniors.
Currently on my short list: Hiking the Camino de Santiago in Spain, hearing music along the Crooked Road in Virgina, joining the holies and the crazies at the Kumbh Mela Festival in India. Please get in touch if you want to go to Kumbh Mela next year.
“Satisficing” is a bureaucratic term meaning “I will be happy enough with a choice that is good but not great.” This process of decision-making is related to “eeny meeny miny mo,” which has a fascinating history https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2015/04/16/losing-count/ .
Satisficing is really most useful after you have applied some general criteria to narrow down the field of 195 countries and 50 states. (If you haven’t narrowed the field, you might like the “dart throw” process of decision-making which came in handy when I was a judge. JUST KIDDING)
Satisficing is very useful for the B rides. For example, I went to Cyprus because I needed a cheap way to get to Jordan from Israel but not Tel Aviv. I liked Cyprus so much, I stayed for two weeks and learned the island’s fascinating history, saw the whirling dervishes and climbed around world class archaeological sites.
I went to Nicaragua because it was an easy stop on the way home to San Francisco from Peru and seemed better than Honduras, Panama or Guatemala. Although it wasn’t on my list of places to visit, I loved it. I rode horses on the beach, went kayaking and stood over the burning caldera of an active volcano.
My Scottish family members were not especially frugal. My mother peeled potatoes with a knife instead of a peeler because it wasted part of the potato. This was, for her, a low-impact expression of defiance after growing up poor. Nevertheless, the stereotype is handy in describing how I chose to travel to Greece (frequent flyer ticket during high season) and Japan (cheapest way back to San Francisco from Cambodia). Greece turned out to be life-changing — I ended my career so I could work with refugees and write a book about it. Japan was a thousand times better than I expected.
I just bought a $200 nonstop flight from Oakland to Paris, which, in light of my destination, is probably going to be penny-wise and pound-foolish. Or euro-foolish.
I’ll Have Company!
Sometimes a friend or family member wants to join me somewhere. Carol met me in Costa Rica and Dani wanted to hang out in Colombia. Belle and I went on an Amazon river boat in Peru. I always love traveling with friends and family. It’s like taking a vacation.
A Place Where I Might Learn Something that Might Be Important
A lot of times I try to choose destinations where I can learn something new or do something that is personally important.
I went to Guanajuato, Mexico to learn a little Spanish and I learned a little Spanish.
I went to Louisiana to find material for a novel and found material for a novel.
I went to North Korea to learn a little about the people who live in strangest country on earth and learned that they are really just like the rest of us.
Yes, I went to North Korea.