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April 28, 2002 - I know. It’s a long way from July 16th to April 28th. I really did start out thinking I was going to add to this journal every week. Obviously it didn’t happen; so I’ll do a quick, albeit not very detailed, summary.

From mid-July until September 4th I traveled around New England some more, still basing in Mitch and Melissa’s house in Shushan. I put some good mileage onto my red Ford station wagon driving around New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and all the way down to Annapolis, Maryland. I spoke in a lot of libraries, some homes, a café, and a bunch of stores.

On July 25th I drove into Manhattan to talk at a bookstore on the upper west side and afterwards, a group of people, most of whom did not know each other, all went out to dinner. That night I discovered something wonderful. Coming out of my talk about "connecting," people make a special effort to "connect." Even New Yorkers. They talk to each other while standing in line waiting to have books signed, they hang around and talk to strangers before they leave. And when I can get a group together to come out afterwards for dinner or a snack, everyone leaves having made new friends.

One of my favorite things to do is act as a catalyst or a matchmaker. I’ve discovered that in the context of a book signing, people talk to each other. It just happens. I don’t have to do anything, and I love it.

I have also been amazed at the level of trust people have shown me as I travel around. My host in NYC left me a key to her apartment…….and I’d never met or spoken to her; she had e-mailed me her invitation when she discovered I was going to be speaking at a bookstore down the street. A woman in Maine wrote that she was going to be away, but she would leave me the key to her house if I wanted it.

Most of the time I stayed with people who had e-mailed an invitation after reading the book….and with Servas hosts as well. I stayed on a farm in Maine, in a cabin in the woods without electricity in Vermont. Librarians in Maine fed me lobster rolls, and Stroudwater Bookstore in New Hampshire took me on a cruise around the Portsmouth harbor. I went to a church supper in Maine with my Servas hosts and talked to a group in the light of a lantern when I was in that cabin in the woods.

On September 4th I abandoned my base in New York State and took off for the rest of the country. I finished up on March 25th in New York City after driving 30,000 miles through 41 states. My red Ford, however, never left Mississippi after an 18-wheeler crushed it on January 24th. Luckily the truck driver, coming up on my rear, realized he couldn’t stop (a tree had fallen across Interstate 20 between Atlanta and New Orleans) and he drove the truck onto the grassy median, crushing the back left quarter of my car with the side of his truck. My car was totaled; the truck was barely scratched; and I walked out, shaking but unhurt. The tow truck took me to a car rental, and I continued on to New Orleans the next morning with all my stuff packed into a little two-door Honda, the biggest car Meridian, Mississippi had to offer. (I drove a rental, switching when I got to New Orleans into a bigger car) until late March. I settled with the insurance company that represented the truck company; they paid for the rental, my car, and threw in some more for possible injuries. They were so happy that I was driving a cheap car and had no obvious injuries that they couldn’t wait to settle, probably figuring that if I delayed the settlement, I would later discover all sorts of pain and anguish. The best part of the settlement was that I didn’t have to go through the whole thing of selling the car before I left the country.)

So, to back up a bit, I took off on September 4th. The itinerary on my web site tells where I was, but the details are interesting too. My first stop was in Rochester, NY. My host there had read the book and written me a great e-mail. When I left NY, I was late and, as usual, disorganized. Susan offered to empty out the car and help me organize everything. For several hours her home was a massive clutter of my stuff; but when she finished, my things had diminished and the car was orderly.

Over the next months I met wonderful people………..of all ages, professions, economic strata, family configurations, orientations, and inclinations. I also visited many schools talking about my kids’ books, especially when my host was a teacher or a parent of school-aged kids. I had wondered when I started out if I would experience the same kind of warmth and welcome in the US that I had found all over the world. Admittedly, it was a self-selected group: people who had read my book and those who had chosen to be Servas hosts, welcoming travelers into their homes. Everyone was fabulous. Not exactly a cross section, but certainly a lively and rich experience.

On September 11th I was in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, with a wonderful group of families who had read my book in their book club and invited me to visit. At the moment the second plane hit the tower, I was talking to children in a Catholic school in the gym. When my talk was over at 10:00 o’clock, the kids filed out and parents carrying chairs filed in. The school had already called for a prayer vigil. Being with these warm and caring families was a nurturing way to spend the early hours after the tragedy.

When I started out on my book tour, I thought maybe I would write a book about the national nomad experience. But as I moved through the country, I found that people were sharing their secrets with me, as I had shared my life with them in the book. I heard about love and hate, abuse and adventure, affairs and dysfunctional marriages. I had imagined a book with black and white retro shots of each host opposite the first page of her or their chapter. But the more secrets I heard, the more intimacies I was privy to, the more I knew that I could never write the experiences in a book. To write their stories would have been a betrayal of our friendship, however brief. So I relaxed and just enjoyed the encounters and growing connections all over the country.

Right from the beginning I have been receiving tons of e-mails…..not millions, but several thousand. I’ve been trying to answer all of them. In mid-January I blew it when my computer stopped telling me which e-mails I had already answered and which I needed to answer. I had been answering spot letters for about three weeks and couldn’t face rewriting to all the people I had already answered. So….there were around 100 people who wrote to me from mid-January to mid-February who never received an answer. Sorry, if you happen to be one of them.

I stayed with teachers and ex-priests and their families, with doctors and professors and nomadic wannabes. With gallery and coffee shop and bookstore owners, with students, aquarium educators, contractors, musicians, radio producers. Farmers, philanthropists, retired everything. It really was an extraordinary trip.

I’ve made a few interesting observations along the way, like, lots of people go to bed before ten. Most people put the toilet paper in so the paper rolls over the top, not under the bottom. Many people see themselves as having problems that no one else has ever experienced………..when, in fact, they would be better served to share their difficulties, because they would discover that their problems are not unique.

Women often begin their e-mails and conversations with: you are living my dream. Lots of people feel trapped and don’t ever expect to get out. And others, women all, have embraced their independence after divorce or widowhood, and are doing the things their mates never wanted to do…….like folk dancing, traveling, art, and community activities. One woman told me she was cooking the most incredible dishes. Her husband was a meat and potatoes guy.

I finished my US trip on March 21st and took off on the 25th for New Zealand. My book came out in New Zealand and Australia in October and it’s doing well in both countries. I started back in Coromandel, seeing old friends, and then, my friend Jean Wells and I started out to tour New Zealand. We’ve been on the road for three weeks now………..I talked in Coromandel, Thames, and then we headed for the very top of the North Island, Cape Reinga. We are planning to go all the way down to The Bluff, which is the bottom of the South Island. I’m talking in a few bookstores along the way (see Itinerary), but mostly just enjoying the people, the fabulous scenery, and of course, the seafood………tons of mussels, of course.

At the moment I know that I will be here until the 18th of June when I fly through LA to Columbus, Ohio to give a talk for AARP at the art museum on the 24th . "Risk taking and creativity over 50." The whole idea of the talk, which is in conjunction with the Grandma Moses exhibit sponsored by AARP, is to encourage the audience to take some risks, step outside of the box, experience the joy of embracing the world. I’ve given workshops for AARP in Orlando, FL, and in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s slightly different each time and I have a good time doing it.

And after that? I will probably stay in the US a few weeks, visit my kids, go to a family reunion in New York state, and see a few friends. Then????? I don’t know. Possibilities: Australia, Cuba, eastern Europe, Ivory Coast, or any other intriguing place that happens across my path. I’m still open to suggestions. But I’m not keen (that word from being in New Zealand now for three weeks) on going somewhere where I don’t speak the language, unless I’m with someone who does.

OK. That’s it for now. I will try not to let so much time go by this time. So check again in a couple of weeks.





Introduction - Home Page - A Brief Bio



The Book - Why I Wrote the Book? - The Proposal - In Search of an Agent

The Writing - The Editing - Cuts - Reviews



More Than One Way - Servas - Trust & Serendipity - Connecting - Family

Practicalities - Physical Challenges



Ongoing Journey (Dated Entries from Rita) - National Nomad Tour Itinerary - Discussion Group



List, Photos, Descriptions & Links to Order - Bio for Kids




 © Copyright 2001 Rita Golden Gelman, All rights reserved.