Before Best Beloved and I spent a year traveling the US and Canada doing house sitting, we’d already built a location-independent business. As a result, we’ve already done a fair bit of traveling. But this week’s challenge has me thinking.
1. San Francisco. The entire city, but especially the waterfront and the trolleys, fire up my creativity. I’d want to start my trip with a total immersion in a city that has always inspired me.
2. New Westminster, BC. It’s a cycling city, designed for non-auto traffic. I want a place that makes it easy to be physical and be outdoors. Activity always gives my brain downtime to do the heavy lifting that only happens unconsciously.
3. New York. I’m terrified of New York. I’m a homebody (a travel-loving homebody, yes indeed.) Huge cities make me nervous. New York is the epitome of the megalopolis in my head. I don’t get enough edge in my daily experience because I’ve designed a safe and comfortable life. NYC would either kill me or more likely fill me with adrenaline for the next step.
4. Killorglin, Co. Kerry, Ireland. Little village with a pub where I want to have a pint or a few and play music. After New York, Ireland’s restorative powers will be just what I need to ruminate and meditate. Also, there’s Guinness.
5. London. As a wordsmith, I need to see the places Shakespeare walked. Not much interested in the historicity of his birthplace and whatnot. I want to see the streets he roamed when he was creating the world’s greatest writing.
6. Brussels. About 1,000 years ago (in 1066, to be exact) one of my ancestors crossed over to England with a guy named William. The family came from Belgium. With no Dutch or French and severely limited German, I’d be somewhere totally out of my depth—which is where I’ve always been when it comes to my family. Exploring roots and rootlessness and how my songs and stories combine my history with neophilia.
7. Johannesburg, South Africa. I lived 7 years in rural Texas and was appalled by the rampant racism. Apartheid has always been my mental image of the same on a grand scale. Things have changed, I know, and hearing the music that’s come out of South Africa and that region in the past decades, it’s clear that cultures are melding. It’s a fascinating process and it reminds me that art often brings together people who wouldn’t otherwise mix.
8. Timbuktu. Because, like, Timbuktu fer cryin’ out loud. It’s a real place. In my childhood the name was an imaginary place that meant “as far away from reality as you can possibly get.” An imaginary place I learned was real. Isn’t that what art is, making the imagined real?
9. Ulanbaatar, Mongolia, for the same reason, almost. When I was a kid, instead of rock posters, I had a world map on my wall. Most of it was jam packed with text. Except Mongolia. It was blank, except a single dot labeled (back then) “Ulan Bator.” Arriving there would be like finding a real actual flying carpet. Once again, I would have no connection, no frame of reference linguistically or culturally. I would be figuring it out from scratch, depending entirely on my good nature to find my way. Cutting it from whole cloth, as the saying used to go. Yet another metaphor for acts of creation.
10. Alice Springs. When I read Nevil Shute’s “A Town Like Alice” 40 years ago I was smitten. His book revolves around creating an entire town, all the work, thought, struggle, heartbreak, and joy of a monumental undertaking. Seeing Alice Springs, knowing that bit by bit, this real town was created from nothing but dust, heat, and sweat, would set me up for the hard work of art once I got home.
11. San Francisco, again, this time in a 5-star hotel to vegetate, ruminate, incubate.
After all that absorption of people, music, food, culture, climate, architecture, work, and play, hearing stories and watching life, my fiction would certainly take on greater depth, broader scope, a spicier edge. And there’d most certainly be an entire album’s worth of songs out of it, and probably a good bit more than that.
Best Beloved is certainly hoping this trip isn’t really going to happen. She’s much too tired for all that.