So there I was in the rainforest, breathing
the misty air, hearing the monkeys chattering in the branches.
One last item on my travel "bucket list" — a trip to Africa —
being checked off. Is that a gorilla crossing the stream?!
Wait! Is the gorilla ... singing?
OK, so I wasn't actually in Africa. I was at
the North Shore Music Theatre, enjoying "Tarzan," the stage
musical and maximizing the experience by pretending that I'd
realized my African dream.
Pretending, however, has its limits, unless
you create an entire new world like Harry Potter's, where you
can take liberties. In my imaginary world, there are rules; one
must stay within the reality of the real place one is imagining.
Eventually, I recalled that Tarzan was born
along the Atlantic Coast of Africa, nowhere near the Serengeti
Plain of lions and zebra herds that I always wanted to see, or
East Africa, the earliest site for my "tracing my roots"
I may have to admit that this musical is
probably as close to Africa as I am going to get; though I have
also been thinking about taking my grandchildren to Safari West
near Santa Rosa, Calif., the next time I visit them in Nevada.
If this doesn't work out, I'll have to revert
to my lifelong travel experience — the imaginary trip. I am
telling you this in case you are like me, or know a child like I
was, whose favorite song is "Faraway Places." Even if you can't
afford real travel, virtual travel can be a very satisfying
Nowadays, one can use the Fodor's travel
books from the library, watch "Rick Steves' Europe" and the
National Geographic Channel. To enhance the experience, one
might visit Peabody's International Festival in September, or
eat at Brothers Restaurant in Danvers, Papa Gino's or Monte's in
Lynn, Passage to India in Salem, the Gourmet Garden in
Swampscott, or Sticky Rice in Marblehead, just to mention my
I have always taken imaginary trips, ever
since my parents bought me "Children of Other Lands" when I was
7. I rode a black stallion across the sand with the Arabian boy
on the cover, played with kachina dolls with Pueblo girls, and
trained elephants with the children of Siam.
My family couldn't afford to travel, except
for an occasional camping trip and one family wedding in Canada.
But on my 13th birthday they gave me a subscription to the
American Geographical Society's "Around the World Program." Each
month for three years, I received a different country booklet,
in which I pasted colored photo stickers as I learned the
geography, history and tourist attractions of this nation.
I supplemented the booklets with maps, my
World Book encyclopedia, library travelogues and children's
stories about foreign lands. Didn't have much opportunity to eat
foreign food though, except for the sauerkraut and strudel of my
Eventually, I did ride a bike among the tulip
fields of Holland, visit a Pueblo village, and learn that I
wasn't likely to ride a black stallion with an Arabian boy even
if I got to Arabia.
The realities and occasional inconveniences
of real travel supplanted the romantic fantasies of my
childhood, but it was wonderful in a different way. For one
thing, there were crepes in Paris, tiny tasty lamb chunks on
sticks in Greece, fondue in Switzerland and gelato in Rome.
As an exchange student in Mexico, a Navy wife
living in Europe, and later a member of the International
Taxpayers Union, I visited many of the countries of my earlier
imagination, as far away as Australia. I found my roots in
Ireland, Croatia and Bavaria.
The "getting there" part was fun too until a
few years ago. Airplanes had lots of legroom, wide aisles and
nice meals; security at airports was reasonable.
Now, partly because of the changes in air
travel, I really prefer to stay at home, and am thinking about
an imaginary trip around the world when I retire, if I can find
an imaginary private plane.
It occurs to me that as a traveler I lived at
the best time in history — after the invention of the commercial
airplane, before the widespread fear of Muslim terrorists. There
were also trains, the best way to get around western Europe, and
modern highway systems with relatively cheap gasoline. In my
youth, some of us even felt comfortable hitchhiking. (I now
realize I am lucky to be alive having done that.)
I should note that during the early part of
my adult life, airplanes were perhaps too expensive for many
people who could later afford to crowd onto them for holidays
everywhere. For most of human history, no one got to go very
far; later they had to endure seasickness and potential
shipwreck, like the one which explained Tarzan's presence in
Africa, at least in the NSMT version of his story.
The opening scene, the storm at sea, was
delightfully creative, and along with the rich voices and fun
special effects from actors who convinced me they were indeed
gorillas, is a good reason to treat yourself to a trip to Africa
right here on the North Shore.