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The Reluctant Traveler

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There's a billboard I saw last year in a London tube station that I can't get out of my mind. It showed an elderly man and woman rocking on the porch, clearly in the twilight of their lives. The caption to the poster read: "Remember that time we almost went to Istanbul?"

It's a billboard I tell friends about who are reluctant to travel. Like my friend Paul in Buffalo. He wants to, but he worries about things. He worries about money. About the safety of flying. He's a bachelor right now, and he says he wants to have a significant other before he takes his first trip to Europe. He is, by the way, nearly 50 years old. I say to him travel is sort of like having a child--if you wait until all the signs are perfect, you'll never do it. But still he's reluctant. This is a man with a life-long fascination with Salvador Dali, and the late artist's haunts in Spain call him like a siren. Paul's older daughter is spending the summer in London. I encourage him to go visit her. He hesitates. It's "her" time he says.

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote: "I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move." I tell Paul, but moving is difficult for some folks. Remember that time you almost went to Spain? Remember that time you almost went to Istanbul?


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