Some people derive nearly as much pleasure in preparing for a trip as they do going on the trip. Travelers to Europe hover over Lonely Planet guide books and plan itineraries. Fishermen and fisherwomen go through their tackle boxes and get their gear in perfect order. Trekkers break in new hiking boots by taking long daily walks for a month beforehand. I, unfortunately, dislike preparation. I also don’t like the driving or flying parts of trips either. I get bored with driving, and I have an aversion to pretty much everything about air travel. I don’t like airports, security lines, cramped seats (or walking by the roomy seats in business class), making (or missing) connections, and then waiting in a final line at immigration. In the last two years, COVID precautions have added a fresh layer of unpleasantness over the whole thing. I enjoy trains, but in the US, trains don’t always take me where I want to go. If I could snap my fingers and just be at my destination, I’d do more traveling.

If you read this blog the same week I posted it, I will be in Alsace. I might be sitting in an outdoor French cafe, over-caffeinating, gawking at the architecture and the people, reading Catch-22 or writing in my journal. I’ll be at peace and wondering why I stressed so much about this trip in the first place. 

Whenever I go on an extended non-wilderness trip, I bring along a small paperback of a classic novel I’ve never read before. For example, in Laos, which was my last big trip, I read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. For this three-week trip to France, I have Catch-22. This is a slight digression from my normal habit, as I have read Catch-22 one other time. It might have been when I was a teenager. Somehow in five decades of moves and life changes, the same paperback copy of Catch-22 has remained with me. I can think only two other books that never got lost somewhere along the way. They are battered copies of Walden and A Sand County Almanac. Whereas I reread those two books to the point I have some passages memorized, I haven’t touched Catch-22. It may be time to see whether it’s held up. 

Steven Simpson