Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Random Thoughts · Wrapping it up
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Wrapping it up

Robert Downes - January 21st, 2008
There’s not much left to tell: I spent a week kicking around Malaysia in the horrible heat and humidity, lounging on the beaches on the isle of Penang and enjoying hikes in the jungle with my monkey and butterfly friends. Then came the urban jungle of Singapore, alleged to be the “most boring city in the world.”

Malaysia is an easy place to digest. Everyone speaks English here -- as they do in most countries these days -- and they’ve got super food and public transportation. Also, the prices can’t be beat: I stayed at a Malaysian family’s guest house right on Ferringhi Beach (“Foreigner” Beach) with an ocean view for $13 per night. There was a grandma cooking at the wok downstairs and the Malay kids of the household were hypnotized day and night by cartoons on a flatscreen TV, the same as anywhere in the world. As a popular saying goes in Asia: “Same, same, but different.”
Malaysia is a mostly-Muslim country, so you’re roused from bed at 4:30 in the morning with the call of the muezzin at the mosque next door. “Get up and say your prayers, everybody!” is my loose translation. The reading of the Koran goes on for hours, but some of these guys up in the tower are great singers, and it sure adds to the atmosphere.
Dinner is often at “halal” restaurants, meaning the chicken has been prayed over in thanks to Allah before it got its head lopped off. A lunch of spicey fried noodles and chicken runs about 60 cents.

I’d like to ramble on for another month, island-hopping through Indonesia, touching base in Australia and hop-scotching through Fiji, Hawaii and L.A., but you can only give a mule so much tether, and mine ended Jan. 18 with a flight home from Singapore. Plus, after following the sun around the world and suffering through eight months of summer, I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to enjoy the coldest part of the winter in Northern Michigan. And of course, to see my lovely wife, family and friends again.

What do you learn on a trip around the world? That Planet Earth is much more interesting than you might imagine, and that people everywhere are pretty darned friendly to a lonely traveler, especially if you take care to wear your warmest smile.
Those of you who’ve suffered through these columns over the past few months might wonder how much it costs to take such a trip. You can buy a round-the-world plane ticket starting at around $1,800, which will take you to half a dozen hotspots, such as London, Cairo, Delhi and Bangkok.

But I chose a more whimsical approach, vowing to visit all the places I’d ever dreamed of. That meant biking up the west coast of Ireland (the land of my ancestors) and from sea-to-sea across England and down the Danube. I have an interest in British seafaring history, so I went to Portsmouth, England, to see Admiral Nelson’s ship, the HMS Victory. I went to Budapest because back in junior high school, I’d read James Michener’s book about the Hungarian revolt against the Soviets. I went to India to fulfill a youthful backpacker’s dream, and to Vietnam because of the impact that country had on my generation. Silly reasons, but they meant a lot to me.
Long story short, the bedrock of my trip cost $5,000 for all the flights around the world, and for three tours with the backpacking company, Intrepid Travel (intrepidtravel.com), which provided 45 days of native travel and lodging through the rough spots of Egypt, India and Vietnam.
A combination of camping and staying in cheap hostels and guest houses kept other costs down. Overall, I spent about the same amount that I would have if I’d stayed home for nearly five months.
By the numbers the trip included four continents, 20 countries, 18 flights, 20 trains, 10 long-distance buses, 700 miles by mountain bike, and countless trips by boat, car, pedicab, tuk-tuk, motorbike, camel, donkey, elephant, and on foot. And thousands of smiles, laughs and happy memories.
I’d never encourage anyone to travel the rough way around the world, because if you’re wired for this sort of thing, you’re already dying to go -- chances are you’re already planning your next move or have “been there.”

There were places I wish I’d seen, such as Russia, Tanzania, Turkey and Australia, but all that will have to wait ’til later, and the magic words: next time.

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