Below is an excerpt from A Vagagond World, a global travel book describing an around-the-world journey that touched on over twenty countries. This global travel book conveys the poignance, import, and changing dynamics of a long-term solo circumnavigation of the globe.
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On its face, this journey could not be taken again. Countries have ceased to exist and borders have closed. The route, in many ways, can be considered a history of those areas visited. The years since have seen the end of the Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the universal adoption of the Internet, the rise of China, and the explosive and international reach of simmering conflicts. Yet, just as in our daily lives, from behind the barriers of our routines, and despite the yearnings of politicians and the twenty-four-hour news cycle, events do not define our world. The unusual timing of these travels, from 1988 through 1990, was a happy accident that witnessed a world facing a new tide. In this historical moment we more clearly see the salient and universal lessons of the global journey.
This trip does not find its roots in geography, geopolitics, or technology. Places do not substitute for the act of travel itself and the journey cannot be detached from its primary character. It is in the personal realm that we recognize travel as having its greatest significance. It can forever change how we view ourselves and our world. When we travel alone and untethered for months and years at a time, we are set adrift, without anchor to our past and the familiar, to encounter the unknown in the everyday and to distill life's metaphors. Open and unencumbered exploration, acceptance of the world on its own terms, perseverance in the face of it, and belief in oneself and the future, become not only the stock and trade of the traveler, but, more importantly, tools for the art of living.
Through short essays and vignettes recounting the rite of passage of a young American maturing to global citizen as he encounters the dimension and variety of our earth, I hope to convey to the reader the poignance, import, and changing dynamic of travel. While this is a work of creative non-fiction, where names have been changed and, in a small number of instances, minor characters combined and events resequenced, this accounting remains true to life and captures the breadth and import of this journey. The pearls lie in travel's particulars - the negotiating of fares and places to sleep, the sharing of life with those in the adjacent seat, the contemplation of the countryside, and the peering in from the outside.
For the global traveler, just as the context of reality remains in flux, country after country, region upon region, so does the perception of one's life and priorities. In time, borders blur and distinctions fade. For all the people on earth, they all could be us. In seeing the world, the outward experience turns inward and we cannot help but see ourselves. Travel becomes the guidepost that sets a course for the inner destinations. Once we buy the ticket, our life is forever transformed.
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