Monday, October 8, 2012

an unwired traveler

I saw mention recently of the venerable Royal Geographical Society and was reminded that it always seemed more romantic than our own National Geographic Society.  Then my thought turned to the Explorers Club in New York City, which always seemed to have more the whiff of the bush jacket and pith helmet to it, so I went to their website to see what game was there afoot and it seemed rather ernest and institutional, though it may be simply that the age of bush jackets and pith helmets is behind us and there are no more white spaces on the map  --  as there yet were on the school room maps of my childhood  --  and exploration must change with the times.  And anyway, it’s a dicey thing to go Elsewhere in hope of finding Elsewhen.

As I read my travel journals it sometimes seems that my own travels are as dated as the ones I read about in the old travel books, even if I might have come most of my miles by plane, as once out of the airport the modern world began to distance itself from me as I willingly distanced myself from it.  

Just those few years ago there was neither Internet nor Global Positioning nor iPhone.  There were paper maps of various scale and helpfulness and guidebooks that always seemed to be written for some other kind of traveler and what I remembered of what I had read and any notes I might have brought with me.  I could ask people around me, to the extent I could understand them, and try to reach people whose name I had been given and who I was assured would be delighted to hear from me.  And try to negotiate the local telephone on which, for some preposterous charge, I could call home, but almost never did and preferred to send letters that might take weeks to reach their recipient and hope some weeks or months into the trip to find a letter waiting for me at the Poste Restante or American Express.  I took photographs, but most of the time would had no idea what I had until I got home and could have them developed.  Credit cards were beginning to be accepted in the cities, but we still relied mainly on the cash and travelers checks we brought with us and wore money belts and sometimes had hundred-dollar bills sewn into our clothing in case things took an untoward turn.


  1. The world has changed greatly over the past decade or so. It was nearly ten years ago and I was in the mountains of Honduras and was astonished to find an internet cafe! Now they seem to be commonplace.

  2. I agree. So many changes to affect the traveler, but also, the Greece you visited back then is not the Greece of today--a little closer on remote islands, but far, far away from yesterday in major tourist areas.

  3. VM: Alas, it is so. Even the port of Piraeus, so delightfully shoddy when I was there and in some parts still looking as in did in "Never on Sunday", now looks in online pictures all modern, and published prices everywhere run five and ten times what I paid. But I am a time traveler -- the "Elsewhen" of my title -- and do not pretend to describe what a traveler might find today.