Pokemon Go Level 40!

In August 2020 my boys started playing Pokemon Go, so I created my own account to join them. I’ve found the game to be a convenient diversion when stuck waiting for people or lines … and also somewhat addictive … so I have been playing almost daily for the last year. Just last week I hit Level 40. (When I started that was the highest level, but as large numbers of players reached it the game’s developer added another 10 levels.)

It’s somewhat bewildering to see that over this period I have caught almost 20,000 Pokemon….


Fifteen years ago I was on a Mediterranean pleasure cruise that stopped at the major tourist destinations of Italy and Greece. It was a transformational experience. Not because of the landmark tourist attractions – seeing them in person offered nothing of substance that I hadn’t already learned or seen in documentaries. The thing that changed me forever was experiencing the other tourists. Vast crowds. Throngs. Hoards of international travelers queuing to the same locations to tread, ogle, and photograph the same things.

A recreational traveler who claims to be an environmentalist or conservationist is selfishly delusional. The environmental costs of intercontinental travel and infrastructure – of seasonally transporting and hosting masses of spectators – are enormous. And to what end? What is the benefit?

Do you feel an itch to travel to popular destinations? First ask yourself: What do you bring to the experience besides money?

Tourism is a ridiculous enterprise. I sampled global tourism for a few years because my wife worked in the industry and our travel was subsidized. I can say, from firsthand experience, that it is not worth the time and money, especially given the alternatives.

Do you want to immerse yourself in history or culture? Stay home and read or watch documentaries – written by world-class scholars and narrators; shot by professional photographers with the best equipment and unlimited access. Do you value the landmarks? Stay home and patronize conservationists. Do you need to escape or get out for recreation? Explore the attractions of the region in which you live.

Tourists are indulging in a vicious cycle of peer rivalry or bland FOMO. Somebody boasts of visits to the Pantheon or the Colosseum, and now a dozen acquaintances feel the need for their own first-person collection of passport stamps and photos of … the same thing? Are they all exceptional writers or documentarians?

Climbing Table Mountain

10,400 ft on approach to Table Mountain peak – The Rock

The peak of Table Mountain is a prominent rock about 50 yards long that, from 11,100 feet above sea level, offers stunning views of the Grand Teton and surrounding canyons. I figured the 11-mile loop would be a great leg workout. But I grossly underestimated the effect that altitude would play on this excursion.

The trails start at 6,800 feet. I opted to ascend via the 4-mile-long Face Trail. The first mile covers over 2,000 feet in altitude, so it’s like climbing a mile-long flight of stairs. I could tell the air was thinning as the trail leveled out above 9,000 feet and I was still breathing heavily to maintain a decent walking pace along terrain that would normally constitute a light stroll.

Topographic map of trails (white) from 6,800ft head on left to 11,100ft peak on lower right.
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