Sunday, August 11, 2013


Small Town, USA. Easy to miss.
I know you shouldn't have regrets. But there is that saying about only regretting the things you haven't done. You know the one.

Travel lends itself to those. Opportunities that present themselves fleetingly on the road. Sometimes repeatedly. I understand there's no possible way to embrace every temptation that crosses your path. And I'd say I've grabbed onto more than I've missed over the years. But, peering into the rear-view mirror, I wish I'd done a few things differently.

So, it's time to air them. To fess up and offload the weight I've been carrying around in my day-pack of travel regrets, stuff-ups and missed opportunities, and up-end some of them onto the pavement of Get Over It Street.

1. No No Chan Chan, Peru
After six solid months on the road, we found ourselves comfortably enjoying the beachside-iness of Huanchaco, Peru. The town ticked a lot of boxes: Great surf, seafood and a kaleidoscope of travellers to keep things interesting. A month here seemed just the tonic with the bright lights of Trujillo a short drive away, and the world heritage archaeological site of Chan Chan (the largest Pre-Columbian city in South America) a few minutes up the road.

Chan Chan. Clearly not my photo.

After months of visits to ruins, citadels and important Patrimonio de la Humanidad sites, we thought we might give the waves a bit of a go before we got our Chan Chan on.

Truth be told, we never got to Chan Chan. Never set foot inside the place despite driving past it maybe a dozen times. To this day, I feel bad about it. But our determined commitment to sleeping in, surfing till sundown, beers, cards (500, anyone?) and late night nonsense (rinse and repeat) saw Chan Chan slip down the list of priorities.

Right off the bottom of it, in fact.

2. Jerusalem: Holy Places
I would never say I'm a practising, committed Christian but I am a product of that tradition, I suppose. And I am a fan of the magnificent edifices and scared places that are the physical expression of the world's great religions and belief systems. So why, oh why, did I go all the way to Jerusalem and make no effort to visit the Christian Quarter of the old city?

Did I seek out the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of Christianity's holiest places? Nope.

How about following the path that Jesus struggled with cross on the way to his crucifixion, letting the suffering of the Via Dolorosa wash over me? Nuh-uh.

And the Cenacle? Surely I popped into the Upper Room which is, according to Christian tradition, not only the site of the Last Supper but also the regular lodgings of the Apostles when in Jerusalem. Well, what happened was...

Christendom's holy places were out there somewhere - AUG. 1997

We didn't even duck down to Bethlehem, for goodness sake.

To be fair, we were probably just trying to get a dose of the other, and did visit a number of holy places. Just not Christian ones.

Still, it's a big old regret.

3. Small Town USA
Looking back now, this was a disaster. We did so many things right. We had an awesome old car (1981 Cadillac Seville, no less), a coast to coast itinerary (San Fran to Florida), an old-school road atlas and the open road ahead of us. Unfortunately, we stuck to the freeways and went more or less from big city to big city staying in generic, chain hotels - nary a quirky motel, guest-house or hostel along the way.

'81 Cadillac Seville.
Sure, we had a good time - nay, an amazing time - but I reckon we missed out on so much of the stuff that makes America great: Unusual folk in roadside diners, bizarre local attractions, creepy run-down amusement parks - the dots connected by the smaller roads…you know the stuff.

I have been back to The States a number of times since then and have had the very great fortune of connecting with Small Town USA. Those places with a real main street, a Five-and-Dime, bad coffee in a great diner with an awesome signature dish, a preposterous claim to fame (like the unexpectedly excellent Rayne, Louisiana which claims to be both the Frog Capital of the World, and the Louisiana City of Murals), and where nothing much goes on except for a whole lot of real life.

Down on the Bayou. Small Town, USA. We worked it out...eventually.

Minor League College Baseball. Another Small Town gem, USA.
But, it would have been so much better in a 1981 Cadillac Seville.

Anyone who has travelled will have a handful of these. I've got a few more that might make their way into future posts here.

But how about you show me yours first?

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