Staying off the beaten path shows travelers the real sites
SOUTH COUNTY - Most of the time, Michael Flanagan draws up his own itinerary and chooses not to travel with a group.
Michael told me he isn’t just interested in seeing what the tour guides offer, he likes to go behind the scenes and get the real flavor of the places he visits, and that’s pretty much everywhere in the world.
His 54-page passport doesn’t have a place that isn’t stamped, and he’s well into the pages of a new one. Several places are just stamped “CHARLIE” where he’s gone into sectors Americans don’t usually travel and come back through the American “Checkpoint Charlie,” a phrase that’s been used to mean “you’re back in the free world again” since the split of Germany following World War II.
Now, having visited every state and all seven continents, he’s available to give group talks about different places, and even a little one-on-one advice after his talks.
The dual resident of
He’s motorcycled across the
The scariest place he’s visited, he says, is
“Everything in Santorini is white, the buildings, the sand, everything, including all the archeology, and is set against the beauty of the sea,” he told me.
His favorite cities are
“They won’t let me into
Often, he has traveled with his mother, who he describes as 81-going-on-51 but she is a seasoned traveler on her own.
“Like mother, like son I guess,” he said.
After growing up in
“It wasn’t for me,” he said. “So I went back again and got an MBA in Finance.”
That set him traveling for companies like General Electric and Citibank that sent him all over the world. He also attended the U.S. Language Institute and lived in
“I’d had a passion to see the world since a little kid in Catholic school when one day the nuns were describing
A few years ago, after he had already been to every continent, he was on a tour in
As it turned out, Michael had already seen many World Heritage Sites, and didn’t know it, and you may have too.
A World Heritage Site is a place (either man-made or natural) that has been designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a place of “universal significance to mankind.”
The designations (and the organization) began in 1974, and there are now 972 such sites, but the organization adds more every November, so by the time you read this, there may be 1,000. Some right here in the United States are the Grand Canyon; Yosemite National Park; the Florida Everglades; Thomas Jefferson’s plantation in Virginia, “Monticello”; the Great Smoky Mountains and California’s Redwood National Park, among others. Anyone who wants to find out more about World Heritage Sites can visit http://whc.unesco.org.
Michael has visited
He says he really likes places with historic Spanish cultures, like
The most solemn moment he remembers happened on the
“Nobody speaks there,” he said. “It is a place of solemn remembrance.”
“There are happy places, where everyone is laughing, and then there are solemn places. You can feel the difference in them,” he said.
He’s run marathons in many countries, although now he just runs for fun.
His heart attack in
“One minute I’m thinking I’m in fabulous shape and the next minute there’s an elephant sitting on my chest, said Michael. “I heard a voice asking me how I was, and I said ‘I’m fine’ even though by then I was bending over double.”
Manning whisked him to the hospital anyway, and saved his life.
Again healthy and traveling, Michael is currently available to come to
When we ended our conversation about travel, he said, “You know, Dorothy was right,” and just looked at me, so I figured his statement was really some kind of rhetorical question.
Having been quite a few places myself, I thought I knew the answer.
“There’s no place like home,” I said.
“That’s it all right,” he answered. “No matter how much I love to travel, there’s no place like home.”