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Continue the Travel Imperative–

In 1962 IBM supported a trip offered by the Escoffier Society to Europe for 19 days; my idea of touring Europe before was seeing London, Paris, Rome, and maybe one or two other capitals, but the trip went through enchanting small towns like Niederbron-les-Bains, Grasse, Siena, and other places in France, Italy, and Switzerland that said there was more to travel than just going to big European cities. In 1964 IBM offered a 30-day trip Around the World, and I found more countries I wanted to see in detail. In 1971 my lover and I found a Dutch travel agent who scheduled us around the world in 130 days. On my first trip to India we visited three cities; on my second trip to India we visited over two dozen cities and towns, and I still want to see more. About that time I glanced through my Encyclopedia Britannica World Atlas and found that I seem to have visited some destination on most of the 117 pages. Assigning dates to each page for when I first visited a location on it, I found that I was lacking a date on only 14 pages. Being a completist, I made sure I visited my 50th state, Alaska, and my last Canadian province or territory, Northwest Territories, on one trip. Afterward, they formed Nunuvit, which I'm still missing.

I took in my last two continents on one trip to Australia and Antarctica in 1991, avoiding the dreaded Drake Passage and assuring myself of getting south of the Antarctic Circle by leaving for McMurdo Sound from Hobart, Tasmania. The last page was conquered in 2002 when I finally visited Angel Falls in Venezuela. By that time I'd long ago qualified for entry into the Century Club, but I was turned off that group by a rowdy crowd that had chartered a ship to circumnavigate the near-Antarctic islands and treated Shackleton's grave on South Georgia Island with less reverence than I thought appropriate. Their count (having been to 170 of their 315) is rather artificial, however, and I prefer the statistic that I've visited 112 of the 193 United Nations countries.

By coincidence, at age 70, I took seven trips. That "forced" me to take six trips with age 71, and five trips at age 72, figuring to work down with one fewer trip each year until I reached a time when I felt I wasn't "forcing" myself to travel. In response to the question "Where HAVEN'T you been than you want to go?", the answer for many years was Vienna. With Vienna visited in 2001, I settled on St. Petersburg as the next "trophy" destination, now scheduled for July, 2008. After that, I figured the next most-wanted stop might be Dubai, but I'd rather like them to finish most of it before I visit, though a friend and I have had a discussion about February, 2009, which may be premature, but it's hard to find a friend willing to split a current $2600/night stay in a two-bedroom duplex in the world's only 7-star hotel. We'll see.