Trip to Beverly helps fulfill dream of foreign travel
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, July 21, 2011

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" project.

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 alternative.

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 favorites.

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 German-settled hometown.

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.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette.

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