Posts Tagged ‘vacation’

Some Random Beaches

Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

We all can’t be at the beach this summer, so for those of you stuck at work, here’s a random selection of beaches.

1. Dhermi_Beach

Dhermi Beach, Albania

2. Waikiki_Beach

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii

Omaha Beach, Normandy

4. Sauble

Sauble Beach, Ontario

5. China_Beach

China Beach

6. Amber-Koserow_Beach

Koserow Beach, Germany


Allen C. Beach

8. Beach-St

Beach Street, Manhattan

Einstein on the Beach

Vacation Time: Che Guevara

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

This month we’re posting about vacations taken by historical figures.

Today’s entry is about a trip taken by Che Guevara.

Before he was the revolutionary known as “Che,” Ernesto Guevara was a medical student longing to see the world.

In January 1952, the 23-year-old Guevara and his friend Alberto Granada took off on an 8-month motorcycle vacation across South America. They wanted to see the real South America they had only read about.

Starting from Argentina, the two rode Granada’s bike, which they named “The Mighty One.” It turns out the bike wasn’t that mighty after all, and after several breakdowns it broke for good in Santiago, Chile. After that they traveled by ship, horse, bus, and hitchhiked their way across the continent. Over the course of their nine-month journey Guevara and Granada would visit (in addition to Chile) Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Venezuela, and Panama.

The two had the type of rambunctious adventures you might expect from youngsters on a road trip. One night they were chased out of the town of Lautaro by an angry mob after Guevara was caught seducing a married woman.

Granada and Guevara on a raft in the Amazon

Granada and Guevara on a raft in the Amazon

But for the most part, the trip was an educational experience for the two of them. Granada was a doctor, and they spent time helping the sick and visiting leper colonies. Guevara was impressed by the traces of the ancient Inca civilization, and was moved by the similarities among the people of South America. Guevara was also haunted by the social injustices he saw among mine workers and the indigenous population.

On his 24th birthday, in the Amazon, Guevara gave his first political speech, calling for the unification of the continent.

The two made their way north to Venezuela, where they parted ways. Granada found work at a leprosarium and Guevara returned to Argentina via Miami.

Like Twain, Dickens, Roosevelt, and Goethe before him, Guevara wrote about his journey. However, unlike them, he never intended his writing to be read by others. It was only in 1993 that his family published the resulting book, The Motorcycle Diaries.

Vacation Time: Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

This month we’re posting about vacations taken by historical figures.

Today’s entry is about a trip taken by Emily Dickinson.

In 1878, Emily Dickinson took an adventurous trip to Haiti.

She traveled with Judge Otis Phillips Lord (an elderly friend of Dickinson’s father with whom she is believed to have had a late-in-life affair) and her sister Lavinia.

The trip included hiking, collecting animal specimens and camping in the rain forest. In addition, Emily assisted her sister Lavinia on light missionary work.


Since Dickinson is known for an intensely private life, we don’t have a lot of information about this trip. We do know that Dickinson was fascinated with the local customs and expressed a strong interest in witnessing a “Vu-doo” ceremony. Whether or not she was able to attend one is unknown.

According to contemporary sources, Dickinson is rumored to have taken a younger lover on her vacation. The “cher Francis” who appears in some correspondence could either be either “Francis du Champs,” a (male) Haitian servant at the American Embassy in Port au Prince, or “Francis Allore,” a (female) schoolteacher and missionary.

Vacation Time: Charles Dickens

Monday, August 19th, 2013

This month we’re posting about vacations taken by historical figures.

Today’s entry is about a trip taken by Charles Dickens.

Dickens was an eager traveler throughout his life. He liked to explore on foot and was a fan of long, vigorous walks.

In 1842, at the age of 29, Dickens took a 6-month trip to the United States.

As a populist and a fan of the common man, Dickens was predisposed to have a great time in the US. However, his resulting book American Notes paints a fairly sour image of the United States. It didn’t help that Dickens was a huge celebrity in America and was mobbed by fans and hounded by the press every step of the way. This caused him to develop a pretty critical opinion of American manners and what he saw as a mobbish democracy.

On top of this, much of Dickens’ work in the States was available in bootleg copies, so although he was very famous in that country, he had hardly made any money from his boorish American public.

And – all that chewing and spitting of tobacco? It really grossed him out.

A sketch of Dickens made on his American vacation.

A sketch of Dickens made on his American vacation.

In addition, Dickens was greatly moved by the inhumanity of slavery, which had been abolished in England nine years before Dickens’ trip to the US. He saw slavery first hand and was disgusted by the institution, cutting his portion of the trip below the Mason-Dixon line short as a result.

He was particularly shocked to see slaves being auctioned across from the US Capitol. “This is not the republic I came to see,” he wrote. “This is not the republic of my imagination.”

He was also troubled by the situation of Native Americans. But he got to meet a Choctaw chief, which was a highlight of the trip.

Dickens made great pains to visit an American prairie, but it disappointed him. In general his reactions to the American countryside were mixed. He loved Niagara Falls but hated the Mississippi. He called it “a slimy monster hideous to behold; a hotbed of disease, an ugly sepulchre, a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise: a place without one single quality, in earth or air or water to commend it.”

High points of Dickens’ American vacation were visiting Boston, of which he wrote that “the city is a beautiful one, and cannot fail, I should imagine, to impress all strangers very favourably.” Also, he was impressed with President John Tyler, who he met in Washington (a city he did not like, but who does?). On Tyler: “I thought that in his whole carriage and demeanour, he became his station singularly well.”

Still all in all the trip was disappointing for Dickens. He expected a more utopian, freer country than the one he found, and the American penchant for exaggeration made everything feel smaller than he anticipated. Still, it wasn’t the worst place he visited in his travels; he reserved that for a spot in his home country. “If any one were to ask me what in my opinion was the dullest and most stupid spot on the face of the Earth,” he later said, “I should decidedly say Chelmsford.”


Vacation Time: Goethe in Italy

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

This month we’re posting about vacations taken by historical figures.

Today’s post is about a trip taken by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

In 1786, escaping fame and love woes, German genius Johann Wolfgang von Goethe headed south to Italy.

It was as much a pilgrimage as a vacation. Goethe had long dreamed of Italy, and the country represented the passionate south to him; a land of sun, warmth, myth, and ancient glory, in contrast to the reserved, cool German north.


Goethe lounging around in Italy. He wrote: “My purpose in making this wonderful journey is not to delude myself but to discover myself in the objects I see.” Although he appears to be completely ignoring all of the objects next to him here.

Goethe’s vacation in Italy lasted two years (he was famous by then so he could afford it), and the place had a profound effect on him. Goethe was intoxicated by the landscape and the Italian lifestyle and his experience there would reverberate in his work for years to come.

“Nothing, above all,” he wrote, “is comparable to the new life that a reflective person experiences when he observes a new country. Though I am still always myself, I believe I have been changed to the very marrow of my bones.”

Goethe’s exhaustive diaries from the trip became the source of his Italian Journey, published 30 years later. The book was a success and launched a fad of young Germans traveling to explore the sun and classical glory of Italy, a fad that can even be said to still exist for some travelers.


Vacation Time: Mark Twain

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

This month we’re posting about vacations taken by historical figures.

Today’s post is about a trip taken by Mark Twain.

Twain took a “Great Pleasure Excursion” to Europe and the Holy Land in 1867. Because he was Mark Twain, he wrote about his experiences in a book.

Innocents Abroad or The New Pilgrim’s Progress documents the journey. Setting sail from New York on the retired Civil War ship the USS Quaker City, Twain and a gaggle of American tourists traveled to the Holy Land, with stops around the Mediterranean and excursions to Paris and Odessa.

Mark Twain: An Innocent Abroad

Twain and his companions were Protestant Victorians with the preconceived ideas and prejudices of their time, so many of the observations in the book are a window into that world. Things they found beautiful or disturbing on their travels wouldn’t necessarily match up with modern tastes.

Twain was surprised by the amount of poverty he saw in Europe, plus he was shocked by the small size of the Holy Land. The fact that this region was smaller than several states of the US and the Kings of the Bible ruled over such small numbers of people made a great impression on him, and the grandness of this region in his mind began to fade.

Twain played with the genre of travel writing, inserting a lot of humor and social commentary in the work, as one would expect. The juxtaposition of a collection of naive Americans on a pleasure trip to the ancient world was definitely fodder for material, and Twain explicitly documented the ways in which locals throughout Europe and the Holy Land exploited their history for commerce (the number of nails he saw in Europe supposedly from the true cross could have filled a keg, and enough bones of St. Denis to make up two of him), and he expressed his boredom and frustration with uncompelling historical narratives foisted upon him by proud locals.

Innocents Abroad was one of Twain’s biggest successes in his lifetime and is one of the most influential and best-selling travel books of all time. So you could say it was a pretty productive vacation for Twain.

Some of Twain’s memorable quotes about travel from the book:

One must travel, to learn. Every day, now, old Scriptural phrases that never possessed any significance for me before, take to themselves a meaning.

The gentle reader will never, never know what a consummate ass he can become until he goes abroad. I speak now, of course, in the supposition that the gentle reader has not been abroad, and therefore is not already a consummate ass. If the case be otherwise, I beg his pardon and extend to him the cordial hand of fellowship and call him brother. I shall always delight to meet an ass after my own heart when I have finished my travels.

Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things can not be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.

Vacation Time: Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, August 5th, 2013

We’re posting this summer about vacations taken by historical figures.

This week’s post is about a trip taken by Theodore Roosevelt.

When Theodore Roosevelt left the White House in 1909, he was hearty, full of energy, and kicking himself for vowing to only serve two terms (back then there were no presidential term limits). He didn’t know what to do with himself.

Roosevelt also knew that it would be hard for his successor William Taft to rule with a larger-than-life figure like himself hanging around.

So what’s an energetic fun-loving ex-president to do with his time? How about a vacation TR-style, with his son Kermit, an entourage of guides, naturalists, servants, and 250 porters?


Roosevelt spent a year in East Africa and the Congo hunting and collecting animals. He was productive, collecting over 23,000 animals for the Smithsonian, from insects to big game. TR’s haul was the largest collection of natural history specimens ever donated to the Smithsonian.

On the way back home, Roosevelt stopped by Norway to collect his Nobel Peace Prize. (Clearly, African animals were not on the award committee.)

Roosevelt’s wrote a book about his safari, African Game Trails, which introduced the United States to the idea of the pleasure safari. The book was a big success and led to a fad of safari-going among the rich and famous.