Commentary: I’m leaving on a jet plane

By Adam Granger

Or not.

This is an anti-travel article. I’ll let you decide how to celebrate the delicious irony of its being published in the busiest travel month of the year. You can make up a little song or wear some sort of costume or, well, I said I’ll let you decide.

There are two types of people in the world: travelers and non-travelers. Of course, most of us are chunks of both, but this piece will be more dramatic if I boot out the moderates and reduce things to black and white. (I follow my country’s politics, and I’ve learned to polarize from the best of the best.)

The process by which I place people in one camp or the other is simply to ask them, “Would you travel anywhere in the world, providing the destination was safe and all expenses were paid?” Travelers answer yes and non-travelers no. Done and done. (See how simple polarization is?)

I had always thought that my disaffection for travel was a relative latecomer to my stable of neuroses—the result of a life spent traveling. Last month, however, I found a letter from my mother to my older brother that included the sentence, “You know how much Adam hates to travel.” It was written in 1963. I was 14.

So, if travel is such an ordeal, why have I journeyed to 28 countries and 47 states? Well, first of all, my mother’s letter notwithstanding, I didn’t use to feel as strongly about travel as I do now. When I was a young man, it was exciting to be on a tour of one-night stands, my suitcase and guitar in hand, like the guy in “The Boxer.” And, as a musician, it was necessity. It’s difficult to make a living as a performer without traveling; musicians can’t get arrested in their hometowns, as the saying goes. Even steady gigs like the Minnesota Orchestra and “A Prairie Home Companion” (RIP) involve travel.

In my decades on the road, I’ve experienced my share of minor drama and trauma—getting lost on foot in London with no money or ID, peeing blood in Prague—but I haven’t had truly terrible things happen to me. I’ve never been in a plane, train, car or boat accident. I’ve never wandered over the wrong border and wound up endungeoned in a country so remote that it’s on the backof the map. And, as far as I can remember, I’ve never been abducted by aliens. So, whence my trepidation?

First, it’s not entirely trepidation. Mostly, I just love being home, with my family and my cat and my friends and neighbors and my stuff. Second, I’ve pretty much seen what I want to see in the world. Now, I understand that, to travelers, this is heresy—how can someone even saythat! I imagine world globes and atlases being hurled, figuratively or literally, at my effigy, but to each his or her own, right? Live and live? So, just put down the globe and step away from the effigy.

And, as I indicated, I don’t observe an absolute travel ban. Last summer, I flew to the East Coast, then to my reunion in Oklahoma and ended up with a tour of Washington and Oregon with banjoist Alan Munde. And I’ve visited 20 countries working with Garrison Keillor. So I willtravel; I just won’t be jogging across Latvia or exploring Patagonia on a motorcycle. At least, not in this life. To make up for the income lost from not traveling, I am teaching guitar more. People come to my house, and I have to travel no farther than the cozy little studio in my basement.

The son of a couple I know went to Asia to teach ESL and ended up marrying a Vietnamese woman. The couple flew for 30 hours to attend the wedding. Thirty hours!Now, I’m as dedicated and loving a parent as any, but I get weird just flying to Grand Forks. Vietnam is out of the question unless I am assigned my own personal inflight anesthetist. It’s for people like me that God invented Skype.

My wife, Renee, on the other hand is a traveler. Kayak the Bering Strait? “You bet.” Hike the Gobi? “I’ll bring sunscreen.”

“Look,” I imagine her saying, “just give me a ticket, and I’ll find out where I am when I get there.”

Renee is planning solo trips to Ireland and New Zealand in the coming year. She’d rather I went along, I assume, but she’s a tough, experienced solo world traveler and she’ll have a ball. And me? I’ll keep the cat fed and the home fires burning and make sure the former doesn’t get too close to the latter. Bon voyage, honey!

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