Dream On: A Short Guide to Armchair Travel

It’s a tough time for everyone. My heart goes out to those who either have the coronavirus or who are susceptible to its worst effects, of course. We wish you well and aim to do our part to keep the illness at bay. I also want to thank those medical workers, first responders, government officials, and journalists who are all working to care for, maintain order for, strategize for, and inform all of us. Thank you from the entire human race.

Humans are resourceful and innovative. If you’ve ever doubted that, I’d suggest a read of Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens. It’s a broad and deep history of homo sapiens that shows how we’ve used our abilities to communicate to overcome limitations of building trust with strangers to create ever-larger communities and societies. It’s a compelling account, presented in a storytelling style, that will possibly change your thoughts on everything from money to politics to travel to pandemics. It certainly makes a strong argument for seeing the arc of human history as an ongoing story, and that cooperation and communication, not separatism and hate, are our strongest tools.

On the other hand, if you just want to be scared out of your wits for fun, read the sci-fi novel Earth Abides by George R. Stewart. It’s a good, old fashioned pandemic horror story with philosophical undertones. It, too, has a hopeful ending, but the road to it is fraught with post-apocalyptic terror. I read it as a 15-year-old and reread it as a 40-something and got something different out of it each time. Be forewarned – it was written in 1949, so while its author may have been forward-thinking for his time, it reflects the mores of that era. Still, it’s worth a read with that caveat. And for those who have read it, I’ll just say: Rattlesnakes!

I’d also suggest keeping up with current events outside of social media and especially outside the propagandist, faux-news outlets leading you astray for the sake of controlling your vote through short, false narratives. My antidote for that is a subscription to the venerable, trusted Economist. As a progressive, I find the news spot-on and the opinions a challenge to my instinctual take on things. Not only is The Economist a great way to keep up, but it’s also a really excellent way to learn about the world, and see what’s happening in the places you might someday wish to travel. I know Rick Steves has mentioned reading it, and he is, of course, a model traveler.

Speaking of travel, if you’re looking for a way to escape, might I suggest keeping an eye out for the nationwide debut of our new episode? Real Rail Adventures: Swiss International Hubs was shot last August/September, long before the coronavirus was on our radar. It begins airing in April, so check your local PBS listings and/or https://www.aptonline.org/wheretowatch. In this all-new episode, I travel to Switzerland from Hamburg, enjoying the street art in Basel, canyoning near Interlaken, visiting the Red Cross & Red Crescent Museum and building my own Swiss watch in Geneva, and visiting rooftop honeybees and a carbon capture plant in Zurich while riding plenty of trains along the way. We also take short side trips to Milan and Paris, which should help you get a look at those places while we await the loosening of the pandemic’s grip on society.

And, as always, you can watch our other episodes as well. All three are being regularly scheduled on Create TV nationwide. Check where to tune in locally and for scheduled airings at http://www.CreateTV.com. If you can’t wait, stream two of the episodes on Amazon Prime (free for Prime members). Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Grand Tour, which includes panoramic trains, treetop adventures, biking, and St Bernard puppies (who can resist the puppies?), can be purchased on DVD or streamed here. Real Rail Adventures: Swiss Winter Magic, in which I kite ski, bobsled, paraglide, and hold baby Valais Blacknose Sheep (almost as cute as the puppies) can be purchased on DVD or streamed here. I’ll note that any of your DVD purchases (including those you might make at http://www.RealRailTV.com) help defray production costs and to make future adventures possible. Thank you.

And, if you’re dreaming about traveling to Switzerland, I might suggest La Place de la Concorde Suisse by John McPhee. It will give you an educating and entertaining look into Swiss society through the eyes of a soldier doing his compulsory military service. Believe me, it’s a fun read.

One of the best parts of travel is the dreaming and planning we do well ahead of the actual trip. This is a great time to do that. Read, search, plan, and don’t hesitate to ask me questions. I can do everything from free advice to helping you plan a custom guided or self-guided trip. And, once things get back to some semblance of normal, I’ll be leading some trips myself.

So, let’s dream. And let me know: What are your escapes while doing your humanly duty and remaining housebound? I’d like to hear about books, podcasts, movies, or anything else you’re using to keep your mind active and entertained. Keep in touch!

2 thoughts on “Dream On: A Short Guide to Armchair Travel

  1. Jeff, So enjoyed Real Rail Swiss. I never took the time to learn more about how much Switzerland had to offer so I now want to go. I love trains, beautiful water, countryside, small towns and historic sites. Can you let me know if there were vegan friendly hotels and restaurants or on the train? My whole family is vegan so it’s important to us. It looked to me the country was so beautiful very concerned with climate change and eco-tourism, are they moving in the direction of electrification? Thanks for the great tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Tamer – Glad you enjoyed our show! You will find lots of vegan options in Switzerland. Of course, just like here in the U.S., there are more options in larger cities and towns and fewer in rural areas (and if you find yourself in a rural area with limited vegan restaurant options, local grocery stores are well-stocked and convenient). Also, when dining on the trains, it’s easy to ask the chef to prepare something to fit any dietary needs or restrictions. Food in general in Switzerland is very high-quality and fresh as a result of generous farming subsidies and regulations.

      And, yes, Switzerland is more and more “green” every year. Due to the abundance of hydropower (mountains, glaciers, and streams), Switzerland is greener than its neighbors. However, global warming threatens the long-term outlook for glacier-fed hydropower. Neighboring countries in the industrial east have traditionally been quite dirty, and that has affected air-quality Europe-wide, but the EU has been addressing this and the economy there is becoming cleaner and cleaner. As you may know, gasoline costs 3-4 times as much in Europe due to high taxes on fossil fuel, which discourages its use.

      90%+ of trains in the SBB network run on hydropower and electric vehicles are becoming widely available, too. As a matter of fact, the tour operator I work with in Switzerland to design custom tours offers both train and Tesla tours.

      I’m always happy to answer any questions you have as you plan your trip. As I said, I’m connected with a small Swiss tour operator who can create exactly the trip you want and make sure you have vegan options all the way through. And look for our new episode, Real Rail Adventures: Swiss International Hubs, next month!


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