Thinking About Travel…

I love this sign and the idea behind it. I love the design, the pop of the black and white letters, and the shape. It says a lot about the business and the people who run it. It’s attached to the wall outside a “simple” organic café next to our apartment in Mallorca. SIM–PLE. Yes, it’s a café sign, but I’ve taken it as an expression of my travel philosophy.

Simple, in this case, doesn’t exclude the complex; it merely strives to keep things uncomplicated. For example, we’re on the island of Mallorca, the largest of the Balearic Islands, and we’re here for a month. Basically, we’re hanging out, watching people, sampling foods, visiting markets, and reading about the island’s history. It’s “simple” travel. We have the luxury of time, something most tourists don’t have, so if we want to take a day off, we take a day off. Nothing is lost. We’re here to relax, enjoy, and learn, not maximize or quantify the experience.

For years we were more intense and adventurous, traveling on bikes, carrying everything with us, riding 30-60 miles a day with no reservations. We always said that when we couldn’t climb the hills any more we’d do a tour of flat old Holland. We did that in 2009. It was our last overseas bike trip.

Four years later when we returned from working in Saigon, we needed to rethink our travel philosophy. We still wanted to travel, but didn’t want to bounce from town to town living out of a suitcase. As a result, we came up with the “simple” concept of picking a different location each year and living there for two months as close to the local economy as possible. So far, we’ve done Paris, Rome, Berlin, and Palma.

Travel, especially foreign travel, is an opportunity to learn – whether it’s on the road or hunkered down in a remote village. People travel for different reasons. Curiosity. Family. Business. Culture. History. Adventure. But, travelers have stories and like to share them. I have many, but one of my joys is listening to others stories. When we lived in Saigon our mantra was, “You don’t end up in Saigon by accident. If you’re here, there’s a story worth hearing.” And, we loved to pry those stories out of our friends and visitors alike.

We see travel as part of the global village experience especially when a friend or acquaintance notes our location and offers a local tip. It happens all the time. I have six friends with ties to this island – three Germans, one Brit, and two Americans. They all live here part of the year. When we were looking for an apartment to rent the Brit recommended the Sta. Catalina neighborhood, and her recommendation was spot on. Earlier this week, our American/German friends, Bill and Dorothea, invited us to visit Soller, the village they moved to 31 years ago, and soon after that a mutual friend of theirs in Carmel, California told us to make sure they took us to a restaurant that was a highlight of his trip to Mallorca. Soon after that a Belgian friend who lives in Singapore saw on Facebook that we were in Mallorca and wrote to tell us about a restaurant in Palma that we shouldn’t miss. We tried it today and it was a smash hit. Word travels fast in the global community. Next week, we’re going to spend two days with a German friend who’s coming to the island for a business meeting. Small world.

But it isn’t just old friends who amplify the global citizenship aspect of travel. Friendly locals give a trip that personal touch that’s so often missing when you’re a tourist. Two weeks ago we met a Russian/Chilean couple who live here, and they invited us to their home to try a local Mallorquin food and meet their 25-year-old son whose new technology is designed to enhance the lives of rural Tanzanians. And, yesterday we bonded with a Swedish woman – Anna the Swede – at SIM-PLE. She mentioned that her son and daughter are nationally ranked skiers in Sweden, as mine were in the US, and she couldn’t wait to tell us about her idea for a service oriented health and fitness business in Palma. M’s marketing savvy and Anna the Swede’s reading of the local market were perfect for each other. We’ll stay in touch with Anna too.

M and I will continue to travel, to connect with old friends and meet new ones. We’ll try to ferret out the essence of the places we visit and study their histories. Mallorca is an island culture that dates back to the Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans, and the competing jurisdictions of Castile and Aragon until it was eventually united under the Bourbon dynasty in the 18th century. There’s plenty for us to work with but we’ll try to distill the experience and keep it SIM-PLE. We’re not academics who want to rewrite history or reveal something new and definitive about the places we visit. We simply want to be good global citizens and share our experiences with other global citizens wherever we are.


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