OTY: I had been a whirling dervish gandydancer pounding spikes on the Alaska Railroad; a frost bitten doodlebugger laying cable across frozen tundra with Petty Ray Geophysical on the North Slope; and the Night “faker” Baker kneading dough into submission at the McKinley Park Hotel. I yearned to be a river rat working as a deckhand for the Yutana Barge Lines. I had made several visits to the Nenana dock and had received multiple rejections. This time I made the “elevator” pitch loudly over the rumble of huge Diesel engines idling. My pitch: I had experience as a deckhand aboard the Manutea in the South Pacific, so I could demonstrate some ability at handling the lines, sheets, ropes…whatever. I could identify the port and starboard sides of the towboat. Turns out, the crew was short handed. They were desperate, so they hired me.
OTA: Given my past travel strategies – thriving on spontaneity, the idea of taking a cruise struck me as pathetic and contrary to the World Traveler code. As a WT (World Traveler) you willingly exposed yourself to risks and survived! We were travel battle scarred and had the shigella ridden guts to prove it. I did not want someone to lead me by the hand to explore new places. Yet I had to admit that certain exotic spots presented formidable obstacles. A guided tour might open doors that were closed to the itinerant world traveler. I did not want to stress out my wife with travel on a whim and a dime. Who was I kidding? I was not sure I could still handle traveling spontaneously. With age comes wisdom…sometimes. An ad in AAA magazine for a AMAWaterways trip in Myanmar was enticing. So we made arrangements (visas, shot, stylish bug repellent clothing and Traveler Insurance) only to hear news reports describing a series of catastrophes. A huge flood displaced thousands of Burmese, and then the earthquake shook their world. What are responsible, politically correct travelers to do? RIck Steves, oh wise one, what are the options? Many who had booked with AMAWaterways canceled. But really, what were the chances of a third disaster. We would take our chances and sail on, keeping the crew employed and spend some tourist dollars to help resuscitate the struggling Myanmar economy.