MET CHARLES KURALT IN LISBON, PORTUGAL, in the winter of 1994.
We were attending the American Society of Travel Agents' Annual
World Congress. Kuralt was the keynote speaker, I was a reporter
covering his speech. Afterward, I was able to pull him aside
and discuss with him his favorite topic: travel. During our
talk, I told him that in 1980, I had ridden a bicycle across
America. Always the reporter, Kuralt began to interview me,
asking me about the trip and expressing admiration for my having
seen America at, what he felt, was just the right pace. Of course,
Kuralt preferred to travel America's backroads, slowly and serendiptiously,
realizing that travel is often what comes between point A and
was hard for me in the beginning to get over the perfectly understandable
idea that you had to have a destination in mind," Kuralt said
to me. "We always had the idea [during the On The Road series]
of a story that we were headed toward, but after awhile it finally
got through to us that we might run into something more interesting
along the way. So we never made precise appointments. We'd call
and say, Are you going to be home for the next week or two?"
our conversation, I returned to the pressroom to write about
my experience with Kuralt. In the piece, "Exploring Roads Less
Traveled," I wrote how Kuralt extolled the virtue of "permitting
yourself to be detoured." He talked about how "we travel too
fast characteristically" and that during his own travels he
had to remind himself "five times a day that this was supposed
to be fun."
suggested that his style of travel was the poetic metaphor for
Robert Frost's poem, "The Road Not Taken," and there's no question
that Charles Kuralt veered from the beaten track, opting to
take the road others had not, only to discover the heart and
soul of this country. Perhaps more than any other traveler,
Kuralt was able to extract the essence of the place that he
visited, and he did it by slowing down.
understand that people want to have as many experiences as they
can crowd into whatever time," Kuralt said. "It's the condensation
of timewe have so little of it. But I think a lot of successful
travel is based on the attitude the traveler brings to it, a
kind of, 'Well, let's wait and see what happens today,' attitude.
Mark Twain had the right idea in his book Roughing It, which
was to go slow, rejoice in the small details and be amazed by
Kuralt had a wonderful ability to see the good in people and
in places. It was that kind of attitude that always made him
a welcome visitor. "A lot of reporters can't go back to the
towns where they did a story," Kuralt told me thoughtfully.
"I never did that kind of story."
See related story in UNC's
The Daily Tar Heel.