Thursday, December 1, 2016

Like A Rolling Stone

RHYS BOWEN: During the past three days I have flown from Mexico where I was celebrating with our entire family to our condo in Arizona and then driven from Arizona back to our house in California. It sometimes seems that I spend my life planning what to wear in a certain place, packing, then unpacking and doing laundry. One thing is certain, I am always on the move. (Though maybe not as frequently as Hank!)

One of my great-great grandfathers was disinherited for running off and marrying a gypsy. My French great grandmother Josephine went out to Australia by ship in her eighties. I blame them for this desire to wander. It has certainly been with me all my life, ever since I waded out into the sea, wearing only my sunbonnet at the age of two and had to be rescued when the water rose up to my neck. I went across Europe on my own in my early teens. At fifteen I crossed Paris alone from one station to another to join family friends in the French Alps.

I always dreamed of going to Australia and put this plan into action when I was 24. I'd only just arrived there when I met a charming Englishman and married him. He was heading to California. We married and the rest is history. Luckily he was with an airline so we have traveled the world ever since. We've stayed in a houseboat on a lake in Kashmir. We drove in a jeep up to Ladakh. We have visited Uluru and Kakadu in the Australian Outback. And I can't see us slowing down any time soon.

Whenever I get home I swear that I will stay put for a while. I will put down roots and enjoy my surroundings. But within a week or two I spot a plane flying overhead and find myself wondering where it is headed and where I might be heading next. So it's definitely in the genes.

I've come to the conclusion that humans are divided into two types: rolling stones and moss gatherers. When I was young there were people in my village who had never been up to London. What's more they had no interest in traveling more than ten miles from their home. I suppose there are still people like that today.

There are advantages and disadvantages to being a rolling stone and moving from place to place. Life has been a succession of hellos and goodbyes. I have memories of coming out of customs at an airport and seeing a face light up when I arrive. And memories of standing on a platform, waving goodbye until the train disappears around a bend. I always seem to have people I'm missing and wish were closer to me. I spent most of my adult life on another continent from my parents and childhood friends. My parents only saw my children at the most once a year. They never had the warm satisfaction of running into Nana's house to tell the latest news the way my grandchildren do. I had to agonize when I got a phonecall to say my father was in hospital in England and then later in Australia. How serious was it this time? Did I try to farm out the children and catch the next plane? Would I regret it forever if I didn't go?

Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd stayed put in England and married the very suitable young man from Harrow and Oxford. Would I have been bored? Would I still have longed to travel? Would I have turned him into a traveler? Or would I have settled into the role of valuable village lady, running the women's institute and the flower show? (Somehow I can't picture this)

It is interesting that my fellow Jungle Reds all seem to do a lot of traveling too. We know that Hank is somewhere different almost every weekend, Debs is in England for part of the year. Lucy spends her winters in Key West, Julia spends most of her time driving her offspring these days but has lived in many parts of the world. So I'm wondering if the same inquiring mind that wants to see other places, other people, is what makes a good writer too? What do you think?

How about you, dear Readers? Are you rolling stones too?


  1. I consider myself a rolling moss gatherer: I love to travel, but not for more than a few weeks at a time, and I like to have some sort of routine when I travel. I love traveling to different places and experiencing new cultures, but I also love home or the trappings of home (a travel companion I love, a good book, a diet coke with a lime.) What I don't like is traveling without any sort of plan. I like to be spontaneous, but not to the point that I don't know where I'll sleep that night. I have friends and family members who think nothing of choosing a destination and going without reservations or itinerary, just where the wind blows them. This gives me the heebie jeebies just contemplating it. I'm all about plans.

    Interestingly enough, when I teach mystery writing workshops, I always urge participants to think about which kind of traveler they are. Do they make reservations? Plan a destination, but nothing else? I think your tolerance for travel uncertainty can give you great insight into whether you are a pantser or a plotter. I've yet to meet a plotter who likes to wing it when it comes to travel, but maybe I've met a pantser who likes to carefully plan her travel?? Hank, I'm looking at you!

  2. Rhys,

    Love this post because this resonates with me. My motto is "Have Passport, Will Travel". So people who love to travel are called rolling stones. I think that applies to me. I get what you meant about people in the village never visiting London. I was travelling in England on a train. I was on my way to Scotland from London. I had a conversation with a English person who told me that she had never been to Scotland. She lived in England all her life. I meet many interesting people when I travel. I travelled to Canada, 25 of 50 States in the USA, Scandinavia, England, Scotland, Wales, France, Germany, Holland, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Would love to visit Israel, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Because of Alexander McCall Smith's Ladies no 1 Detective Agency, I would like to visit Botswana. During my travels, I took many photos and sent many postcards home.

    Your two times great grandfather ran off with a gypsy? Does that mean that your two times great grandmother was a gypsy? And your great grandmother was French. This reminded me of JK Rowling's genealogical journey on Who Do You Think You Are? She discovered that her grandfather (or was it great grandfather?) was born in Alscae, France. So your grandfather was Welsh, your great grandmother was French and your two times grandfather married a gypsy who may be your two times great grandmother? My two times great grandmother was born in Spain and married a Russian.


  3. Ingrid made an interesting comment. Do I plan my travels? Yes, I plan when I buy plane tickets and make hotel reservations so I have a place to stay when I arrive. I plan my budget so I have enough for daily expenses while I am aborad. However, sometimes my travel plans do change. I arrived in one of my favorite cities and arranged to stay at a "green" hotel, recommended by one of my favorite travel authors. The "green" hotel turned out to be filthy and the people who worked there were flaky so I got out as soon as I could! Luckily, I was able to go to a Tourist centre and stayed at another place, which was the same place I had stayed six years earlier.

    I was travelling to my designated stop in Hamburg on the train when a passenger told me that was my stop. They were wrong! I got lost and luckily, I asked someone for help and found the right place. I had taken the train from Amsterdam. This is a small example of things not always happening according to plan. It helps when I arrive the day before. I was travelling to Hamburg for a conference.

    Although I have an itinerary like "Monday - London", if I have a free day, I can decide if I want to walk to Kensington Palace Gardens if the weather is nice. If not, then I can walk to the museums. it also depends on what kind of mood I am in. I also have a list of few things that I would like to see like Alice's shop in Oxford, which I discovered on a previous trip to England.

    So, for me, it is a mix of plans and room for stops like gelato in Florence if I want.

    Interesting questions that you ask in your mystery writing workshops.


  4. Rhys, I'm so very glad we got to experience another culture together. Your broad insights and your bottomless spirit of adventure, as well as John's, inspired me to keep rolling.

    Reading about other places must be the reason I've had unrequited wanderlust most of my life, mostly for economic reasons. I'd never been out of the US except for day trips prior to 2001. But I'm trying to make up for lost time: England, Italy, France, Austria, Germany, Czech Republic, Tanzania, Kenya, New South Wales/Australia, Peru, and Ecuador. And I've been to every US state but Alaska, and a couple in Canada.

    Moss is cold and clammy, anyway! Roll on, my dear.

  5. We’ve moved around a bit over the years, living in California, Alabama, and New Jersey.
    I really enjoy visiting new places, or returning to places I’ve enjoyed before; I had a wonderful time on a trip to Hawaii. We did a fair amount of traveling when the girls were skating; these days we tend to travel to Colorado and Virginia to visit children and grandbabies.

  6. I'm not sure how to answer the question of being a rolling stone or a moss gatherer. A moss gatherer sounds like such a wet blanket. I do enjoy traveling to different places, but there are bucket list destinations that I've yet to visit, mainly England and Scotland. Most of my traveling has been confined to the United States, including four trips to Hawaii, with a fifth trip coming up in 2017. I have been to Mexico, Acapulco and a quick trip to Nogales when I was in Arizona, but my world traveling is limited. I wish it weren't, but I was quite content to be mostly at home when my kids were growing up, and I didn't develop a real wanderlust until my fifties. I'm hoping to get to England no later than 2018. I sometimes envy those that are off to a new adventure seemingly every few weeks, but I don't think I could really adapt to a lifestyle that takes me away from home and now grandkids so much.

    Rhys, you continually fascinate me. Now, I learn you had a gypsy great-great grandmother. That's some super cool stuff there. And, I'm certainly glad you did go to Australia and meet John, as I have had a crush on your gentleman (he appears to be such a grand gentleman) since the dinner at Bouchercon Raleigh. He charmed the whole table.

  7. Rhys, I am definitely a rolling stone, and was the only one in my family who had that wanderlust. I started my solo travel from the age of 19 to Europe for 2 months...the typical youth hostel, Eurorail/Britrail way. And I did the Europe trip 2 more times in my early/mid 20s. I have been to Japan (3 times) and China (once).

    I have been to all 10 Canadian provinces, but the 3 arctic territories are still on my bucket list, and I have visited 32 of the 50 US states, including Hawaii. Half of those trips were for work. And traveling to attend more than 20 Bouchercons and 15 Left Coast Crime conventions helped me to combine my dual passions for mystery book collecting and travel, and I went to many cities/states I probably would not have gone to otherwise.

    In 2016, I only went to several places in the US: Arizona, Las Vegas, NOLA and San Francisco.

    Now that I retired from work this year, I hope to do more travel for sure! I already have booked a return trip to Iceland in February/March, then I am off to Honolulu to attend LCC 2017!

    For the rest of the world, places in South America, Africa and Australia are on my bucket list.

  8. I love this topic. I left home at just 17 to be an exchange student for a year in Brazil. That kicked off a lifetime of travel and living abroad for a year or more at a time, which I've mentioned on this blog before. These days, though, almost all of my travel is to mystery conferences. I still want to see Australia and New Zealand, spend quality time in Italy, visit my good friends in Sweden, Mexico and Portugal, get back to Japan and Brazil, take a music tour of Ireland.

    But I know I don't have tolerance any longer for perching on hard benches or on the ground. For squat toilets. For other discomforts of travel. So the tickets and lodging have to cost a lot more these days than they did when I was younger, and travel abroad seems more fraught with danger.

    So for now I'm hanging closer to home, and traveling in my mind more. And that's okay!

  9. Ingrid, what an interesting planner or fancy free wanderer equates into panzer or plotter. I'd never thought of that before. I'm definitely a panzer but I live with a man who likes every detail of travel planned out.

    Karen, an African Safari is still on my bucket list.


  10. Edith, I agree. I need a decent bathroom and a good bed these days! You would not believe where we slept during three months in Greece when I was a student.

    And as I get older I have less need for adventure and more for experience. Plus the decision to make: do I visit new places or go back to those I love? What do you think about this?

  11. I know, Rhys. That's a tough one. I lived in Japan for almost two years in the seventies - and have never been back. But I've never been to Australia and NZ at all - and they are such big ticket trips! Plus writing three books a year makes it harder to carve out time to get away at all, and traveling to the other side of the world deserves a good three weeks, I'd say.

  12. Rhys and Edith: I certainly agree that I do seek more comfort than those carefree, youth hostelling days, and a good night's sleep is important to be able to enjoy those days of exploring and experiencing to the fullest.

    As for whether one should revisit places or try totally new locales, I definitely do a mixture. There are several cities/areas I go back to annually (Bay Area, Chicago, NYC) that are large and diverse enough that I can revisit some favourite haunts, and also explore new neighbourhoods.

    But the next longer journeys to parts of South America (Peru, Chile), Africa and Australia would be all new adventures for me!

  13. I've done a lot of traveling but deep in my heart of hearts I'd rather gather moss. Nestle in moss. Luxuriate in moss. Home is where my heart is.

  14. That is the dilemma, whether to revisit much-loved places or to strike out into new territory.

    Florence was a do-over for me, but it was such a different experience from my first time in Italy, 15 years ago. And staying in one place, sleeping in the same bed, for nine days, gave me an opportunity to experience more of the flavor of the Castellina area. The closest I've ever come to that anywhere else was when I visited my daughter while they lived in London.

    As much as I love Paris, there are so many other places to see and be and breathe in.

  15. I'm a mixture of everything! I like going new places, but I have what my husband calls a very powerful tap root. Meaning if you try to transplant me too quickly, I wither:).

    As for writing, I was a plotter, but I've morphed into a pantser. In fact going to sort out some serious plot problems right after this comment...

    Edith, Australia was the trip of a lifetime for us. Yes you need 3 weeks and still we only saw a little corner of the country.

    Rhys, let's talk about the safari in 2018! we can't go in 2017 because headed to the Galapagos...very excited about that adventure because I turned down going to Antarctica with John--I was afraid I would have been desperately, miserable seasick. But sad I missed the amazing animals...

  16. I can see you as a valuable village lady! I can! YOU;d be fabulous.

    Moss, moss, I am moss. I do love to travel--cannot believe I just wrote that!-and even like to fly. And the world is shockingly diverse, and it's a treat to see someplace that's new. And different. And have adventures. But coming home..ah.

    And yes, indeed Ingrid! Maybe I am wired differently, but I would never go someplace without a plan. At least, a semi-plan. True! Except--the pages of my books. Wow. That is fascinating. Hmm. Thinking about this.

  17. 26 different addresses, but I've stayed in this last one for almost 16 years now. None of them were very adventurous except for my sojourn on the Navajo Reservation. However, I guess I was a rolling stone, right up until that boulder rolled up to this old house. Now I am definitely mossy. At least that's what I like to call that stuff spronging from my chin.

    I don't count how many trips to Europe although we tend to stay first in the same hotel, then the same apartment in Paris. I really do revel in settling in one spot and venturing out from there.

    Tomorrow we are taking a day trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake for some Christmas shopping, afternoon tea and real estate investigation. It's only a couple of hours from here, and we are thinking we should have a bolt hole prepared, are sure we are on one list or another. Canada is friendly, convenient, and will let the dogs in without quarantine. Oh, and they speak a passable English.

    I envy you who are world travelers, have only been to Mexico and Canada, England, France, and Italy. My bucket list is full, with Iceland on the top. There is something about being in a place where books and reading are the national pastime.

    Rhys, I'd like to know more about your trip to Cabo. My other half is terrified of going to Mexico, but I think she'd love the sun and sand.

  18. Oh Ingrid, a rolling moss-gatherer. That is me.

    I like going places. I don't like being busy every blessed second of the time I'm there. I like being able to sit and enjoy one place.

    And then I really like coming home. Now that it's colder, I like sitting in front of my wood stove, either writing or reading. In the summer, I like sitting on my deck.

    But writing? Total pantser.

  19. Ann: Real estate searching in the Niagara-on-the-Lake area...I am intrigued! It's apparently a great retirement community and so close to great wineries, if that is your thing. And our Canadian $ is so weak now (the exchange rate is close to 40%) that your dollar will go a long way.

    This will be my second trip to Iceland next Feb/March, and I highly recommend you go. I went in 2015 for work (2.5 days) and barely had time to see anything except a bit of Reykjavik on my own. This time I bought a vacation package for under $600 US which includes air travel on Icelandair, 3 nights hotel and 2 tours including the Northern Lights and geyser/waterfall tour. I also plan to go to the Blue Lagoon.

  20. Thanks for all this.
    It was great to read.

  21. Ann, we felt perfectly safe in Cabo. There was security everywhere. Any vehicle coming into hotel had to register at the gate and then be checked out again. My daughter and granddaughter were not allowed out to go dancing at a club two resorts away. And the water was purified. And the sun and sand were amazing.


  22. Everyone in my family is a rolling stone, with the exception of The Smithie, who is happiest in the place she knows and loves. That makes me think there must be a genetic component - all my kids were raised with the same parents, same home, same trips abroad or in the US, but one is a homebody and another literally joined the Navy to see the world.

    And Rhys, no matter how nice the Old Harrovian might have been, I can't picture you filling your days with jam and Jerusalem.

  23. Julia,

    Your comment resonated with me because my father likes to stay home. He hates to travel. I suspect his dislike for travel stemmed from his military days. He travelled a lot when he was in the military to Japan, Australia and other countries. I remember him travelling with my Mom and me when I was a kid. I love to travel. My mom loves to travel. Her parents loved to travel.


  24. No, Rhys, I can't see you as the village lady, although I'm sure you'd have done a tip-top job of organizing the WI:-)

    Rolling stone or moss... What an interesting question. I'm a bit of both. I grew up traveling all of the US and Mexico. My parents loved to travel, and I still haven't been to half the places they went, including China, Japan, and South America. I went to live in Mexico City the summer I was eighteen. And in my twenties I took off across England and Scotland for a couple of months with nothing but a bus pass.

    And of course I travel a lot these days for work--research in the UK, conferences and book tours in the US. But--I really like being home and I'm very rooted. I live twenty miles from the town where I grew up, and forty miles from the town where I went to college. Both sides of my husband's family come from our town, and we've now lived in our old house for twenty-one years, with no intention of moving. (Unless we start looking at Tasmania...)

    And when I travel, I like to stay in the same place long enough to learn all its little details, so that it feels like home.

  25. Ann, Iceland is on my list as well. The landscape looks so dramatic, and how can you go wrong with a population who love books so much?

  26. Me too! Iceland is on my list as well. I would love to visit that country. Nice surprise that it only costs $600. A friend was there several months ago and told me it was very expensive!


    Like you, I like to travel from a "home base". When I lived at Oxford, it was my "home: and I travelled to London, If I wanted to go to Scotland, I would travel to London then take the train from London to Edinburgh. I was fortunate to stay in Oxford for six weeks, which meant that I learned many little details. I stayed with friends in Edinburgh for a week and we travelled to Glamis Castle and to other parts of Scotland.


  27. Hallie said: Home is where my heart is." And I couldn't agree more. But my heart has been in so many places now!
    When I was a kid, we never went anywhere; we own no car, so vacations were spent in the backyard. One of my early goals was to ride my bicycle as far out every road leaving my hometown as I could and still be home for dinner (being home for dinner was an unbreakable rule back then)
    University finally got me out of town (by then, I had bought my own car, just like I had bought my own bicycle). I've since lived in 5 US States and lost track of the addresses.
    20+ years with a wife working for UNHCR, I've also lived in Papua New Guinea, China, Thailand, Tajikistan, Macedonia, Switzerland and France. Mostly, I loved it all; although I do remember the days when I said, "No, I just can't move any more," and we settled for a while.
    I also remember the first time we came to the village where I am now sitting in my home writing this, and sitting out on the porch of an evening at the B&B, thinking, "I'm home." And I've built gardens, and a big deck, and renovated, and invested a lot of emotional effort. But it's been almost 5 years now, and even though I am 68 and we did all that, I'm beginning to wonder: "Isn't it about time we tried someplace new?"

  28. Diana: I should clarify that the $600 US Icelandair vacation package I bought was a special deal that was available online for about a week. Your friend is correct, Iceland is generally expensive, esp. food and clothes. When I went there for work in 2015 it cost them over $1800 US for 2.5 days!

  29. Big time rolling stone. When I was single a little more than now (husband is not a fan unless he is piloting the plane). One job I worked at my boss would take my passport and lock it up when we were working on special projects. There are times I just cannot pass an airport.

    Fun blog, Rhys. I'm envying you Australia.

  30. I was in Iceland a few months ago and LOVED it. I blogged right here about it:

    Do not take one of those quickie overnight/2 day trips. You need at least 5 days to enjoy it. It IS expensive on the ground. But so is Australia and a million other places.

  31. Rhys, we have moved so often in our 48 years of marriage that my son in law asks "isn't it time for you guys to move? Hasn't it been five years?" He's kidding, happily. I met you in CA, but since have lived in MD, SC, and now VT. We love it here, most family is near, and we are not young, so will probably stay. But we do travel, have seen much of the British Isles, been to Italy, and are just back from a cruise/holiday in which we fell in love with Amsterdam, saw quite a lot of the Rhine through Germany and into Switzerland, spent time in Zurich, Paris, and stopped in Iceland for a few days enroute home. It was magical.

    On the domestic side, I have visited every state except Louisiana and Alaska. (It's easy. Move far away from family and vary your route as you drive across country.) I haven't seen nearly enough of Canada or Mexico, though. Interestingly, my daughters seem to be mossy, rooted in upstate NY, but their offspring? One is in Australia, one in Stockholm. GREAT reason to visit!

    By the way, the granddaughter in Stockholm is a go-getter. She organized the international ex pat community of young mothers and fathers, and has edited and published two books of essays on the joys and sorrows of bearing and raising children far far from "home." No mysteries yet, but she wouldn't surprise me.

    So, I think I fall on the rolling stone side. I have always explored where we lived... oh, the San Francisco Bay Area! Heaven! I worked with a woman who lived in Antioch and had never been to SF. Here in the SW corner of Vermont, I have met folks who think a drive to Albany (39 miles over good road) quite the adventure. I think they are missing so much.


  32. My mom always said that the 2 most important items anyone should have are a library card and a passport. Needless to say, all of her children are readers and travelers (either with or without a passport)!

  33. Wonderful post, Rhys! Traveler here! I get itchy feet if I don't take several trips every year. I think it's in the genes. My mom's a traveler and raised me to be the same. I know a lot of people don't like to leave their zip code, but I find that positively dreary. I was just looking at next year's calendar and it already includes trips to Hawaii, Maine, Nova Scotia, Toronto, and Florida. I think I'll just leave my suitcase packed. I am quite certain the writer in me thrives on the adventure and people watching I enjoy while traveling.

  34. Wonderful post! Love the photos too! Great comments from everyone!

    Cannot believe that I have not visited Ireland yet! Aer Lingus airlines, one in a while, offers a special deal from SFO to Ireland. And would love to visit Cornwall one of these days.

    Oh Canada! I loved Vancouver when I was there twice. I visited Victoria and another island where a relative had a wedding.

    Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are on my list of places that I want to visit. I hope to see Toronto when I go to my first Bouchercon.

    Like Jenn, I think my love for travel is in my genes, even though one parent was not a big fan of travelling. I remember my first solo travel was to the UK for my junior year abroad (actually summer abroad).

    Grace and Hallie,

    Thank you for the FYI that Iceland is expensive. For a five day stay, I wonder if there are local families hosting or anything like hostel or Airbnb?


  35. I am a rolling stone with one huge exception. When I finally had to leave graduate school (where we actually had a rent-free apartment) after 14 years, we travelled west and visited a lot of places before we sort-of settled where we are now in Arizona. I've been flying alone since I was 9. It was safer than letting me drive, I guess. My first flight was to Burlington, Vermont over winter vacation where I hoped to learn about maple syrup and horses. Instead I learned about skiing and The Lake. I didn't make it across the Champlain Bridge, because my hosting family wasn't as carefree and easy going as my own.

  36. No, I didn't fly the plane. I just flew in it.