Does God give hyphy dancing lessons?

Jeff Greenwald and his Wheel of Travel Tales
Art by Todd Berman

Follow the travel advice in the pages of any Lonely Planet book, and you’ll have days filled with stunning architecture, charming landscapes, and museum after museum of iconic imagery. Yet, you’d be tracing the same thoroughly well-trod path of millions of others before you, and of millions more who have yet to buy their plane tickets.

Not quite wrong, but not entirely right either.

Since Todd and I are still working, still sleeping in our own bed, and still seeing familiar faces every day, it’s difficult to think creatively about our upcoming trip and get ready to push ourselves away from the easy guidance in guidebooks. Before a year-long round-the-world trip, the mental preparations for departure are perhaps even more important than the physical ones. How are we getting mentally ready to go?

We took some dancing lessons from Jeff Greenwald, who learned his moves from God (or perhaps from Kurt Vonnegut, which some might argue is the same thing).

Jeff is a travel guru – writer of Shopping for Buddhas and The Size of the World, founder of Ethical Traveler, and the only guy in the spotlight during his monologue play, “Strange Travel Suggestions.”

He starts the show by giving an audience member a whirl of a Wheel of Fortune fit for a hippie carny. Then, the wheel stops – perhaps on the symbol for “Theatre of the Absurd,” “The Kindness of Strangers” or “Be Careful What You Wish For,” the three themes during our visit. Within the theme, Jeff picks from his lifetime of travel stories and begins to spin the tale.

Beneath his disguise as a shaggy, khaki-wearing white guy, Jeff’s a storytelling bodhisattva, whisking us through time and space to Calcutta’s airport in the 80s, into a prostitute’s apartment in 1970s Bangkok, or for his virginal visit to Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in the late 90s.

Each performance is different, so we’re going back for more dancing lessons on Saturday, June 21. We hope to see you there.

Jeff Greenwald’s “Strange Travel Suggestions”
extended run, June 12-28, 2008
The Marsh Theatre, San Francisco, CA