We Can Do Better As Americans

“Politics is an act of faith you have to show some kind of confidence in the intellectual and moral capacity of the public.” — George McGovern

Every morning, I wake up to a firestorm of doubt as to the direction of my country’s future. How can an alleged child molester be endorsed as a policy maker on the national scale in this country? Does a physically violated woman have any reasonable recourse to fight sexual harassment here? Why does Twitter allow our President to continue his personal attacks on others on a daily basis? Is fake news the law of the land? Why do conspiracy theories distort truth so that facts cannot be fully trusted? Is our country’s security being well served when our intelligence agencies become Presidential targets of blame?

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Amidst this crisis of values, I do recognize that there are a several signs of hope. I am encouraged by the election of Democrat Doug Jones in a traditionally red state electorate as a mandate that our country has begun to heal from this confused malaise of values. I also believe that the emerging, open discussion of sexual harassment today bodes well for a fair resolution to this issue. As the Russian collusion investigation methodically continues, I finally take heart that justice will prevail without political obstruction/interference.

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What actions will elevate my own principles to foster respect for “e pluribus unum”? I want to speak proudly of my country when I travel overseas. I desire to stand with all Americans at sporting events to salute our flag. I yearn to march in protest against acts of prejudice that sever our commitment to human dignity of any race, color, or creed. I will vote only for those who honor the spirit of my Constitutional rights and freedoms. I will stay readily informed about timely issues in my spare time with foremost respect for fact.

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I cannot imagine that our country can wait three more years until new elections resume in our current state of ethical decay. An angry tweet, self-centered, photo op, or divisive campaign rally will not solve America’s crisis of human decency. If we are living in a reality show Presidency , understand that this TV show can be cancelled due to low ratings. Realize also that when this moment occurs, others will mightily fall. We can do better as Americans.

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Lessons Of A Worldly Walker

FD2A8232-1BB5-4E9A-B7EB-8762DBB43928Let’s add up the numbers on our latest adventure abroad. In twenty three, consecutive days of independent travel to Paris, Dublin, London, and Rome, my I-Phone pedometer recorded that my wife and I had walked over 80 miles total distance. That’s around 3.5 miles or over 10,000 steps in daily exertion. Clearly, we continue to prefer traversing major sights on foot in our European travels. Yet, on several occasions, during this challenging journey, our will to “hit the streets” regularly had been severely tested.

1. The Complexity Of Stuff

The essentials of conducting city walks for us in densely populated areas in Europe requires considerable planning. Since heavy backpacks no longer suit us, we economized on what we included in in our smaller day packs for both space and weight purposes. Our most important essentials for daily storage would as a result include bottles of water, backup chargers, emergency snacks, and lightweight umbrellas/jackets. Bulky maps and travel guides had now been rendered obsolete as we downloaded information about desired places to visit beforehand using apps like “Triposo”and “Maps + Me.” Wearing well cushioned walking shoes seemed equally important as well.

2. Europe Often Designs Vertically

European infrastructure designs present a formidable pedestrian challenge. When traveling by “Metro”in the Chatelet stop in Paris or the Victoria Station “Tube” hub in London, for example, we typically traversed challenging distances into the depths of the underground to reach our designated point of departure. While escalators did exist at a selected stations, we often faced a stampede of busy commuter foot traffic along these pathways in reaching our departure points. Additionally, navigation around sights like “The Spanish Steps”in Rome or “Sacre Couer” in Paris, dictated that we ascend steeply by foot to obtain the panoramic views that we desired. Surprisingly, public access to restrooms in museums, restaurants airports and transit stations required several floors of laborious stairway travel as well.

3. Time Travel Matters

Tourists in major European cities today can easily be enticed to take snappy, tour bus excursions to view famous destinations. Yet our insight reveals that much of the old continent today remains best accessible on foot along cobblestone lined streets, narrow, pedestrian alleyways, and statue lined open plazas. For instance, a casual tour of the ancient Forum walls in Rome or a morning wander through the exquisite gardens of Versailles Palace outside Paris provided invaluable insights of his historical interest . On our pub tour of Dublin, as well, patient meandering through the Temple Bar corridor or a lazy stroll along the river Liffey induced a proper feel of “Old Town” medieval Dublin.

4.Security Clearance Matters

On our city tours, Europe seemed to be on “high alert” for the threat of terrorism. The crowd control measures along physical barriers near the Roman Colosseum and the Twickenham Football stadium near London, for instance, made us more vigilant to check our surroundings as we walked. By thinking beforehand about where/when to walk safely, anticipated trouble could thus be largely avoided.

Walk today and then trod some more tomorrow has thus demonstrated our independent spirit as we savor its physical challenge in our latest European travels. We could now return on our reposition cruise back home to Fort Lauderdale with a more restful frame of mind. A warm whirlpool, a comfy hammock or an easy chair on deck sounded enticing for sure. We had certainly earned these luxuries.

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A Test Of Diversity Will Fulfilled

We must think differently, look at things in a different way. Peace requires a world of new concepts, new definitions.”
— Yitzhak Rabin

Cruise ship journeys have always been surrounded by acts of global kindness in my life. On our recent journey from Europe across the Atlantic Ocean, Ruth and I started our day routinely with the words “washy, washy”from a friendly hostess from Eastern Europe or perhaps Southeast Asia, reminding us to sanitize our hands before breakfast. Often, these brief moments with our amiable host began with an exchange of pleasant smiles followed by an informal conversation of more personal interest.

When we felt like lounging in private at the aqua spa, a dutiful pool man from India would arrange our comfy lounge chairs as needed as we bowed in Namaste prayer mode to thank him for his thoughtful efforts.Throughout the day, our hard working, cabin steward from the Philippines tuned in to our daily routine and knew exactly when and how to make our room most comfortable. As a consequence, we spent considerable time listening to her keen observations to make our cruise more enjoyable. On the last eve of the cruise we thus felt it appropriate to gift her at cruise end with one of my wife’s homemade bracelets.

While some might expect we are pampered elitists who expect to pay top dollar prices for a luxury cruise experience, that has never been the case. We affordably live in a Fort Lauderdale condominium as early retirees from teaching where casual cruising at affordable prices lies literally close by our doorstep. So our global-friendly experiences as middle class voyagers contradicts so much politically negative talk in our country today about building walls, limiting immigration, and fomenting distrust of foreigners.

Quite frankly, as white supremacy surrounding the Trump Presidency breeds xenophobic distrust today, we make extra efforts to proactively study the differences of other cultures in any place we travel. Consequently, we make behavioral adjustments to bridge language/cultural gaps as needed in unfamiliar places. For example, our experience teaching English Second Language students has taught us that in cases where a foreigner might have difficulty to understanding us, several actions can be used for fostering clearer communication: (1) speak slowly, (2) allow sufficient time to respond, (3) write down your verbal response, (4) respect body space distance and (5) observe behavioral taboos in the local custom.

Wherever we go in any form of transportation , a diligent attempt is thus made by us to tear down walls of difference and find common ground for peaceful engagement. As we enhance our cultural awareness in travel with yoga and meditation practice at home, our judgmental egos can be trained to remain silent. We thus realize that such inner peace fuels the essence of our traveling mind.

Better To Cruise With Mermaids

Cruise Observation – Why waste time looking for sharks in the blue waters ahead when a beautiful mermaid make a more enjoyable contemplation?

For many, finding a way to cope with the media spun lies, threats, and hypocrisy of the Trump Presidency can be very challenging. For this sensitive blogger, however, the stage seemed to be set on our recent tour of European transcontinental cruise back home to South Florida to reassess this menacing presence of POTUS lurking close behind. Such an eventful moment would this take place as the tranquil, island setting of Palma de Mallorca captivated my view on the outside deck at breakfast. For the first time since that fateful Presidential election, I would successfully engage in conversation with an avid Trump supporter with a clearer state of mind.

On this momentous occasion, I succeeded to connect with my chosen Trump adversary, Avery, as we initially exchanged honest impressions of our chosen careers. As she and I had both described our past careers in helping individuals in the teaching and health care and teaching fields respectively, our shared sense of empathy for the poor/underprivileged clients we had served seemed evident.Yet, when the subject turned to politics, we fiercely defended our differing voting rationales in the 2016 Presidential election.

Notably, Avery would take aim at Barack Obama as a weak President who did not deliver for all Americans what his eloquent speeches professed. Similarly portraying Hillary Clinton as the wrong choice for our nation, she would go on to defend Donald Trump’s election as the stronger choice for our country now. I noted then how she seemed “fed up” that our country had gone soft about rampant street crime, entitled welfare abuse, and ominous foreign tensions.

In my counter reply, I calmly asked Avery whether she felt today the same about Donald Trump as she did on Election Day. Sensing her tenuous yes answer, I noted how Donald Trump had built his entire election platform on a “divide and conquer” mentality that has continually devolved to bitterly disunite our country. Patiently listening to her dissatisfactions as a health care administrator, I similarly shared my inner city teaching challenges leading to teacher burnout. Setting our obvious political differences aside, our serious conversations would soon “lighten up” and thus end calmly with little fanfare.

I thus have reason to believe that if you want to get along with someone on the opposite end of the political spectrum, your chances increase dramatically if each party takes time to find “common ground for an honest relationship with each other. Being nice rather than nasty seems to also yield greater dividends then as you become willing to listen to alternative points of view. You might even imagine them under such trying circumstances agreeing  with you that “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.”

Black Stone Romance In Canaries

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” – Oscar Wilde

Ruth and I slowly made our way back to South Florida on our fifteen day, reposition cruise from Rome. Our last stop before facing seven, consecutive days at sea would be Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the Canary Islands.At first glance, the razor like display of volcanic rocks overlooking this city seemed a most impregnable barrier for touristic exploration. Ancient legend had even claimed that we might even be witnessing the lost islands of Atlantis. Sensing the potential for a true adventure to overcome cabin fever on our ship, nonetheless , we set out on Saturday morning by local bus on a tour known as “Canadas del Teide Panorama” to cross these mysterious mountains. Our intended destination, Porto De La Cruz, on the far side of the island would allow us to escape the cruise ship madness and witness firsthand the unique, natural amenities of the Canary Islands.

The arduous journey meandered along steep cliffs through colorfully designed hacienda villages offering excellent views of the island’s steep volcano,Mount Teide. The remote presence of this symmetrically shaped cone rising over 12,000 feet above sea level in the distance seemed a most forbidding place yet alluring to the visual imagination. Descending by foot now into Old Town Porto De La Cruz through cobblestones streets packed with Spanish colonial architecture, we noted the unusual presence of black sand beaches dotted with lava strewn boulders along the coastline.

In the distance, we immediately spotted an odd collection of black rock stacks created by humans overlooking a cliff side beach. A closer look would soon reveal how each pile revealed some spiritual aspect to our visit as we pondered what each arrangement meant to the humans that built them. Blossoming explosions of Bougainvillea lavender and red spilled over the blackened slope as we now approached the tropically lush grounds of Loro Park Zoo. Soon, the busybody presence of croaking roosters and slithering lizards alongside the road would captivate our attention to divert our minds from any thoughts that we had actually gotten lost.

Genuine siesta time seemed fitting for us in the rising heat of early afternoon as we stopped for a leisurely lunch of poulet and frites at a local cantina to replan our steep climb uptown back to our bus. Amidst the frenzied lingo of Spanish talk and blaring TV screens, we relived the the thrills of getting lost today in the maze of endlessly winding streets, random rock piles, and narrowly blind alleyways to find this unexpected place of respite now. Thus, you might say that we had found unexpected excitement today as celebrity stars in our own “Survivor” movie adventure.

 

Yearning For Catalonian Freedom

Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.”
— Mahatma Gandhi

One of the highlights of our recent cruise took place in our brief stopover in Barcelona, Spain. For I then witnessed firsthand evidence of an ongoing political crisis facing more than 7.5 million Catalonian people in this tumultuous region. In declaring their right to be independent, Barcelonians have elected to continue their long tradition of choosing revolutionary actions to bring about change there. Reminders of enduring almost forty years of brutal Fascism under the Franco regime, for instance, tell a sad story of rampant racism, nationalistic brutality, and economic greed for Barcelona’s citizens. More recently, repeated “heavy attempts” by the mother country to delegitimize, regional elections favoring independence had further polarized these citizens to continue protesting through mass demonstrations against Spanish rule of law.

On our leisurely, four hour walk ashore in pleasantly cool weather, we saw glimpses of a modern Barcelona that maintained its image as one of the most vibrant cities of the world. Strolling along the famed promenade of La Rambla, tourist business was booming with elegant tapas cafes, luxury clothing boutiques, and colorful flower markets. Further inland, hordes of tourists flocked to the tortuously odd designs of Antonio Gaudi at the famed Park Guell and Sagrada Familia. Modern public transportation improvements to “Barcelona Metro as a result of the 1992 Summer Olympics provided more efficient travel options for us throughout the city. Billboard announcements for its renowned, soccer team provided reminders that millions of followers worldwide watch international competitions of this famed team in World Cup competitions. Returning to our cruise ship by shuttle bus through the busy, industrial hub of Barcelona Harbor, we witnessed one of Europe’s largest container ports and cruise ship entry.

Amidst such prosperity, obvious signs of unrest, however, resonated throughout downtown Barcelona. Young African men desperately hocked cheap souvenirs at the famed Playa de Catalunya in a city facing a challenging immigration crisis. A lone banner hung proudly from an “Old Town”balcony with calls for “Democracio” accompanied by free-speech images to match. A street demonstration formed spontaneously nearby a prominent, public building as pro-separatist speakers excited the Catalonian, flag-waving crowd. At the Catalonian Museum Of History, the troubled legacy to deny political freedom to the Catalonian people was impressively documented as the showcase exhibit.

To what extent does Barcelona need the Spanish crown to survive in today’s world? With its international tourist appeal, ideal coastal location, and booming economic potential, I reason that such show of city strength provides great confidence to the Catalonian populace that independence will work successfully. As the pendulum thus swings for granting self determination here in the mind of this progressive minded traveler, I applaud this long overdue, restoration of human rights for the Catalonian people.

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USFMAN Cruise Challenge 2017

As Ruth and I ended our relaxing, reposition cruise with a farewell selfie, my curious mind raised a number of perplexing questions for lighthearted analysis. How many can you answer correctly?

PROPOSED SCORING:

20-25 correct – Cruising is second nature for you – As you are obviously a savvy cruiser , I say go for it.

15-19 correct – You should embrace cruising but be beware of long distance travel. Do not travel alone if possible.

6-14 correct – Look at cruising as a matter of celebratory necessity only. If you desire a second honeymoon or simply want to party, for instance, cruise intermittently. Stay as busy as possible with as many onboard activities daily to avoid being burdened by thoughts of life back home.

0-5 correct- Cruising is a risky form of travel for you in any time or place. If you decide to sail, consider staying in your cabin for the entire length of the voyage. Avoid elevators or lifeboats at all cost.

BEGIN THE TEST BELOW:

1. Why are there no canaries on the Canary Islands? Why
bother to name it after this bird in the first place?

2. Why can’t cruise lines make the Sargasso Sea into a day trip cruise destination? I would love to see up close lava action as the continental plates collide.

3. Why do cruise lines offer a newspaper that prints news
from two days ago?

4.Why does the mere mention of the word lobster generate potential bedlam amongst cruise passengers on the ship?

5. How effectively could police conduct a legitimate sobriety test onboard a wave bouncing ship?

6. Are passengers who appear asleep in hypnotist acts aboard ship merely faking it? How is it possible instantly fall asleep at the snap of a hypnotist’s finger?

7. Why do cruises offer the services of a library when its main purpose seems to be as a meeting place for small-talking fools?

8. Why are cruise landings located inaccessibly to the most beautifully pristine places on tropical islands?

9. Why am I more likely to find a rugby or cricket match than a football/baseball game televised on a cruise ship filled with sports ravenous Americans?

10. Why does the term “Senior Summer Camp” come to mind when I go on a longer cruise?

11. If there really is a captain of a cruise ship, why have I rarely seen one?

12.Why are there cabins nearby me where people never leave their assigned room space? What are they doing?

13.Why are trays no longer offered in buffet lines to carry plates and utensils?

14. How does a scrawny sparrow appear on deck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?

15. Why doesn’t the chef prepare lobster every night of a cruise? The passengers would be much more happy.

16.Why is it easier to find the women’s restroom?

17.How many obese cruise passengers at one time can you fit into a single elevator before it becomes dis -functional to use?

18. Why do room stewards knock on my door at night while I am sleeping to announce that they need to change the bed?

19. Why do so few passengers seem to wave on top decks at cruise ports during departures anymore?

20. Why are time zone changes announced on the open seas when land is several days away? What difference does this make?

21.What is the official cure for a person who experiences “cabin fever” after several, consecutive sea days cruising?

22. Why are the dessert trays visibly located as the first food item you notice when entering the buffet area?

23. Why is it easier to find a pizza slice or ice cream cup than the exercise/ fitness area on a cruise ship?

24. Why are road sign rules not placed along the walk/jog circuits and food line areas?

25. In the event of evacuation, how seaworthy are the lifeboats if they are weighted down with food heavy passengers?

PROPOSED ANSWERS:

1.The Canaries were never intended to be named after this cute little bird but they actually derive from a long ago period of Roman conquest of the oppressed Native people in these islands. From a tourist marketing perspective, also, it’s better to entice people to exotically new places with eye catching names.

2.There lies zero landmass on the Sargasso Sea.

3. Being aware of current reality news is counterproductive to the fantasy of hedonistic escape on any cruise.

4. Food addictions run rampant on cruises

5. Why bother with sobriety tests. Alcohol addictions aboard ship are easily satisfied by slick marketing ploys for unlimited wine and spirits indulgence.

6. Wait about ten minutes after the show has finished. Hang out in the lobby and notice how many passengers admit they were suspiciously contacted before the show to act willingly to simulate sleep behavior.

7. Reading is counterproductive to being a small talking fool in any environment on a ship.

8. Hordes of cruise tourists converging on such serene locations would overtax the natural amenities of such places. Resulting “tourist trap” infiltration would reduce the cruise lines marketing allure to visit them.

9. The dutiful staff of a cruise-boat resides primarily outside the United States where American football/baseball does not market well. Since they are the more permanent occupants of a
cruise experience, it makes sense to prioritize their sports interests first by television.

10. Older people flock to longer cruises because they now have the time. Many of them, however, feel lonely, sedentary, and “out of touch” with life. Therefore, the greater amount of sea days on such a cruise revitalizes their spirit to feel young again by staying busy with a seemingly endless array of activities onboard ship every day.

11. To be honest, I did have actually made an actual, photo op-sighting of the alleged captain on this cruise. It appears that much of his real work in making a cruise successful remains hidden from public view to create an illusion for the passenger of continual happiness aboard ship. In reality, the captain is a very busy man dealing with stressful docking deadlines, stomach churning weather, and constant employee turnover. He therefore has little time or inclination to show face in public.

12. Seasickness overcomes the spirit to enjoy a cruise onboard for some. If you have the luxury of a seaside balcony, you can relax all day/night there, without undergoing the emotional
condition of “cabin fever.”

13. Cruise personnel might be afraid that ravenous passengers will pile food to cover their entire tray regularly thus risking the calamity that a ship will run out of food.

14. Little birds find large cruise ships as lazy ways to cross the ocean with little flying needed on their part and ample free food.

15. The lobster species would soon become extinct. Also, competition among passengers to fill their plate with lobster
might incite aggression and fighting among hungry passengers.

16.Women might have several, urgent needs other than elimination of waste products for using a bathroom compared to men on board a ship. Therefore, they should not be expected to search impatiently as men do to find a restroom.

17.Any more than ten, food satisfied cruisers crowding into a ship elevator, and I am heading for the stairs. In addition, walkers, wheelchairs, and service dogs might exacerbate such a weight situation.

18.Cruise passengers are not expected to sleep much unless they are sick. There are so many better ways to fill a cruiser’s time at night on a cruise.

19. Easy answer. They have already made a “beeline”to the buffet deck.

20. Gaining or losing an hour by time zone proves at least that the boat is actually moving. Other than that, slowly evolving, time zone changes might convince many from a marketing perspective that making the choice for sailing across the ocean is a possible cure for jet lag.

21. Rebook an oceanfront, balcony room location or perhaps inquire at the infirmary for an immediate treatment of “medically induced” coma.

22.If you eat more sugary products, your food addiction will grow. Then you will book more cruises to satisfy your hunger on the buffet deck.

23. A large percentage of elderly passengers on longer are in no physical shape to exercise on board ship. Their obesity is largely caused by bad choices leading them to eat a carb/sugar loaded diet in the first place. Why disappoint them now in their “golden years?”

24. Road signs placed along streets are a matter of serving calls for the public interest for health, safety…Cruises , however, cater to the narcissistic needs of passengers competitively as a private enterprise. Therefore, it would not be in the marketing interests of a cruise line to over-legislate its product restricting freedom of movement onboard ship.

25. The lifeboats are tested periodically for buoyancy/ safety conditions. Yet, I wouldn’t hesitate to make use of my relatively athletic fitness if I was onboard a heavily loaded ship of plump passengers.In such case, I would employ a Plan B option to make my way swimming to a visibly close island.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging Hiatus

My wife and I will be concluding our 2017 Fall vacation on Friday with a Celebrity Repositioning Cruise to our home base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. USFMAN looks forward to resuming blog postings and accompanying photos of our six ports of call after we return in late November. Thank you for continuing to find interest in my reflections of the present moment of travel in “Snippets of the Traveling Mind.”

London Evokes Halloween Spirit

E2DEF307-3F1D-4F5B-A232-D06AF16E2695As Halloween approaches soon, my recent tour of London revealed it to be an ideal place to witness the masquerade revelry and ghostly ghoulishness of this popular holiday. Without question, the oldness of London reeked authenticity, where the adventurous traveler could easily retrace dark and dismal remnants of olden times. In contrast, a modern viewpoint of London Halloween portrayed a spectacular show of pop culture inviting a carnival of sinfully goblin pleasures for sure. Four vivid examples immediately come to mind.

Let me begin with the famous Tower Bridge of London, whose twin towers hover prominently over the Thames River leading to the infamous Tower of London. At night, a quick glance at this iconic landmark symbolized the eerie path to the infamous dungeon with its suggested backdrop of tortured prisoners within its imposing, medieval walls. Since its construction in the late 19th century, several incidents have also occurred where mysterious drawbridge openings occurred at strangely inopportune times More recently, President Clinton’s motorcade arrived at midpoint of the bridge span in 1997 as it dangerously rose, threatening the safety of several vehicles along his motorcade.

In deep underground London lie the famous “Tubes” that provide efficient transportation for London travelers daily. Yet my experience of this aging tunnel system on this visit depicted a maze of meandering passages  that confuse the mind of distance and direction. Feeling trapped like a rat at times, a nightmarish vision set in that there might be no way to exit in case of emergency. Speaking of rats, I have sighted several of the alleged half a million pesky rodents lurking as if awaiting the next tube to arrive.

Murder mysteries seem to be an appropriate theme for scary Halloween in London. In my case, a short visit to the Jack the Ripper Museum revealed a sad time in London when a deranged man created mass outrage in the city by murdering eight, innocent women in cold blood. A sizable collection of gruesome artifacts from the crime scene displayed there provides ample evidence of the grotesque nature of these crimes.

For a more contemporary vision of Halloween in London, our visit to Camden in North London would certainly suffice. Along main shopping streets, brash displays of bohemian coolness and gothic darkness tantalized my senses as the weird excesses of impulse buying for exotic body piercings and illicit drug sales there seems impressively evident. What a perfect place to protest the blandness of everyday routine in such a spectacular fashion!

Why not put on a costume of my dreams now? In fact, with “Comic
Con”, taking place in London during our visit, this convention seemed to incite an ideal motivation to celebrate Halloween in such disguised fashion during this visit. With one day  left until the ghosts and goblins arrive, I think that I will settle for reading a scary story or two in a comfortable bed on this long and arduous journey. I could use some sleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Evolving Travel Psyche

When mind chatter seeks wander from drizzles of gray
It means time to move on to fresh traveling ways
When robots of idle bring burdensome days
It means time to pound feet on new cobblestone ways

When curious of mind finds so little to learn
It means time to pursue a more globalist earn
When mountains of stuff invite greediness goad
It means time to store less with much lighter pack load

When ego burns anger in blameful offend
It means travel in peace in true search for new friend
When fine fettle flows fit to trust body and soul
It means travel means more than a neighborhood stroll

Many landscapes I’ve seen, much more to explore
Opening paths through new portals embrace distant shore