Zen and the Art of Doing Nada

by Ellen Barone

Not too long ago, I was chatting with a guest in the lobby of the Inn on the Alameda, where I love to stay in Santa Fe. Perhaps some of you know her: 30-something, Pilates lean, size zero designer jeans, stylish hair cut, perfectly nice. When conversation turned to travel, as often happens in hotels, she told me that she and her husband had recently returned from an African safari. "Sure, the wildlife was awesome, but what they don't tell you," she said, "is that there's a lot of down time with nothing much to do. Four hours a day, at least," she said, "to entertain yourself with no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage."

So there I was, in my not-even-close-to-size-zero Patagonia quick-dry travel pants, snuggled in front of a flickering piñon fire, quite prepared to do absolutely nothing for the evening, wondering if I should admit to this kind stranger that my favorite part of any vacation is her dreaded down time.

In fact, I confess, one of my favorite escapes was a month spent doing nada at a friend's no gym, no Internet, no TV, no cell coverage, Mexican beach casita. I like to think of myself as an adventuresome sort, the kind of gal that says yes to rappelling down 9,000-foot mountains, yes to a 2-week camel trek across the Moroccan Sahara, yes to cycling up a rumbling Mount Etna, yes to sailing across the Atlantic, and have in fact done all of the above. But, to my ego's horror, I have come to discover that I am, in all honesty, an A-plus student of doing nothing. I can hang-ten in a hammock, watch butterflies, swing in a porch swing, listen to surf and read 17 books in one month, with the laziest of them.

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Nature Nurtures In The Amazon

by Dale V Atkins

I just returned to Manaus from the Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge in the Amazon (actually on the River Negro which is indeed a black river not due to dirt but due to tanens from leaves and organic matter and has NO mosquitoes at all on the water...unlike the "muddy river" which has apparently has PLENTY.) Did I really need those malaria pills?

It is unbelievably wet there....it is not called a rain forest for nothing..You cannot go out for 10 minutes without a rain jacket unless you don't mind consistently walking around looking as if you just lost the jungle wet tee shirt contest. I opted for the rain jacket (which doubled as my icebreaker a week ago when I was marching around in crampons on the Moreno glacier in Argentina but let's stick to one rain jacket adventure at a time.).

Just so you know, before I go any further, I am as happy as I can be. I look just like a hairdresser's nightmare (or dream depending on your point of view) as my roots are huge and my curls are wilder than in the '60s. It is good that HAIR has returned to Broadway because I may go directly from the plane to a casting call. Truth is, as soon as I land, I am going to the grandkids to give and get some great hugs and smooches followed immediately by an appointment with the hairdresser.

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A year on the Ground

by Sallie Bingham

2009 is the year I decided to stop flying.

Not flying in my imagination, or flying down a mountain on skis, but flying on the hideous US airlines, dealing once again with the insane security regulations, the rudeness of airline emplopyees, the escalating costs, now compounded by charges for luggage, the endless waits, the numbing cancellations, the refusal to grant travelers even basic amenities like pillows and free peanuts....

So, I will not fly this year. After all, we can stilll remember when we used to drive and take trains; we still have cars and Amtrak still manages to cripple along. So there are alternatives to the gross mishebenavior of the commercial airlines. Why not try them?

Expense? Probably. This will be one of the things I'll track: gas has gone down again, motels are not expensive, meals on the road can (perhaps) be cheap.

Time? Certainly. But what are the pay-offs? A closer relation to the landscape? The opportunity to meet, and talk with, strangers? A better understanding, even, of that mysterious entity, our continent?

Relationships? Strained by extended time together in a car or a train compartnemt? Probably. But, again, what are the rewards?

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by Judith Fein


Join award-winning travel journalists/photographers Judith Fein and Paul Ross on a CULTURAL IMMERSION TRIP TO TUNISIA, MAY 8-22, 2009.


The goal of the trip is to teach participants how to travel deeply in a safe, exciting, exotic, accessible country and to write about their experiences.  The pieces will be read aloud to the group every day, and hands-on instruction will be offered in travel photography, no matter what your level of proficiency.


The 14-night, l5 day trip will include all the highlights of Tunisia-- from the ruins of Carthage to the island of Djerba during a festival dedicated to a woman; from cave dwellers to souk shopping; from Berber villages to Bedouin markets to the stillness of the Sahara desert at night. In addition to visiting the sites, participants will have contact with Tunisians from all walks of life--AND THIS IS THE HEART OF THE TRIP. You will go into homes, music studios, caves, kitchens, mosques and spend time with open-hearted, friendly locals while learning about their culture--how they think, eat, work, live, create art, worship and feel about the world. 

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