The Wide Wide World

"All travel is circular... the grand journey is simply the inspired man's way to return home."

The Luckies

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On the 17th day of our trip around the world, Conor came within inches of being swept from the deck of the GAP II into the Pacific Ocean.

I remember it vividly: The day was bright and clear as we made our way from North Seymour Island to Chinese Hat Island in the Galapagos. The captain had the boat near top speed – seven knots – as we covered the open ocean between the two islands.

The boat was headed into the wind and the prevailing current, and there was a light chop on the water. We were five hundred miles off the coast of Ecuador and five miles from the nearest point of land.

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Carnival People

Near Panama City, Florida

In 1959 Walt Disney began looking for land for a park to supplement Disneyland, which had opened in Anaheim, California in 1955. Disney’s vision had outgrown the existing park, and he did not like the businesses that had sprung up on adjacent properties.

Company research found that only 2% of Disneyland guests came from east of the Mississippi – where 75% of the U.S. population lived – so the search for an east coast site was on.

According to legend, Disney originally wanted to build his new park near the beach, a natural magnet for tourists. Disney’s search for a large tract of undeveloped beachfront led him to the Florida Panhandle.

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The Bridge

Eight years before the Good Friday Agreement and well before the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger, my friend Rich and I rode a thousand miles around Ireland.

At the time we traveled, “The Troubles” were considered one of the world’s intractable conflicts, and from the east coast of the United States, Northern Ireland appeared to be a dangerous war zone.

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All Edinburgh’s A Stage

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2010

A young girl, about 25, approached us as we stood in line for our first show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “I have to warn you,” she said, “this show is highly offensive.” As the father of two American teenagers who watch a lot of cable TV I thought: How bad can it be?

“The program says the show is rated 14+,” I said.

“Yea, we rated it before we saw it,” the young girl said. “Once the festival organizers actually saw the show, they changed the rating to 18+. Anyway you should know that the show is highly offensive. And I do mean highly offensive.”

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Vishnu, Take the Wheel

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“My name is Vishnu, like the god.  But I am not a god, sir.  I am your driver.”  And a good driver he was, effortlessly navigating the chaos of India’s roads.

The thing about driving in India is that you never know what might come at you next. It could be an auto rickshaw, a handcart laden with bricks or a dozen people on broken-down bicycles. Or it could be something potentially more dangerous:  An elephant, a camel, a cow, a rhesus monkey.

You just never know.

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Land of the Long White Cloud

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No one doubts that the Maori were the original inhabitants of New Zealand. Beyond that statement of fact, little is known.

Where did the Maori come from? When did they arrive? Did they come in one group or several waves? No one really knows. The strongest archaeological evidence indicates the Maori arrived around 1200 AD.

But why let facts get in the way of a good story?

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In the Holy Land

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Martha asked:  “Have you heard of Armageddon?  This plain, this mountain to our right is Megiddio.  It’s where the battle is supposed to be fought.”

She mentioned the final showdown between God and Satan as casually as one might mention a Red Sox — Yankees weekend series.  But then, Martha’s not a New Testament kind of girl.

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Love Last Longer

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It was beginning to make sense.

The day before, the housekeeper at our hotel had button-holed Dani.  In limited English and extensive pantomime, the housekeeper had said she was not feeling well. The various symptoms she acted out led Dani to believe she had a bad cold.

Later, over lunch, Dani said: “She was trying to ask me something, but I couldn’t figure out what she was trying to say.”

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The Opposite of Travel

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In the year since we returned from our RTW adventure, we purposely stayed close to home. But this past March, as the kids’ spring break approached, we looked for an opportunity to take a vacation as opposed to travel.

Our choice? The polar opposite of a ten-month round the world trip:  A four-day Carnival Cruise.

Part Vegas, part Branson and all Mall of America, Carnival is build around the concept of “The Fun Ships,” relentlessly focused on giving Middle America a taste of the high life.

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Greenland: What’s In A Name?

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Around 985 AD, Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for three years for committing murder. He sailed west, where he stumbled upon a habitable piece of coast connected to an unending expanse of ice.

But now Erik faced a challenge: How to populate his new land? In a move that would have impressed Don Draper, Erik named this new place “Greenland” because, he said, “Many people will come if it has a pleasant name.

When Erik’s punishment had passed he returned to Iceland to recruit settlers.  According to the Icelandic Sagas, he convinced 25 ships of former and future countrymen to follow him to Greenland. Only 14 made it to the new land.

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