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Nairobi Nights. March 20, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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“Nairobi Nights,” a blog post from a trip to Kenya, popped up on our friend Ben’s e-mail this morning. As always, seeing something like this raises a single question in my mind: How can these people afford to travel? It’s one thing if you’re Michael Palin or Tony Bourdain and some television producer is paying you to travel around the globe. But what if you’re Tony Palin, average working schmo, , and no one has heard of, much less bankrolled, you?

There are plenty of places Silence Dogood and I would love to travel: Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Scottish Highlands, Tuscany, Normandy, Provence, the British Lake Country and York, a rail trip across Canada and across the U.S. We would love to go to Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, the Caribbean, Egypt, and Morocco. We would love to see the chateaus of the Loire and wander through beautiful Wales. We have long dreamed of a leisurely trip to Key West, a Christmas in Williamsburg, a visit (the first since childhood) to Mount Vernon. We long to go to the Southwest, to Arizona and New Mexico, and to Colorado, Wyoming and the Dakotas, and to Vermont and New Hampshire and Prince Edward Isle. And no wish list is complete without a trip to Hawai’i.

But we never go to any of these places, for the simple reason that we can’t afford to. Every cent we make goes into paying our bills, into simply living (and living very simply at that). We have no debt, our house and cars are paid off, we have no children or parents to support. So how, I always wonder, are people who are struggling under some or all of these financial burdens able to travel when we aren’t? If by some miracle we suddenly won the lottery, before we could even contemplate travel, we’d have to get the house painted, the studio re-roofed, the deck renovated, the trees pruned, the greenhouse upgraded. It would be kind of nice to have some clothes that weren’t ten-plu-years old, too. So how are other people managing these trips abroad, or even at home?

A “working vacation” would obviously be one answer, where you get a job in the country you’re visiting for six months or a year so your expenses are covered by your salary. But we have our beloved dog, two cats, four birds, fish, and plants, and could never leave them for such an extended length of time. (Not to mention that our skills, freelance writing and editing, probably aren’t at the top of other countries’ lists of must-have talents. Unlike, say, a doctor or engineer, but then, they could afford vacations without working for them.)

I understand that in parts of the world such as Europe, traveling between countries is taken for granted, since countries are no bigger than one or two of our states so it’s easy to get around and vacation time is generous. But there are plenty of others whose countries are isolated or vast who still manage to travel as a matter of course. And most of them aren’t movie stars or magnates. The advantages of seeing other countries and other cultures cannot be overstated; it is “broadening” in the best sense of that word. I can’t believe that anyone could return from a trip abroad unchanged, untouched.

So how do ordinary people manage this without going into debt? If you have a clue, please let our friend Ben know. Silence is waiting by the door with bags packed!

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