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Traveling in the East/West World

Glenn:    This month we've asked our East/West panel to discuss travel.
What's good about it, what's bad about it, and what's the point, anyway?
Thanks everyone for joining. Let's start with the basics.
What is your definition of travel?

Dave - A French Male who lives in America and is married to a Singaporean woman:
Going away from your home and routine for more than a day.

Desmond - a Singaporean Male, who lives and works in America:    
Putting a significant amount of distance between myself and my place of abode.

SMA - an American male, who has lived in Europe and Japan:    
This could be broken down into the physical (packing, getting on a transport vehicle, getting out in another place, exploring it, returning, unpacking) and the experiential (mentally preparing, wondering and creating expectations, meeting, absorbing, questing, remembering). The former is mechanical, and, especially for someone like me who goes to so many other places, it is almost automatic.
The latter, of course, is the more interesting.
Since much of my travel is business-related, a portion barely contains the experiential component - it is merely an extension of what I normally do, but done in another place. I try (but am not always successful - either because of time pressure or just being too tired) to learn about the place and develop an impression and an understanding.
Or at least find some good restaurants.

Angie - an American woman who has lived in Japan and Singapore:
Anywhere I go that is outside of my usual surroundings. My senses will probably be aroused and stimulated, for better or worse. It usually takes at least a little planning to get there, also.

Jennifer - an American woman of Hong Kong descent.
My definition of traveling can best be described as being outside of what is 'everyday' life.

Dan - a Japanese-American male, who was born in Hawaii, and has lived on the Mainland, and in Japan:
Travel is when the 3XX (the product I support) breaks in a country far, far away. Ha, ha, ha.
No, seriously, travel is an opportunity to break away from the day to day monotony and to learn about yourself and others through interaction with others.

Tsuji - a Japanese male who has lived in America, and works for a Korean company:
Going somewhere for fun. And you may think it's far away.

Glenn:   And how often do you travel?

Desmond:    Hmmm... Depends on escalations (when I get sent for business)  :-) ..... about 10 times a year

Jennifer:    It's rare, these days.

Dave:    Not as much as I would like. I only get two weeks of vacation a year. What an uncivilized country America is...

SMA:     It varies. As often as I can, both for business and for me. Twenty to forty times per year.
(Editors Note: My Hero!)

Angie:    Every six or seven weeks.

Dan:    80% of the time or more.
(Editor's Note: Wow, I have a new hero!)

Tsuji:    Twice a year.

Glenn:   People say, "You're so lucky that you get to travel", and of course, we are lucky.
What is it that you like most about travel?

Dave:    The unexpected and the non-touristic places.

Desmond:    Work... shuah right.... it's seeing new places, new cultures, food.

SMA:     Change. New. Eating. Learning. Destroying and reinforcing stereotypes (mine and those of others).

Angie:    All the new stimulation. My eyes love anything different. I'm shown alternative ways of living, doing, being. It gives me the opportunity to learn some things about myself.
And all the different foods! My stomach is usually in heaven. Usually...

Tsuji:    I like to see things I've never see. Maybe I like to see a lot girls there. And I can sleep with clean sheets.

Jennifer:    The exposure to new and different people, locations, foods, etc. It enables you to gain better perspective and
insight into new & different things.

Dan:    Travel expands one's outlook on life and what life is about. We all go around once in this world and the more angles we can find and the more we can learn to put life in perspective; the better.
Travel makes the world and it's people seem a lot more similar than the perspective we have from books or TV.

Glenn:   But nothing's perfect, is it? What do you like least about travel?

Jennifer:     Feeling rushed; it "throws my schedule off".

Dave:    The plane and the crowded touristic places.

Desmond:    Work... *grin* .... naw... traveling time.. getting sick from breathing some of those 'healthy' gray air.

SMA:     Uncomfortable airplane seats. Bad airline food. Screaming kids. The sixteenth screening of The River Wild. Waking up and not knowing where I am. Rental cars.

Angie:    Three things.
1) Trying to second guess what to pack so that I have most essentials, yet still pack light.
2) Knowing I have a limited time to take in and enjoy as much as I can.
3) Leaving a destination I love, and not knowing if I'll ever make it back (especially before the place changes too much).

Tsuji:    Without my girlfriend, long travel makes me horny. You know what I'm saying?

Dan:    Airline smoking sections.

Glenn:   Some say the journey IS the destination, but most of you mention some part of the journey as what you like least.
So, I guess how you travel is really important. How do you travel?
(For example: business or pleasure, on tours or private, roughing it or in luxury, solo or with a companion, etc.)

SMA:     Yes, all of the above. Also: in a hurry and relaxed, arranged and exploratory.

Angie:    For pure pleasure, and mostly done privately. There is the occasional special circumstance I join a small tour company.
I'll do the snuggle-in-the-sleeping-bag-under-the-stars thing or the 5-star hotel thing. It all depends on the place and circumstance. I can do the 2 extremes and love each one equally.
Almost always I travel with my husband.

Dave:    Mainly private, nowadays, with my wife. I have no need for any particular comfort.

Tsuji:    It has to be private for me to call it travel. The place I stay must be the best hotel, especially for long stays.
For short stays, I don't care. Normally, I'm always with some friends. I don't like being alone on travels.

Desmond:    For business and pleasure. Private, solo trips, mostly.

Jennifer:    I travel primarily with friends and family.

Dan:    I usually travel for business... then I take pleasure in absorbing the sights and sounds and enjoying the day to day living in the country that I'm in. I just wish I could speak more languages.

Glenn:   Some people travel because they are required to, some because they love to, some because they need to.
How about you? Is travel important to you? Do you like it?

Dave:    Of course, but that's because it is not work related!

Jennifer:    Overall, yes.

Desmond:    At this point in time, yes, and yes.

SMA:     When I don't do enough of it, I get itchy feet.

Angie:    Of course, of course.

Tsuji:    I love it, but I don't want to travel in Asia. It stinks.

Dan:    I enjoy travel because it's an exciting escape from the monotony of day to day life. It's important in the sense that I learn and experience so much during my travels.

Glenn:   Time to be a tour guide: What's your favorite destination and why?

Dan:    It's a toss up between Edinburgh, Scotland and Tokyo, Japan.
Edinburgh my favorite because it's such a beautiful cozy city with a rich history and friendly people.
Japan, on the other hand, has no rolling grassy hills but is the city of ultimate convenience. Any country that has a 7-11 on every corner is ok with me. ; )

Dave:    Wherever I have never been before and I have something to discover.

Angie:    My favorite destination is where I happen to be traveling to that I'm really looking forward to visiting. In hindsight, my favorite destinations are Bali and Australia. Australia is so large and diverse and special, I couldn't possibly pick my favorite area there.

Tsuji:    That would be Texas, because of very good BBQ's, best looking girls, and TEXMEX!

Desmond:    Countries with great history and culture...

SMA     First of all, someplace to which I've never been. (A friend introduced us to the idea of visiting as many countries as your age in years. I am 8 countries behind!)
My favorite city is probably Venice, Italy. Besides the Italian style and food, the city is gem of architecture and art. (One of my favorite artists lives near Venice.) It is possible to get away from the tourist infestations, or to get into the thick of it. It is a great place for people watching, and I have learned how to make every pigeon in Piazza San Marco take off at once.
My favorite country is probably Japan - so much detail and paradox.
Or maybe Indonesia (Bali), where the food is good and hot.

Glenn:   It's interesting how many of you make it sound like your favorite destination is your next one.
Maybe that would be a good working definition of a 'Traveler'.
It would also imply that we travel to learn new lessons. So, what's the most important lesson you've learned through travel? 

Dave:    Beauty is all over the world. Not only in the landscape, but also in the people.

Desmond:    Pepto-Bismol... never leave home without it.

SMA:     Don't apply Western logic. Not even in the West.
Or maybe that you can always find anything cheaper somewhere else. Or more expensive.

Angie:    That my home country is full of more problems and more wonderful things than I previously realized.

Tsuji:    Don't trust anyone. In this world a lot of Nitz are waiting to steal something.

Dan:    Always expect to be amazed at the beauty you'll find, if you are adept to notice.
Every country has it's endearing qualities if you only open up your mind to notice them.
If you travel with pre-conceived notions of how things are, you'll probably only notice a fraction of the whole.
Oh yeah, and don't drink the water.

Glenn:   Yeah, bottled water is tangible proof that people are meant to travel.
And traveling always entails one thing we haven't discussed: Packing.
My main reason for travel is to build memories, so if I don't have my Pilot and my camera with me, I might as well not travel.
What do you never travel without?

Angie:    Earplugs.

SMA:    A neck pillow. Ground habanero peppers. A readable book.

Tsuji:    My watch. When I need money, I can sell it!

Desmond:    My Pepto-Bismol!

Dan:    Clean underwear, a toothbrush, toothpaste and hair products... y'know, the necessities. Ha, ha, ha. Oh yeah, and enough money to last through multiple 3XX breakdowns.

Dave:    My camera and 10 rolls of film

Glenn:   So we've packed, we've traveled, and we're at our destination. Now, we look for a memorable event.
If we just wanted fun, we could have it for less expense and trouble than the average travel experience. But travel, we hope, wakes us up and shows us something new. Something we'll remember and build on when we're back in our everyday world.
What's your best travel memory?

Dan:    Going surfing in Japan and realizing why Japanese people like Hawaiian beaches so much better and how fashion is tied to surfing. It seemed like it was better to look good than to be good.
(Editor's question: Isn't it?)

Dave:    I drove with my parents from San Jose through Utah and Arizona and back.

Angie:    I have four standouts in my mind:
1) A trip to Mt. Lassen, California. It was my first 'awe-struck-discovery-moment' of how totally perfect nature can be.
2) Waking up in a bus at dawn, stepping out into the Baja desert and finding myself surrounded by 20 ft tall saguaro cactus.
3) Riding along a narrow road in Redwood National Park at 2:00am with the jeep top open; so otherworldly!
4) Communing among the Wallabies and Grey Kangaroos (with joeys in tow) on Kangaroo Island, in Australia.

Desmond:    A weekend of relaxation floating on the Dead Sea

Tsuji:    When I went skiing in Colorado. It was the best weather I've ever seen. Very nice snow, and sunny day every day. I've been skiing since I was 15, but never in a place with such good weather and good snow. And the place we stayed at had a nice fire place. I drank a good Bloody Mary in front of it. That was the Best!

SMA:     Arriving in Venice at 5:30 in the morning on a late Spring mid-week day. The city was not yet up, and we found a little café where we had sandwiches and big cappuccinos over a period of three hours. It was a local place off the tourist track, so the locals came in, gossiped, talked to us as though we were the good kind of tourists, and joked with anyone in the place.
Or, maybe laying on a beach in the Maldives, listening to Vivaldi on one of the very first portable CD players, musing over the most impressive dive I had done to date.
Or, maybe a Christmas duck dinner in Lovina Beach, North Bali.
Or, maybe drinking a pint of bitter in the town of Avebury, England, a village which is surrounded by a ring of Stonehenge-like stones.
Or, maybe seeing Christo's Umbrellas in California and the Wrapped Reichstag in Berlin.
Or, maybe inhaling laughing gas with my siblings, cousins, and significant others at a family reunion in New Orleans.
Or, maybe the Fiery Foods Show in Albuquerque - after flying for a full day from Tokyo.
Or, maybe the marbled tombs in Petra, Jordan.
Or, maybe having a #6 ski fall (lots of snow in the air, lost skis, and blood) in Schladming, Austria. It was quite funny.
Or, maybe trekking in Nepal - all except for the Yak tea and Rakshi.

Glenn:   Michael Palin says that the only bad trips are the ones you don't remember.
There's some truth to that statement, though clearly he's never tried to relax in Ensenada, Mexico during spring break.
What would be your worst travel memory?

SMA:     Yak tea and Rakshi.

Dave:    I've never had a bad travel. Just a few unexpected surprises, but I made the best of it.

Desmond:    Those 2 days in Korea coughing my head off and having that terrible fever.

Angie:    Tossing my cookies. There are four totally separate trips this relates to. The worst scores high due to the embarrassment factor. It was on the airport train coming home to Osaka from Kansai airport. There was simply nowhere to go with it......

Tsuji:    At a nude bar in LA, there were only butt-ugly girls dancing. That was just a waste of money.

Dan:    Getting pickpocketed in Rome.
Ironically, it happened in front of the Roman Forum, one of the birthplaces of "Western Civilization."
It just illustrated how far we've come, or how far we've stayed the same, as "civilized" people in modern societies.

Glenn:   Okay, time to wrap all your travel experience into one profound thought. Share a travel tip with us.
Remember, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" is already taken.
My advice is: Don't accept unsolicited help from strangers (except in Japan). If you need help, pick someone to help you.
The odds of you finding a criminal are slim. The odds of a criminal finding you are better than you think....

Dave:    Don't plan too much. "Adventure" and freedom is what it's all about.

Desmond:    Did I mention Pepto-Bismol?

SMA:     Relax. There is always another plane.

Angie:    Keep expectations to a minimum, so the mind is wide open.

Dan:    If it looks like raw fish, smells like raw fish, and tastes like raw fish...
get the Pepto Bismol ready because what you just ate may not have been fish. ; )

Glenn:   Are you recommending Pepto-Bismol as a sushi dip? With or without wasabi?
While we think about that, I want to thank everyone for joining our discussion this month.
Why don't we close by finding out where everyone's next destination will be?

Dave:    France.

Desmond:    haha.... currently? Singapore.

Jennifer:    I would like to see Italy.

SMA:     Pleasanton, CA. In a couple of hours.
Oh, bigger scale? Somewhere in the Caribbean. I haven't been there yet.

Angie:    Wherever I'm going next. Honolulu, to be exact.

Dan:    For business, I'll go where they send me, but I'm hoping to go to Mainland China. I'd like to live there for a year or more to learn the culture, practice the language, and for sightseeing.

Glenn:    Thanks again, and we'll see you next month, when our topic will be 'Love and Romance in the East/West World'.