You know what this pandemic needed? A full-blown attack on a sovereign state in Europe by an unhinged autocrat in charge of the world’s largest nuke stockpile threatening global Armageddon on anyone who stands in his imperialist way. Vladimir Putin picked a fight with a stoic, proud nation led by a former comic-actor also named Vladimir (Volodymyr Zelensky) who once played the president of Ukraine in a popular TV show and then actually became the president of Ukraine. Zelensky also happens to be the grandson of a former Russian soldier and Holocaust survivor. The name Vladimir means both ‘Ruler of the World’ and ‘Ruler of Peace’ as well as one ‘Blessed of Great or Famous Power’. Historians in the future are going to have a challenge getting this all down, especially if they’re scraping their work with flint stones on cave walls. Quite fittingly, another Vladimir once said this:
“There are decades where nothing happens; and
there are weeks where decades happen.”
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin
Caught up in a week where decades are happening, and a few tough years that have lasted a century, it’s completely acceptable to be cowering in despair, doom-scrolling news of bombings, disease, economic collapse, refugees, and political chaos. Yet here I am, giving presentations and writing posts and stories about how TRAVEL IS BACK and WHERE TO PLAN YOUR NEXT ADVENTURE! Off mark? Insensitive? Blind to reality? Or perhaps, on point, acutely aware, and unwaveringly optimistic?
I once had lunch (burger, fries, Pilsner) with my literary hero Tom Robbins. Well into his 80s, Tom’s edgy wit could still carve the fuzz off a caterpillar. I asked him about the disasters happening in the world at the time: climate change, the rise of Donald Trump. He’d been around, he’d seen it all before, what advice could he give us nail-biters watching the modern world collapse in on itself. Tom quoted REM:
“It’s the end of the world, and I feel fine.”
Do I deplore the war in Ukraine? Having travelled in the country, met its people, and witnessed first-hand the horrors of nuclear disaster, trust me, I’m as shocked and rattled as anyone. Does the impending climate cataclysm, along with the general helplessness I feel in the face of pandemic, great game geo-politics and the military-industrial complex freak me out to my core? How could it not? It could well be the end of the world, and there’s only two rational responses to it: sink into a pit of gloom, depression, frustration, anxiety, and misery. Or take a breath, appreciate your personal opportunities, and make a conscious decision – however much it pains you - to FEEL FINE.
Last weekend I visited the Outdoor Travel and Adventure Show at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The sheer number of people, and the quality of exhibitors left nobody in doubt that we’re on the cusp of an unprecedented travel boom. Everyone is looking forward to a holiday, an adventure, an escape hatch. On display were kits that turned cars into camper vans, small-ship expeditions to the poles, electric bikes and stand-up paddle-boards, African safaris, houseboats and campsites, outdoor gear and a contraption called a jet-board that looked like an awful lot of fun. Damn it felt good to be among my people (as opposed to Sneaker Con in the other convention hall, where spoiled kids in flashy shoes made as much sense to me as challenging the sun to a stare down). To each their own, unless your Vladimir Putin, in which case: Stop this senseless violence you war-mongering, delusional lunatic. Sorry, that just slipped out.
We must focus on the positive. We have to look up so we don’t sink down. What other choice do we have? We certainly can’t stop a madman in Russia any more than we can stop a tornado by standing in its path. We can only do what we can, do what’s right, and continue to spend our months, days and hours focusing on inspiration, positivity, love, joy and gratitude. Which is exactly what I intend to do this month on my first international trip in over two years, ticking off an item that’s long been on my bucket list. With the hope that Vladimir/Volodymyr fulfills their moniker as the Ruler of Peace (and not the Destroyer of Worlds), I look forward to reporting on that experience next month.
Please come in. Mahalo for removing your shoes.
After many years running a behemoth of a blog called Modern Gonzo, I've decided to a: publish a book or eight, and b: make my stories more digestible, relevant, and deserving of your battered attention.
Here you will find some of my adventures to over 100 countries, travel tips and advice, rantings, ravings, commentary, observations and ongoing adventures.