five tips for introverted travelers
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
I have received a lot of emails about the column mentioned above but this one particularly touched me because it’s someone whose life could be affected by the pressures of the extroverted masses.
I told this young man that first of all, approaching cute members of the opposite sex is doctoral-level extroversion. I’m not even sure I trust guys who can easily chat up that cute girl in English class. No, that kind of confidence is suspect to me. Give me the awkward blurter any day.
But for him and any other introverts out there who are trying to decide if they should hit the road or just stay home where nobody will bother them, I thought I’d offer these five tips for traveling introverts.
Be open to conversation when it’s offered. I rarely initiate conversations but I will talk to almost anyone who talks to me first. People like talking to introverts because we tend to be good listeners, and listening is the point in travel conversations, anyway. That’s when we learn. Once the conversation is started, you can ask lots of questions and learn lots of stuff. In her book Introvert Power, Dr. Laurie Helgoe points out that introverts generally prefer deep conversation to superficial chitchat. I’m never afraid to turn conversations to worldview, personal goals, politics and other Deep Thoughts. Ask things you truly want to know. Grab conversation when it comes, make it work for you.
Don’t be shy about ending the encounter when you’re ready. A lot of times, random conversations lead to invitations to parties, to travel companions, to meet the gang. This sort of invitation can lead to raucous good times. I hate raucous good times. I rarely accept those “let’s take it to the next level” invitations. I may have missed out on a lot that way, but maybe not. The few times I have accepted have not convinced me otherwise. Drunks in bars are pretty much the same the world over. Don’t be ashamed or embarrassed to say “no” if you’re not feeling it. Then again, say “yes” sometimes, too. You never know.
Carry a book. There’s an interesting debate going in response to an article about travel books on World Hum—a couple of people contend that reading while you travel is a waste of experience, that you can read at home and you should be out LIVING and MEETING INTERESTING PEOPLE when you’re traveling. Yes, well, fine for those people. I always carry a book when I travel for when I need to create a quiet place for myself. Travel is wonderful and exhausting and over-stimulating. Sometimes I need to escape into the tranquility of reading.
Develop the art of sitting and watching. In her book, Dr. Helgoe talks about the French term “flauneur” (feminine, “flaneuse”) which means passionate observer. Yes, yes! I am a flaneuse. I love just sitting and watching people doing what they do when I travel. I do it in parks, I do it in museums, I’m finally able to do it in restaurants. That ability took a while to develop but I can now just sit alone in a restaurant and eat and watch people around me, rather than immediately burrowing into a book. Mind you, I always have a book nearby during my sitting and watching, just in case I need to escape the world for a bit or suffer a bout of self-consciousness, but it often remains unopened while I watch and eavesdrop.
Take a walking tour or, even better, hire a guide yourself. I have found this controlled interaction is a great way to get some conversation in with a local. A professional guide—you can find one through the local tourist board—is a wealth of both official and personal information about the place you’re visiting. Once again, make the interaction work for you. Ask things you want to know even if they’re not part of the official spiel.
doing the prairie chicken dance
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I left my comfort zone this weekend and spent it with a bunch of hard-core birders at the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in Woodward, Oklahoma. Because I’m a wee bit of an idiot, I didn’t realize until I’d committed exactly how hard-core the event would be. It was the kind of event where I met people for whom seeing the prairie chickens dance was the culmination of a lifelong dream. No, really. Sometimes, I sat in on conversations in which I had no idea what people were saying. Imagine sitting in on chitchat with a bunch of rocket scientists. That’s what it was like, except the topic was birds.
I had to rally all my powers of interpretation every time Bird Chick (a k a Sharon Stiteler), the keynote speaker, talked about birds in casual conversation. Once, I just turned to her and said, “I have no idea what you just said,” which made her laugh and she explained. It had to do with banding raptors.
Artist and speaker Debby Kaspari, whose topic was sketching nature, was more my speed in some regards—art talk I understand—but she, too, knows more about birds than I know about anything. When she talked art, I was with her. When she talked birds, I was lost.
Fortunately, these were very nice people who never laughed at stupid questions and took the time during bird watching excursions to actually point out birds to me as I flailed around with my low-rent binoculars. If I asked, they let me peek through their real binoculars, and Bird Chick set up her scope for all to look through. Wow. Our guide also brought a scope, so from time to time I actually got to see what everyone was talking about, as opposed to the blurry silhouettes my binoculars provided.
For the most part, I walked around all weekend feeling kind of bumbling and clueless.
Which is OK, actually. Sometimes it’s good to get in over your head. It’s kind of like lifting weights. When your muscles start failing, that’s when the muscle building occurs. I learned a lot about birds this weekend. (And bees, actually, since Bird Chick also is a beekeeper. Really fascinating stuff. Bees lead complicated lives.) Plus, I enjoyed immersion in a subculture.
And most important, I got to see the dance of the endangered lesser prairie chicken.
This was my kind of bird watching, even though it involved getting up before dawn and sitting in tiny blind for hours. But you couldn’t miss the birds—as I so often do.
They were right there, just a few feet in front of us, doing their dance, singing their song, making every attempt to propagate their species. (I didn't even try to capture on film. Click through to Debby's and Sharon's sites to see images far better from anything I could have produced.) I found the whole thing genuinely moving. Dance, little chickens, dance. Stomp your little chicken feet and keep on keeping on!
Among the pressures on the fascinating little fellas’ survival are barbed wire and windmills--this was a close encounter, for me, with the implications we have to consider before we hoist T. Boone Pickens on our shoulders as the savior of the environment. Not that wind power is bad, but it needs study before we plunge right in.
And after we spent the morning watching the chickens dance, we spent some time tromping around on the glorious Oklahoma prairie, marking barbed wire fences to help the chickens out, which just involves clipping little pieces of plastic onto the fences. Evidently, dead prairie chickens are rarely found on fences that have been marked, unlike unmarked fences. Good enough for me.
Dance for your lives, little prairie chickens. There are a bunch of people who care whether or not you survive. And, entirely by accident, I’m now among them.
gay goobers in sweaters: a souvenir
Sunday, April 12, 2009
The whole downtown pretty much shuts down on Tuesdays, which is why a thrift store was a highlight of our sightseeing. And I don't mean vintage (though T or C has lots of those, too.) I mean thrift store.
There, we found our favorite souvenirs of the trip, a collection of 1950s and '60s knitting pattern books.
Behold a sample, a little slide show I call Gay Goobers in Sweaters. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)
Sunday, April 5, 2009
one sad bad ad
Friday, April 3, 2009
You know I have only the greatest respect and affection for newspapers, for my former employer (well, mixed feelings there, but generally positive), and certainly for the brave souls who go to work each day under the darkening cloud of desperation, layoffs, and now pay cuts.
And so it is with deep regret that I am forced to mock this sad, ill-advised in-house ad.
These are fine reporters doing a fine job for the business section. But really, is it not a plea for fashion intervention? Stacy and Clinton, where are you?
The ad is supposed to instill our confidence but instead, it breaks my heart.
Do you suppose the paper even told this gang that they would be posing for a photo that day? Or did they just round them up from their desks--where they sat overworked and bleary-eyed—and hustle them into the photo studio?
This just confirms journalists’ schlumpy reputation. I mean, it's OK to be schlumpy. They have other things on their minds. But what does this ad accomplish?
I’m also frustrated with the paper, which has long tried to stifle personality in the writing it publishes in an era when personality rules the media. Now, this is how it tries to promote its fine employees? With this sad-sack line-up of beleaguered writers? How much wiser it would have been to nurture voices and stars all along. This Hail Mary falls far short and only serves to emphasize how desperate and out-of-touch newspapers are.
By the way, I do like the new feature they're promoting, a page called "The Economy and You." If I could find it on the Web site, I'd link to it, but don't get me started on that...
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