How to Be an Explorer of the World

“It worries me greatly that today’s children can recognize 100 corporate logos and fewer than ten plants.” -Robin Wall Kimmerer

I found this great book in a thrift shop. I loved the title and was intrigued by its unconventional format. The author, Keri Smith, calls herself a “guerilla” author, priding herself on creative ways to present books and deliver her message.

Someone on Amazon wrote a review saying they hated this book, declaring that it looked like a five year old wrote it. However, most reviewers loved it and so did I . With no rules or expectations she invites readers to go out and experience the raw world, reality without a screen or someone else’s interpretation.

I’m a retired teacher and a grandmother. It was very natural for me to bring this book when I visited my class of three grandchildren. We went through some of it but it was not the book’s purpose to be merely looked at. It was a springboard for action.

The second day of my visit was coincidently a day for my grandson, a five year old , and I to spend some time alone together. With a plastic bag, a camera and no expectations we set out for a walk in the neighborhood around Syracuse University to see what we could see.

Street Artifacts

The book encouraged us to look for faces. We found one.

We stopped to see the progress on the house we liked that had a part of its wall made of glass bricks. The people who lived there were always making improvements and we enjoyed noting the changes.

I did a little teaching, pointing out the ionic style columns on this house

We found a lot of great art.

And some interesting things that could inspire art.

Connor found a simile. “The white garbage bags look like little snowmen.”

We solved a mystery as we tried to guess what we were seeing across the street (first picture) and discovered what it was with a closer look (second picture).

We saw a lot of examples of people trying to communicate with printed words.

A construction crew caught our attention.

We found a prompt for a story. What happened here?

At the beginning of our walk, I told Connor about my goal to someday make it up these steps without stopping.

On the way back to Connor’s house, I said I would try doing thirty steps. Five year old Connor bounded up this hill encouraging me to keep going. I made it to the top, stopping three times for about 30 seconds to catch my breath but I made it. Connor inspired this teacher grandmother to achieve something she didn’t think she could do. For me, it was the greatest lesson I had learned in a long time.

I encourage my teacher, parent, and grandparent friends to look into other books by Keri Smith, The Imaginary World of (your name here), This is Not a Book, F nish Th s B k, Pocket Scavenger, Wreck This Journal, The Line, and Guerilla Art Kit.

I soon learned that what Connor and I did during our day together was just not kids’ stuff. Wandering around (exploring?) in a bookstore recently I found an article in the August 16-23 2019 issue of “Newsweek” called “The Pathway to Innovation”. In the article, Rob Walker states “noticing things that everyone takes for granted-and that could be improved, amplified, repurposed or replaced-is often the first step to innovation.” He uses the example of the creation of Velcro that came about when the inventor was on a walk and found the hooks of burdocks attaching to the loops in the fabric of his socks. Mr. Walker has written a book for adults, The Art of Noticing. Like Ms. Smith’s book it suggests many activities that will get adults away from the screen and out into the real world.

Copyright 2019 @The Autonomous Traveler All rights reserved.

70 days, 7000 Miles-Days 26, 27, 28

July 20, 21, 22, 2001

Big Sky, Montana and The Gallatin River.


Time to stay put for a few days and do some fishing on the beautiful Gallatin River.


This river is perfect for me, the inapt but earnest  fly fishing woman.  It’s shallow and calm. I can easily wade in it and cast without tangling in the trees. I did catch a small fish but in a very unconventional way.  I slipped on a rock, fell forward onto a very large boulder, and when I stood up I had a trout on my line. I reeled him in, set him free, and whispered a “thank you” to Mother Nature and a “go figure” to myself.


I read and ate some of my meals on the river.  One day when I was fishing a deeper section of the river, a small tour boat went by.  I was in my full fly fishing woman outfit; waders, boots, vest, and hat.  I could hear the tour guide directing the attention of the group toward me.  Remembering the words of my state’s often repeated tourism motto, I stood at attention, smiled and in my best attempt at a spokesperson voice, shouted, “I love New York but I really love Montana!” I sometimes scare myself.  Luckily, I will never see any of those people again.


I met a really nice couple, Tim and Mary, who were staying in the same campground.  They invited me to go fishing with them and taught me how to keep the leader floating in front of the line a little longer and stuff about drag and working the shore. Because of them I caught a few more trout and I didn’t have to fall on a rock to do it.

Good days on the Gallatin.



Remembering My Dad-Our Ambulance Camper

Somebody once wrote “I dream things that never were and say ‘why not?'” My  family lived these words long before they were ever written. In the late 1950’s, when our small town fire department put its outdated ambulance up for sale at a bargain price, my father bought it.

It wasn’t a box van like the emergency vehicles  we see today, but rather something that looked like a blood red hearse. Our purchase included two very comfortable chairs with tiny legs for medical attendants, a system to hang canvas stretchers from the ceiling, and a metal gurney on wheels.

When my dad proudly brought the ambulance home, he enthusiastically announced that it would be our new camper. So on our  family outings my mom and I would sleep on mats on the floor, my two sisters were suspended from the ceiling in new canvas hammocks, and my hardy ex-Marine father would sleep on the wheeled gurney outside. It was only when he almost rolled into Cranberry Lake in the Adirondacks that he realized that the stretcher always needed to be tied to something solid.

For some reason, we only had the ambulance for one camping season. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that so many cars would pull over to the side of the road when they saw us coming. The cute red chairs with the short legs became our TV chairs and the gurney became our favorite toy. My sisters and I hooked a rope to it and as two of us pulled, one sister would have a thrilling ride around the outside of our house. As the momentum built, a final accelerating pull would be executed and then the rope was released. The rider would be hurtled down a hill in front of our house and eventually be stopped by a small ditch about three feet from the road.

One day, a man driving in front of our house turned pale as he saw a little girl on an ambulance stretcher speeding down a hill toward his car. Of course, the gurney stopped just before the road like it always did but the man got out of his car and gave us a stern talking to. After calming down a bit, he asked us why we would ever do something so crazy. Since we were the daughters of our unconventional dad, my sisters and I looked at each other, shrugged, and replied, “Why not?”

Copyright 2018@ The Autonomous Traveler