Travel Essays

Though I describe my career as "writing travel guides to fictitious places," it is not in lieu of an interest in the real world. Far from it. Nothing interests me more than travel. It's what I read about, dream about, and spend much of my spare time planning for. And yes, I even write about it. It is my hope, scratch that, my expectation, that our so-called "big trip" will yield a collection of stories, if not a novel. That is my one true wish. In the meantime, and over recent years, I've typed a few travel essays that I've collected on this page. I hope you enjoy them.

A Korean Mouthful

We quickly consolidated clothes into a single suitcase and piled into the Kim family minivan, a Kia Carnival, for the drive to their home on the edge of Gangjin. It's a modest three bedroom, one bath, single-story brick home at the end of a quiet lane surrounded by rice paddies. The living area consisted of three desks along the wall, a small table in the center, an exercise bicycle, and a state-of-the-art kimchi refrigerator by LG. The massive burgundy-colored chest was a technological marvel and clearly the wife's prized possession. The other item in the living area, the one that really made us feel special, was a simple calendar hanging on the wall. The 15th of April, that day we were there with them in their home, was circled repeatedly. Someone had even drawn little stars next to it.

 The Rightness of Japan
As I made my way by train from Kansai airport to my hotel in Osaka’s business-focused Kita district, north of the rivers that bisect it, I felt myself slipping deeper and deeper into a cloak of invisibility. I was primed for this most different of cultures, but at a blue-eyed and shoeless 6-feet in height, I expected to stick out a bit. And I’m sure I did – complete days went by in Osaka without me seeing another westerner -- only the Japanese are too polite to ever let you notice. Eye contact, a friendly konichiwa, a pair of pursed lips ever-so-slightly turned up into a smile: these are the things I sought to capture on the streets of Osaka, and later Kyoto, but they proved as elusive as a geisha in Gion.

In Search of the Pure Life
The sun was just beginning to light the cloud-free sky as I rolled out of bed. As anxious as I've been in a long time, I quickly strapped on my hiking boots, shouldered my pack (camera on the ready) and stepped outside. Jose was standing a short distance from my room, waiting to lead me to the eating area. In yet another showing of unsurpassed kindness, his wife woke before five o'clock to make sure I had a hearty breakfast for my hike. There, on the table in the dining area, was a single place setting, several plates of fresh-cut fruit, a carafe of coffee, another of orange juice, and a third of papaya juice. Before I could even express my thanks, a plate of eggs, toast, and gallo pinto was placed before me. Sometimes muchas gracias just doesn't seem adequate.

Whose Honeymoon is it Anyway?
And we did make it to the wondrous Kalalau Beach after 8 hours of nonstop hiking. And I literally shed a tear that it was over. I’ve run 50 kilometers in a snowstorm; I’ve raced a marathon in Death Valley; and I’ve ridden my mountain bike over 80 miles in the Carolina summer, and none of it was as grueling as these 11 miles of trail. And yes, we did make it to the end of the trail in a single day. And we did enjoy the magnificent view and the sensation of bathing under a towering tropical waterfall. And knowing that nobody could pay their way to this moment and place was a large part of the reward. But now we had to get back and the only option was to dress our blistered feet, shoulder our loads, and hike out come morning. Or so we thought...