Thanksgiving Advent, Day Nineteen: Travel Opportunities

I sometimes avoid bringing this up, because it can seem like bragging when talking to people who haven’t been able, for one reason or another, to travel as much as I have. But I really am thankful for the amazing opportunities I’ve had to go other places — particularly foreign countries.

Where have I been? The British Virgin Islands. Costa Rica. Northern England (South Shields), southern England (Winchester), Israel. Wales and Ireland. Ireland again. Japan, with a second trip nine years later. London, four times. Italy, Greece, and Turkey. India.

It’s quite a lot for a thirty-one-year-old, especially when you figure in how many of those places I went before finishing college (hint: that list ends with the first Japan trip). I sometimes forget that, since various factors have combined to make my family in general kind of ridiculously well-traveled; I’m hoping kniedzw‘s work sends him to Poland next year and I get to tag along, because it’s rare for me to beat my parents or my brother to a country. (Er, none of you guys have been to Poland yet, right? Watch me be wrong about that.) They’ve been to Russia and Malaysia and Hong Kong and Laos and Mongolia and Switzerland and China and Germany and I won’t bore you with the rest of the list. But I’ve been to a lot of places, too.

It’s done so much for my mind, I can’t even put it into words. Not only seeing beautiful and famous landmarks, though that’s often been a cool perk; just seeing other places, and all the differences that go with it. It makes the inside of your skull a bigger place. Not always in a comfortable way; it’s tiring, the constant mental effort that goes with being surrounded by a foreign language, and with changing your behavior to fit your environment. There’s a reason that kniedzw and I, when considering honeymoon possibilities, opted for a Mediterranean cruise; it allowed us to get a taste of some places we were dying to see, while still relaxing and putting out a minimum of effort. I’d love to go to Macchu Picchu someday, or visit China, but the physical work of one and mental work of the other were not what I wanted on my honeymoon.

I have joked — sort of — that what I need to do is decide where I want to travel to, and then think up books to write that would justify the trip as a research expense. It’s only sort of a joke because I really, really want to go on traveling. I don’t have a lot of extravagances in my lifestyle; I don’t drink alcohol or coffee, I don’t smoke, I don’t drive a fancy car or buy much in the way of fancy clothes. I’d rather save that money, and spend it going somewhere cool. The fact that I’ve been able to do so on so many occasions is a great joy to me.

0 Responses to “Thanksgiving Advent, Day Nineteen: Travel Opportunities”

  1. desperance

    Northern England (South Shields)


    I have joked — sort of — that what I need to do is decide where I want to travel to, and then think up books to write that would justify the trip as a research expense.

    But this really is what I do, except that mostly I go there first and assume that I will find something to write about once I’m there. It’s not hard; foreign places trigger the creative impulse, I find. And then, yup. It’s all deductible.

    • Marie Brennan

      I told you I’ve been there! During the London panel at FOGcon. (That’s when I told you, not when I was there. <g>) I was sixteen and it was my first solo trip out of the country; I tramped around Wallsend and Housesteads and Vindolanda, day-tripped up to Edinburgh, and nearly got stranded in Bamburgh when the last scheduled bus of the day turned out to not to exist anymore. Good times, good times . . . but yeah, I was digging at the Arbeia site in South Shields. I wonder if there’s still an excavation there?

      Man, I need an archaeology icon.

      • desperance

        Yup. Even as I blinked, I was thinking “Haven’t we had that conversation…?” But my memory is monstrous unreliable, so I thought I’d blink anyway.

        And if you’d been there, it had to be Arbeia. Which, yup, still has active excavating.

        • Marie Brennan

          That’s cool to know. We used to sit around after dinner — the young’uns of the project: me, the other sixteen-year-old, and the twenty-one-year-old — and discuss the site. The layer we were excavating had burned, and although we’d been told that enemy attack had “gone out of style” as an explanation for such things, we thought it made sense; one of the finds dug out of that layer was a full shirt of chain-mail, which was freaking valuable. If the barracks had been demolished on purpose, wouldn’t they have cleared that out first? And if it was an accidental fire, wouldn’t they have poked through the wreckage afterward for it? All amateur speculation, of course, but it kept us entertained . . . .

  2. Anonymous

    You forgot for yourself Mexico (age 3 or 4) and Canada (not much older.). For Dad and I Greenland, Iceland, South Afriica, Zambia and a host of European countries. But you’re right, foreign travel is something to be thankful for. As far as I know, none of us have been to Poland.

    • Marie Brennan

      I have zero memory of either the Mexico or Canada trips, and to the best of my knowledge neither of them lasted overnight. I didn’t count them on purpose. 🙂

      When you guys are out here, we should sit down and fill in one of those maps that shows all the countries you’ve traveled to. I’m curious how much of the world we’ve covered, among the six of us.

  3. findabair

    Oh, I am so glad to see that there are Americans like yourself out there, who travel and know something about other countries. I am often very scared by how many Americans appear to know so little about the world outside their own continent; the US is so important to the rest of the world, but seems so inward-looking in many ways.

    The first Americans I got to know properly were my housemates at a language class in Ireland. I was shocked to hear that they had to get passports before their trip to Ireland – passports, over here, is just something you have, period. And these people were quite broadminded, surprisingly so in fact for being extremely religious and conservative Georgians.

    In one way I really do understand why many Americans don’t go outside their own country, since the US is so huge and contains such a great variety of places. And you seem to be surprisingly mobile within your own country; much more so than we are here. When I attended a course/conference at the University of Tucson a few years ago, I don’t think I met one native Tucsonian. One of the people I talked to, likened herself and her fellow students to tumbleweed, drifting from place to place.

    So all in all there are advantages to being from a tiny European country; we’re forced to look outside our own borders. Case in point – language: when native English speakers compliment me on my English, I tell them it has been an absolute necessity for me to learn English properly. It all started with me wanting to read more fantasy and sf – the selection of translated genre fiction was abysmal when I grew up. That, at least, has improved a lot now, thankfully 🙂

    • Marie Brennan

      Yeah, I think a lot of it is a matter of size. Not just that you can go so many places within the country, but that you have to go so far to get anywhere outside. I remember the first time I went to Britain; when I went to the travel agency to buy a train ticket for Edinburgh, there were posters advertising weekend trips to Norway for some (to my eye) absurdly low price. Norway, to me, was Very Far Off and Very Expensive to Get To. Even Canada and Mexico can be Very Far Off and Very Expensive to Get To, depending on where in the country you are. And there’s no point in obtaining a passport until the first time you plan an international trip.

      (Actually, it’s a larger-scale version of what happens regionally in the U.S. Depending on where you live in New England, it’s entirely reasonable to nip over to another state for dinner. But I grew up in a part of Texas where the nearest neighboring state is about two hours’ drive away, and most of them are much, much further than that.)

      We’re definitely mobile within our own country, though. Yeah, you get people who have lived in the same town their whole lives, never been more than a hundred miles away — but it’s not uncommon to get people like me, who grew up in one state, went to college in another, and have lived in two more since then.

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