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Part 1
Know Thyself

1) Why Travel

2) The First Lesson of Traveling Well

3) How to Travel: Traditional Approaches

4) Threading: A New Approach and Philosophy

5) The Walking Threader

6) Road to Discovery

4—Threading: A New Approach and Philosophy

A detailed look at a great way to go...

"Perhaps you're looking for things the traditional budget travel approaches don't offer. You're open to something else altogether—an approach that begins, not with train passes or lodging convenience, but with you, the traveler. It can be seen as a fourth approach, or it can serve to encompass the others as a super-category. It is not just a way of traveling, but a way of seeing."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

To fully tap into the potential of travel, start with a long look at what you'll be engaging as you go along -- that is, of course, the world. Everyone has some sort of model of the world inside their heads -- a model built of images, descriptions, opinions, anecdotes, and more. Often, our mental models are fragmented -- our mental maps focus on lines of division and points of interest.

But lines and points are pure abstraction -- part of a set of travel metaphors that encourage us to ignore context and connection, and to race onward to sights, highlights, and destinations. I much prefer a planetary metaphor that 'knits' all these sights and highlights into whole 'cloth'. Using it as your frame of reference, you'll be always aware of the continuity and context that bind a collection of moments into a journey.

Tapestry Earth

"The lands and life of Earth’s surface offer a splendid tapestry of potential experience, a tapestry whose patterns of nature and culture blend with one another across time and region. The shadings and textures of this living weave may change with the abruptness of a cliff or the gradualness of a river. From region to region, the tapestry varies in all the superficialities, though its essence remains intact. It is unfathomably complex, utterly wondrous, and never finished...

...When I travel, I want to sample tapestry Earth in a way that yields the richest return possible given my relatively small investment of time and effort. Knowing that relatedness and continuity are real and essential, I want to sense that relatedness and continuity. I want to understand context as well as content—to feel the flow, not just the movement. In other words, I want to thread my way through the world."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Sound hokey? Perhaps. But if you don't use this metaphor as a frame of reference, you'll use another -- whether you pay attention to what it is or not.

Despite the wealth of exposure we have to people, items, and images from other parts of the planet, it's truly hard to get past a checklist mentality. We've been dosed with anecdotes and video clips featuring highlights and extremes. We're subtly encouraged to make inflated generalizations about countries based upon their peak wonders or worst dangers. You've got a frame of reference -- is it the one you want? What's behind the eyes that you'll be opening in foreign lands?


"The threading traveler seeks continuity of experience. How? By moving slowly and steadily through the land, passing from one region to the next with eyes wide open."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

As a way of travel, threading involves the same components as all other approaches: destinations, activities, and transportation. It's just that they are selected and arranged differently in order to better reveal the larger and deeper patterns of the nature and cultures of tapestry Earth.

"The threader attempts to maintain continuity of experience like the immersing traveler who stays in one place, but does so while moving through the lands. She utilizes the relatedness of locations in a region, but does so without establishing a home base. She may see fewer famous destinations than the city hopper, but she will see them in a richer context and will therefore see them more clearly."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

How, exactly, do you "thread"? Remember that the primary goal is to maintain continuity of experience -- to avoid gaps of awareness that leave you with a diminished sense of the relatedness of the places and peoples of the world. With that in mind, consider the following "rules":

"The Threader’s Rules

1. Travel during daylight hours.
2. Use surface transportation.
3. Take short hops.
4. Walk a lot.
5. Break routine often."

Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

The book takes a long look at the many advantages of threading for all or parts of a journey, and at the specific advantages of following each "rule". Here are some excerpts:

"The Importance of Daylight Travel

Your thread is not simply a line on a map; it is a line of experience. As your uninterrupted thread lengthens, the continuity of your experience increases...

Stick to Surface Transportation

Leaving the thread is a matter of degree. When you're in the midst of an outstanding travel experience, you're as on-the-thread as you can be. If you are limited by bus windows and rapid motion, the experiential thread is less rich. Still, the slower you go and the closer you are to the ground, the more on-the-thread you are...

Take Short Hops

Two hours window-gazing on a bad bus is easy, maybe even fun. Twelve hours is a different story. Small irritations grow into monsters. A monotonous landscape becomes truly boring. Nausea, back pain, sore butt, whatever, all come to dominate your psyche and drain your will. Bus travel has evolved into bus transport...


The walker follows the thread through the most complex of its weavings. With a walker’s attitude, the entire global fabric is yours to explore. Get out from behind schedules, lines, and windows, and walk...

Break Routine Often

The “must see” and “must do” guidebook entries may represent wise priorities for your first three or four stops, but the “other things to see and do” category and your own imagination will offer refreshing alternatives when you're completely cathedraled, museumed, and ruined out..."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

Again with an excerpt:

"And so, what advantages are yours if you choose the threading approach over others for a portion of your travels?

  • You get more of a “feel” for the surface of the planet. You move slower. You miss less. You'll know the “feel” if you've got it—your eyes go a little wide and you smile.
  • You better sense the gradual variation and blending of culture and ethnicity from region to region. You'll also be aware of where it's not gradual and wonder why.
  • The scope of travel in the rural and wild world broadens. Threading from city A to city B takes you through the countryside—gently.
  • It's easier to act spontaneously. The consequence of each choice is smaller so you're more relaxed about choosing alternatives.
  • The biorhythm of sleeping and waking remains intact. There's no better foundation for maintaining a happy, bright mind.
  • You experience the feel of “journeying.” Marco Polo was a threader.
  • The walker in you is happy. Yeah!"
    Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved

One more time:

"Ah, threading. Long lists of rules and benefits don't really offer the heart of the idea. The main thing is that threading just feels right. It's easy. You get along, check things out, meet folks, and see the sights. You stick for a bit then move on, but not too far and not too fast. You see what you see and relax about the rest. You learn the world one memory at a time. Shangri-La remains a mystery, but you get a little closer, and you don't feel like you've missed what's important on the way."
Paul Otteson / The World Awaits / All Rights Reserved