In Search of the ‘Road to Zanzibar’

 by Bob Sparrow

     I’m not sure if it was the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken, Charles Kuralt’s ‘Road Books’ or the old ‘Road Movies’ that got me hooked, but ‘the road’ has always had a certain appeal to me, particularly the one less traveled – like the one to Zanzibar.

     When I was first introduced to the Frost poem in high school freshman English by Miss O’Brien I’m guessing my eyes glazed over as she explained the symbolism presented therein – hey, it was first period and I didn’t drink coffee yet (I was told it would stunt my growth!).  But at some point, much later, I not only ‘got it’, but I embraced it.  So if anyone knows the whereabouts of Miss O’Brien, please let her know that I didn’t turn into the illiterate reprobate that she suggested I might.

     My attraction to Charles Kuralt’s books came later in life – watching him on CBS’s Sunday Morning and then following his adventures through his ‘road books’ as he traveled the back roads of American and, as he put it, ‘drifted with the current of life’.

     But if I’m being honest, my first bite from the ‘wanderlust’ bug came from those ‘road pictures’ (that what they called movies back then) – Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour cavorting in such exotic places as Singapore, Zanzibar, Morocco, Bali – I admit to having all seven ‘pictures’ in VHS and DVD.  OK, I know now that they never got off Paramount Pictures back lot, but as a kid I bought into those phony sets and white men with face-black playing the role of the natives.  It was those movies that let me know at an early age that there were far-off places that were very different from the neighborhood I knew – and I wanted to see them.  Zanzibar sounded particularly mysterious – I wanted to travel that road.

    Now as each summer approaches, I ask myself, ‘Where in the world do I want to go?’  As if in answer to my question, I received a copy of National Geographic Traveler  in the mail.  I don’t remember subscribing to it, but it had my name on the cover label so I guess I did.  I’m a sucker for any travel magazine and subject to impulse buying of such things so I probably ordered it.  In this issue they touted the “50 Tours of a Lifetime”.  I skipped right to page 82 where the article began.  I was intrigued by the kind of places they were naming:  Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Patagonia, Myanmar.  It’s a good day for me when I can work the word Zimbabwe into my conversation – it’s just a fun word to say.  “Oh, that Ivory carving?  I got it in a small village on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique.”  I like saying Mozambique too, so it’s really a good day when I can get them both into the same sentence.

     A further examination of these ‘Fifty Tours of a Lifetime’ revealed two things:

           1)  I’d need several ‘lifetime’ just to get to them all in, and

          2)  I’d need several more lifetimes to earn the money necessary to pay for these tours.

To wit:

     Zimbabwe –15 day tour, $6,295 (Side trip to Mozambique and ivory carving not  included)

     Myanmar – 9 days, $7,495 (Previously known as Burma – you remember ‘Burma Road’, or perhaps Burma Shave?  Doesn’t matter, they’re both gone now)

     Botswana – 15 days, $17,825   ($17,825!!!  Wow, I would like to work Botswana into a conversation as well, but not at these prices!)

      I finally came to the realization that looking at the ’50 Tours of a Lifetime’ was like looking at a Playboy Magazine – I’m seeing places I’ll never get to.

      But I will hit some back roads this summer and see if I can ‘drift along with the current of life’ and report back to you; I’d encourage you to do the same thing.  Let us know about your ‘roads less traveled’.

POST SCRIPT:  I’ve yet to hit the ‘Road to Zanzibar’, it actually requires a boat since Zanzibar is a city on the island of Unguja off the east coast of Africa, but I guess you knew that.

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