She’s pretty obvious. Striped shirt. Green pants. A stance that says, “Hey! Pay attention to me!”
This classic scene of monks outside a temple in Paro, Bhutan, is interrupted by the presence of a small, sassy little girl. Captured by Bangalore-based Flickr user Arun Bhat, the image is a powerful reminder of the modernity that is slowly seeping into Bhutan, a geopolitically isolated Central Asian nation surrounded by Nepal, Bangladesh and India.
As a poor student in the 60’s, I was lucky to pull together the money for a trip to France, but didn’t have a single sou left to buy souvenirs. What I did instead was to carefully scour my change and collect one French coin of every denomination minted that year.
After I got home and got a little money together, I found a jeweler who made my centimes and francs into a beautiful charm bracelet. It represents the time and place of a life-changing trip, and decades later, I still wear my all-time favorite souvenir.
Loose quarters, dimes, and nickels can be used to pay for toll road travel, might come in handy if your cell phone battery dies and you need to make an emergency call, or if you need a late-night cup of coffee from a gas station to keep you going just one more hour down the road.
You’ll also be glad you brought along loose change if you need to make an unscheduled stop at a carwash or Laundromat — like when you spill that cup of coffee in your lap.
Haunting, thought provoking and gorgeous are some of the adjectives that come to mind when looking through the photographs of Ed Alior at CNNTravel. Alior has retraced the route that William Least Heat-Moon made famous when he traveled along the back roads of the U.S. and wrote about it in his book “Blue Highways.” Alior’s photographs attest to how things can change over the years and what has remained the same.
Along with presenting ten of Alior’s lush photographs of back-road scenery, CNN’s feature, “Back-road adventurer on America’s ‘Blue Highways'” includes an interview with Heat-Moon.
In the interview, Heat-Moon talks about how he has seen the U.S. back-roads’ landscape change over the years, both for the good and the bad. There’s a tone of melancholy for what has changed–most noticeably the Mom and Pop establishments that have given way to hard times or the competition of chain restaurants.
Heat-Moon has also noticed the sprawl of cities into suburbia and on out into rural areas. As he puts it, a “‘quarter of a century ago, towns that still had limits — discernible edges — now can look like they’re getting swallowed by an inoperable cancer. . .'”
The repercussions, he feels, have altered the genuineness of place and that we haven’t done much as a country to see what all this sprawl has cost us. On the other hand, he does point out positive change. It’s change that is heart-warming.
As Heat-Moon traveled in the last ten years, he’s noticed that there’s more racial harmony and the racial slurs he used to hear pepper conversations are not being said.
Read the rest of the interview here. I was particularly interested in his take on how travel has been altered. One thing Heat-Moon has found, if you’re looking for a cheap place to stay off the beaten path these days, lots of luck.
Thanks to Jaunted for pointing me in the direction of this read.
Last night on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno’s musical guest was James Taylor. Before Taylor played, Leno told the story about why he picked Taylor to do the honors of Leno’s last show farewell. He said that as he was moving to California to give himself a shot at big time show business, he played James Taylor’s song, “Sweet Baby James.” The line “With ten miles behind me and ten thousand more to go” seemed apropos. [song after the jump]
Leno’s nostalgic look at a song significant to his life as he traveled from his past to his future by traveling to a new place, reminded me of my own traveling from my past to my future song.
When a friend and I traveled across the U.S. for three months–mostly by bus, after our two-years in the Peace Corps the song “America” by Simon and Garfunkel captured our emotional state the most. I remember looking out the bus window watching the scenery roll by while listening to that song with a shared Walkman and two pairs of headphones.
Neither of us had any idea what was ahead for us, but we were looking. Three months of interacting with the physical America helped with our direction. I ended up in Albuquerque, New Mexico and she headed to Washington, D.C. Since then, we’ve both traveled elsewhere.
Of all the experiences I’ve had in life, nothing was more strong than that move back to the U.S. from The Gambia, looking for a place to land where I would feel comfortable and thrive. Simon and Garfunkel were fitting companions on that journey.
By the looks of the hug James Taylor gave Jay Leno after he sang, Taylor’s song helped Leno find his way.
Have any songs helped you find your way as you’ve traveled to a new destination? Metaphorically or physically, it’s all part of the the traveler’s path. For more songs that have inspired us at Gadling, here’s our series Sounds of Travel. One of Annie’s songs was “America” as well.
And, here’s James Taylor singing “Sweet Baby James” in 1970. He’s traveled a bit himself since then.