" As the Spanish proverb says: ' He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.' So it is in travelling, a man must carry knowledge with him if he would bring home knowledge." Samuel Johnson 1709- 1784 (written April 17, 1778)
Today begins the countdown. Four weeks from today, and my friend Ingrid and I will embark on our journey to England and Greece. Today, over breakfast, we discussed our plans to hike the Wye Valley Walk from Chepstow, Wales to the magnificent ruins of Tintern Abbey, and back via the Offa's Dyke Path. This was one of the favourite destinations of the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. While in London, we also plan to attend the New Globe Theatre to see Shakespeare's "The Tempest." In Wales, we will be walking in the footsteps of Dylan Thomas, although I'm not sure we'll have time to go to his haunts near Swansea.
From London we will fly to Greece, May 30. We have several destinations in Greece planned (I will be Ingrid's tour guide as she's never been to either England or Greece before.) One day trip we will go on is to the island of Hydra, where the Canadian poet Leonard Cohen lived during the '70's. We will also travel to Kefalonia (one of Lord Byron's haunts) and cross over to Ithaka (made famous by the blind poet Homer). Perhaps, if there's time, we'll make a short trip to Messalonghi where Byron died to see the small museum in his honour there. In Greece, Byron is a heroic icon.
It occured to me that this journey is taking on a poetic theme -- journeying in the footsteps of famous poets. For me, a travel writer, it gives me a new focus for some articles. Usually I'm researching ancient history when I'm in Greece. The last trip there, two years ago, I concentrated on Venetian sites mainly in the South Peloponnese. I won't be making a trip up north to visit the Alexander sties this year as I usually do. The one 'new' place I hope to visit is the island of Amorgos where there are some Byzantine monasteries.
"Travel, in the younger sort, is a part of education; in the elder, a part of experience. He that traveleth into a country before he hath some entrance into the language, goeth to school, and not to travel." Francis Bacon 1561-1626 "Of Travel"
I started travelling in Greece in 1978. Before that I focused mainly on England and Wales, which is the homeland of my parents, and where I have several cousins living. My on-the-shelf work-in- progess "Dragons in the Sky: A Celtic Tale" was researched in the area of Salisbury and Stonehenge. It also has an Alexandrian connection. My current work-in-progess "The Shadow of the Lion" has been researched in Greece, at various sites, and also in Asia Minor.
When I first went to Greece, I understood very little of the language. Soon I could read the alphabet and follow rudimentary conversations. I actually, by now, should be fluent, but because I don't use the language when I'm at home, I tend to forget. So what a thrill it was Friday night to find myself sitting on a bar stool next to two Greeks at the L.Q., eavesdropping on their conversation. Amazing how instantly, hearing the spoken words, I began to remember. I even surprised one of them by speaking Greek to him. So this week I have my tapes and my books out, and I will review and hopefully pick up what I have forgotten.
"The use of travelling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are. " Samuel Johnson 1709 - 1784
I became a travel journalist in 1982 when my first article "Listen to the Earth Music", about Leros Island, Greece was published. I started writing travel stories because I wanted some publishing experience before attempting to market a longer piece of work like a novel. Because I'd had an early training in journalism (I worked in the editorial dept. of a major newspaper right after I left high school), and I was starting to travel on my own I decided to try my hand at travel journalism. When the first article I sent out got published it convinced me that this was a genre I could easily write and make some money at. (note: Don't quit your day job! You don't make enough to live freelancing on unless you're employed by a publication)
From 1993, when I was offered help by the Greeks to continue research for my novel, I began to combine my historical research trips with travel journalism.
My website www.dreamwater.org/ruthaki
"Travel Through History", is mainly dedicated to my historical writing but also has links to published travel articles. All of my travel articles contain a historical slant. This summer's will follow the paths of the poets.
While I'm away I'll post some travel e-journals and share my adventures with friends at home.
I've found that writing travel news-letters (and, of course, keeping a written travel journal) are important sources later on of writing up the travel stories for publication.
So, the countdown begins. I'm already feeling excited.
"For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." Robert Louis Stevenson 1850-1894 "Travels With a Donkey" 1978