Friday, January 1, 2016

Hello, Europe

I always get a terrific rush of blog hits between 11 pm and 2 am my time; I presume this is because my European audience is waking up, getting their breakfast, seeing what's been written lately.  I have a number of followers who are German, Spanish, Czech, French and even Croatian . . . so I know you're out there.

It feels pretty good to be appreciated by others who don't natively speak the same language, who have a completely different perspective on history, tradition, the craziness of the colonies and all that.  I've never actually been to Europe - but through my whole life I have invariably found myself relating better to people for whom culture did not begin last week.  Perhaps I just have a long view or a habit of forever seeing the big picture.

I often say to people here that were I dropped at random in Europe it would not take long for me to figure out where I was.  It wouldn't be long after that before I found myself in some church, palace, museum or castle, correcting the tour guide on what the symbolism meant and general purpose of some obscure feature was.

But I know the trains would drive me crazy, as would virtually every other modern adaptation.  In my silly romanticism, I imagine myself walking in Europe, with just enough money to pay for food and lodging that would suit me without having to rub shoulders in hostels and such.  I've been in hostels here; I've heard hundreds of tales of back-packing through Europe and they all make me squirm.  I don't want to be a bum.  I just want to see everything.  Slowly.  One small, provocative riverside town at a time.

It is all nonsense.  If there's anything I've learned about travel, it's that fundamentally it always sucks.  There are always impediments, the rudeness of people, the impracticality of luggage, endless misunderstandings about which side of a gate or a track that one is standing, irreconcilable difficulties associated with electrical power, drinking water, passports, language, duties and general bureaucratic whatever.

I also learned long ago that there are two other impediments to my travelling.  I only enjoy myself when I travel first class.  And I hate, truly hate, ever having to leave a place because the number of days I have to stay there are done.

So I don't travel, not much.  Give me money, give me the lack of a day-job that I have to commit to and by San Sebastian and Diocletian's Palace I will see everything.

In the meantime, I wait and hope for things to work out.


  1. Alexis,

    I've done a fair amount of traveling, mostly in Europe, and it has enriched my game-mastering in many ways. Yeah, I've experienced some of the travel drawbacks you cite, but I've had way more positive experiences. Whether it was turning on the lights in a vaulted chamber underneath a castle ruin in Saaremaa, Estonia and disturbing a colony of bats, or wandering the streets of Óbidos in Portugal during their annual Medieval Market festival, I've been able to see, hear, taste, and smell the stuff of adventure.

    I'm able to apply those experiences when I'm describing locations to players. I've crawled through tunnels under Rhine castles with candle in hand, and clambered into caves behind waterfalls in Switzerland. I've crossed a bridge in Skocjan cave in Slovenia that felt like the bridge the Fellowship crossed in Moria as they fled the Balrog.

    i know your voracious reading gives you fodder for your games. And, I try to read as much as I can to fuel my own narratives. But I wouldn't trade the experiences I've had, the people I've met, and the sense of wonder I've felt for a whole library of books. I don't travel first class. And I'm uncomfortable at best while flying. But all of it has been worthwhile, and added a lot to my descriptions in-game.

  2. Sorry, Keith, but virtually everything you just said to me sounds absolutely AWFUL to me.

    Ech. Visceral experiences. Bats, caves, waterfalls, bridges, tunnels. I have no interest whatsoever.

    I live in Canada. 80 miles from an incredible mountain wonderland, one that the whole world comes to visit, to ski, to spelunk, with waterfalls to clamber behind and ice caves to investigate and tunnels to climb through. European tourists spend tens of thousands of dollars to have three weeks roaming around the visceral experiences of my backyard, that I grew up with, that I have a long line of memories with going back to being five and six and seven.

    Please don't feel that I am dismissing YOUR feelings about YOUR adventures. They sound great (to someone else) . . . but I'm definitely not interested in going to Europe so I can feel like I'm in Moria.

    I know it SOUNDS like what I'm looking for is wonder - but definitely not the kind you name. I would have far, far, far more entertainment from discussing, at length, a library full of books. In, say, Cambridge. Or a museum full of paintings. Or a quiet afternoon, without a care in the world or anything to make me dirty, inconvenienced or compelled to use my body as I sat in a chair and discussed wine with a pleasant companion in Arezzo.

    One point in reference to your comment, Keith. See, I know where every one of the places you name are without having to look them up. It may all be book learning, but it always seems that I know where everything is. So when I think about where I'd want to go, I think, where would I be the most COMFORTABLE.

    What do I hate about not travelling first class? It's the tourists. The bloody-minded, annoying, chattering, brainless goddamn tick-brained tourists. And I just know the goddamn streets of Óbidos during the fucking festival are full of fucking tourists.

    I'd rather be in Óbidos in the off season. When I can talk to the locals. Who also hate the tourists.

  3. I get where you're coming from, Alexis. I grew up in the Seattle area, so we've got similar backgrounds with natural wonders. Hiking with my Aunt, before I'd done any real traveling of my own, I used to enjoy her stories of climbing mountains, wandering in Africa, and biking in Europe. Her stories probably led me to fantasy literature. My main point being I thought travel had broadened my skill set as a game master.

    I also think my travel has given me a greater appreciation for the level of detail in your game. I'm sure it's quite vivid as you describe it. I hope 2016 is good to you and your game!

  4. Go to Paris and lock yourself inside the Louvre for a month, during the off season. Done.


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