“I almost got eaten by coyotes while climbing in California”

The last time I went more than five miles from home was before the pandemic in December 2019, when I traveled to New York and Connecticut, where I grew up.

I try to schedule my trips to the east coast in early November because Central Park is the most beautiful place on the planet then. The leaves are turning and the air is fresh. I’m just amazed by the show.

I stay as far as possible from cities

I seek physical beauty and emptiness. In Los Angeles, I can climb into my motorhome and, two hours later, find myself in an environment that looks like it would have been 500,000 years ago. I love a good coffee shop and a vegan restaurant, and I’m glad people are writing books and doing TV shows, but being in an environment where there are no signs, no people, and no buildings is so calming. People think Southern California is made up of beaches and palm trees, but it’s just a little crust that touches the Pacific Ocean. The rest is rugged and utterly unforgiving, with inhospitable mountains and deserts.

Part of the thrill of the American Southwest…

…is that there are so many things that can hurt you: rattlesnakes, coyotes, spiders, mountain lions and bears. Once I was alone, climbing on what I thought was a rock face in Bronson Canyon, California, but it turned out to be just compressed ground that kept collapsing in my hands. There was a time when I couldn’t go up or down so I had to go sideways holding on to clumps of grass. I looked up and saw six coyotes. There was an immediate atavistic understanding that they were waiting to see if I was going to die. If I was, they would eat me. It was comically terrifying. But the grass held.

In terms of beauty, nothing comes close to New Zealand

I’m half-jokingly looking for someone in New Zealand to adopt or marry me because the combination of climate change and attacks on democracy is making the United States less and less viable as a place to live . I like diversity. The North Island is an absurdly beautiful subtropical paradise with endless empty black beaches. The one that stunned me was Whatipu. The South Island is alpine splendour. Every time I go somewhere, I look at Google Maps and look for green areas where there is no one. I walk and immerse myself.

A part of Prague that always impresses me is the Charles Bridge, which is covered in statues

It has been described to me as the philosopher’s bridge. Before crossing, you descend a winding street and pass apartments once occupied by alchemists. There is something wonderful about the ruler of a country choosing to honor philosophers rather than warriors.

Virginia F. Goins