My Top Ten – Mr. Wood’s Ultimate Travel Destinations…
Recently Lonely Planet revealed its 500 Ultimate Travel Destinations. It got me thinking – what are my ultimate travel destinations? What are my Top Ten? And so I figured this is as good a place as any to figure that out. The guidelines are simple – in order to qualify I only have had to gone there. In addition, any place noted, isn’t just a location – its an adventure and is bound to have been influenced by the particular experience. Finally, this list is fluid. The order not all that important. It can and should and will change with time.
So here you go – my Top 30 – with special attention to the Top Ten.
1 – The West Bank of Palestine – (2009) This has to be my #1. The injustice that continues with Israeli Apartheid and the Occupation, and full U.S. funding; to see it and walk the streets of Hebron, Bethlehem, East Jerusalem – that was so important to me. It brought and continues to bring the situation home. Being there gives me the creditability to continue to lobby American citizens and politicians as to the injustice perpetrated on the Palestinian people by the United States and Israel.
2 – Great Mosque of Djenne (Mali) – (2006) I traveled to Morocco and Mali with the Fulbright Foundation in 2006. We were in Mali for ten days…my introduction to sub Saharan Africa. The Great Mosque, made entirely of mud, is an awesome sight. Yousef invited me inside for morning prayers. On Wednesdays the square below it floods with people from all over the province – a giant market in oppressive 100+ heat. All of it is amazing.
3 – Cuba – I bit into the forbidden fruit in 1998. Back then you had to find an alternate route, so I drove to Toronto, flew into Cuba, explored Old Havana – smoked my Cohiba – worshipped at Che’s monument – and finally the ultimate – watched el Commondante give a six hour speech in Cienfuegos. On and on and on and on…and the only word I could make out was “Yankee.” The doors are now open – and while many things will improve (and much will not) with this McDonaldization process, the old Cuba that I traveled will be lost forever.
4 – Venenzia, Italia – (1995) My first trip abroad changed my life. I Awakened. Sunday morning, standing on the steps of the Venice train station, looking out over the Grand Canale – I really felt as though I was on another planet.
5 – Red Square in Moscow (2002 ) It kind of gets burned into your memory if you grow up during the Cold War and you eventually turn into a closet Socialist. Plus I got to see Lenin asleep in his tomb…it would be so cool to travel there and see it in the Winter or to watch Pussy Riot protesting Putin on the steps of St Basils Cathedral.
6 – Washington State Ferries (ongoing) I love the Washington State ferry boats. Standing on the deck in the sunshine, or sitting with a cup of coffee at a booth inside, watching the rain fall, the ferries s are a part of my history (1982 to 1987). One year I lived in West Seattle and taught at John Sedgwick Jr. High on the peninsula and took the boat to work and home each day. Every trip back I look forward to the journey across Puget Sound on the ferry boats.
7 – Call to prayer in Istanbul (1997) – the first time you hear the call to prayer all over the city, echoing from minaret to minaret is magical. Mystery, repetition, music – no matter where I am at in the Muslim world I still love it. I am affected. And always I think back to that first encounter on the streets of Istanbul.
8 – The Sahara (and the Atlas Mountains) Morocco (2006) They go together for me. In 06 at the end of our Fulbright we got a week to go with whomever, to wherever we wanted to go. Melita and I, rented a car in Marakech and drove through the Atlas Mountains to the entrance of the Sahara Desert. From there we took camels (and a guide) into the desert. We spent the night in Sahara. My camel’s name – Jimi Hendrix.
9 – Northern Rocky Mountains – (1981 to 1987) – Driving west and seeing the Rockies arise in front of you, and then all around you, and finally in the rear view mirror – is something that every American should do. My first time was in 1981 when I migrated to Seattle. For the following six summers I drove back to the Midwest and then returned to Washington in the Fall. The I-90 stretch from Missoula, Montana to Spokane Washington is incredible.
10 – Selma, Alabama (ongoing) I’ve been going every Spring since 2003 to cross the bridge and visit the street fair the first week in March in Selma, Alabama for the Bridge Crossing Jubilee. The dynamic has change considerably in those 12 years. Many of the leaders of the movement have passed. And while it is still exciting to introduce students to Selma, and always great to hug Joanne Bland, when the movers and shakers (Reverend Orange, James Bevel, Albert Turner, Hosea Williams) were alive and ministering on the Sunday mornings before the march, it truly was historic.
11 – Comiskey Park Chicago (mid 70’s) How many times in the 70’s did Bob and I get in the car in the late afternoon and drive to the south side of Chicago? The Red Sox and White Sox in Comiskey Park n the mid 70’s that will always be for me the definition of major league baseball. Every trip was for a night game. Every trip we stopped across the street at McCuddy’s for a beer, and waited until in the middle of the first, before we migrated inside. Some ballparks are day parks; some are night. Old Comiskey shined at night.
12 – Riding the modas of Kigali, Rwanda – (2015) what a grand voyage. All of it. Uganda, Rwanda, Lake Boonyoni, Kivu and Muchinson Falls, Fred and Evelyn, Jens and Clause, the Israelis – Angelina. But the very best part was Kigali, jumping on those modas with Angelina and traversing the rolling hills of Kigali for three days and nights in July of 2015.
Best of the Rest…
- Tuscany, Italy (1995) / Sunflowers & Sienna.
- Cape Town, South Africa (2013) / Incredible setting.
- Horse Fountain in Salzburg, Austria (1995) / Calling mom.
- Fenway Park – Sox and Yankees (1978) / “Reggie Sucks.”
- Lisbon (1995) – church bells.
- Palace on the Danube / Budapest, Hungary (1997) – thunderstorms.
- Leone Nicaragua (2014) – Cathedral.
- Canals of St Petersburg (2002) – Dostoevsky.
- Lake Boonyoni, Uganda (2015) – chill.
- Brasov, Romania (1997) – Vlad the Impaler.
- South African Safari (2013) – The giraffe.
- Egyptian Pyramids (2015) – I love camels.
- WW II museums Kiev /Moscow / St Pete (2002) – The Eastern Front.
- Central Park NYC – always.
- Dingle Peninsula Ireland (1995) – The pub.
- souks of Damascus and Aleppo, Syria (2009) – gone.
- Roman Coliseum (2015) – ancient.
- Sinatra live in Atlantic City (1990) – “Buckle up.”
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.” – Terry Pratchett