Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Explore Locally

I have to give credit to my mother in law for leading the conversation that provoked this post. We were discussing what a traveler can do to keep the ' explorer' feeling alive. My MIL is currently her aging mother’s primary caregiver, so needless to say, she’s grounded for awhile.  While I am loath to admit it, my bank account says that I am too.
Travel cannot be replaced, I have to lead with that. There is simply no substitute for actually going someplace, no matter how much I’d like to sugar coat it, for the blog, for friends, for my editor who keeps pushing me to write about how you can travel without traveling, the fact remains the same. You can’t travel without traveling. So what can you do? What stirs the mind and excites the imagination in if not the same, at least similar ways?

If you can’t travel, read. Books, as I discovered as a youth, can take you anywhere.  Often they can explain places in more intimate detail than you as a traveler may ever experience. Some  generes are better than others. Historical fiction is a big winner for devling into a different culture. It doesn’t even need to be about a different place, putting your mind in a different time can shake up how you perceive yourself in your own time.  Travel naratives, as much as the genre is decried by literary snobs, has some excellent examples of books that can take you palces. One of my favorite examples is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, a book that is in many ways a travel narrative but is much more literary than the usual story (and fascinating to boot).

I adore food, I'm one perfect truffle away from being a incurable foodie. In fact food may be the most singular memorable thing about travel. The white rose dumplings in Hoi An, the kebabs at Kareem’s in Old Delhi, vanilla slices in Tatura, the best pina coladas  ever in St. Martin/St. Martaan.
After our first trip in 2010 I dove into Julia Child’s repoitor of recipies. I have been to France but I felt I got to know more about the culture through the food I was cooking. When I get back from a trip to India, there is always a hoel in my stomach where street food should be. Madhur Jaffery is the Indian equivalent to Julia Child’s her recipies are easy to follow and produce *almost* authentic results.  I have learned how to make chaat, lassi, gulab jammun, saag, butter chicken, and dalh makani in order to satisfy our insacable lust for the food of the Sub Continent.
When I’m on the road, I always make the point of taking a cooking class in the local culture. This is something you can do at home. Check your local cooking store, they often have classes in preparing unqiue cultural dishes froma round the world. If you live in the Amherst area, here’s a link. If you don’t, well that’s what Google is for.


Music is my savior. If there is one thing I love as much as travel it's music. Sound transports you, moves you, grooves you. It can transform a bad mood into a good mood, a dull scene into a party. It can be anything and I live for the sound of something new. 'Composing' playlists on the road is a time honored 17 hour bus ride activity and I have found that music, like smell can take me back to a place or a moment like nothing ( but scent that is) can.

It's hard to find music from other countries unless you have satalite radio or a fondess for digging up links. But music even within a genre can be very different from place to -place. Pys-trace is India is a different species to Melbournes scene or the stuff coming out of Brooklyn. Brisbane hip-hop vs West Coats style. French gypsy music and British acid house. Music is one of the best, most reliable ways to understand a culture, connect with fellow travelers and explore what's out there.

I stay in touch with international music through a variety of ways, apps like TuneIn Radio help. Triple J, Australia's biggest station has an app that lets you stream their shows, however the time difference makes it a little less useful than it could be. 

Ultimately, all these pastimes are about staying connected to the world and exposing yourself to knew information. It is this desire for personal growth and exploration that drives the traveler in all of us.

1 comment:

  1. I love your blog. I can really relate! because I read, cook and listen to different songs, reading could really boost my imagination. cooking makes me feel better when people love the food that i cooked.
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