On The Road by Jack Keroac

I read this book in college driving through the Blue Ridge Mountains with two girl friends in a small, economy car stuffed with luggage in the back. We read the whole thing out loud, but starting in West Virginia was fitting. Growing up Jewish, my parents were scared to go to the South. The said it was anti-Semitic. But this drive was one of the most beautiful I have ever been on in my life and I could relate to Jack. I have always been a traveler. . .

People ask me why I went to study in Africa. There is a long answer and a short one. And there are many causes for one event. . . I traveled a lot as a kid, so it didn't seem as far away as it might to someone who has never been out of the US as a kid. I had already spent many (somewhat boring) summers in Europe, visiting professors and their families, museums and cathedrals. I appreciate the on-site art education to this day. And the bike trips were fun as well.

But Europe is so Western. I wanted to go somewhere not in the Western World -- to find out about another culture that was totally different. By chance, I was exposed to Kenya from a former gardener who sent us posters when he left us for a job at the Kenyan Embassy. Growing up in the 70s and 80s, multiculturalism was not the norm. But our family was different. We traveled and I was taught bits of many different languages, including Hebrew -- which even has its own alphabet. And we were Jewish. Which in Santa Monica at the time was different. There were fights about if I could go out on Friday night but in the end, I did. Not that I could tell you much about the Samohi Football Team.

Being Jewish was a double edged sword for me. I felt different, but proud. Actually, now I feel proud. Then I tried to blend into the public school that was mostly WASPy and a little Mexican and Black and a tiny bit Asian. My mom had curly dark hair and a big nose and thick eyebrows that she plucked, but I had golden blood hair.
I could "pass" in the waspy world. My parents were and are intellectuals, so they had their own world and it centered on UCLA. I was a beach kid and played beach volleyball and swam in the ocean and hung out and had a sensual time. It was a good balance to all the books at home.

Maybe feeling different has helped me become a writer. . . I listen. I observe. And I study people and place and their differences. . .
What is the most important thing you do when you travel?
Does this help with your writing?
Can you travel down the street -- or do you have to go far?