e all talk about travel, as a business and as a thing we do. But the longest, most complex journey of all is life itself. There's no one, as far as I know, who can plan that itinerary in detail.

That observation is an excuse for me to talk about my itinerary, which started in the dining room of a farmhouse that had no electricity, plumbing or much heat. On my day of birth, the dog bit the doctor and Grandma fainted on the porch.

I was fairly young, but I remember when we got plumbing and appliances -- I liked the refrigerator best.

And I appreciate this irony: As a traveling adult, I from time to time hop on planes for long rides to places that have no electricity, plumbing or much heat.

When barely school age, my sister and I were bitten by a rabid cat and whisked off to the hospital. Our parents were worried to distraction, we thought it was summer camp and I hate to think what the nurses prayed for. We would not stay in our room.

We were helpful kids, though, offering one day to kill the rooster Mom needed for dinner. We did what Dad did (close your eyes, this is gruesome): Step on the neck, yank the bird hard and toss the torso. Our tossed rooster ran as fast as he could move, shaking his still-attached head. He must have had a migraine beyond belief.

Mom, at the kitchen door, was cracking her ribs with laughter. The next rooster was not so lucky. We came late to TV, but made up for lost time, with our faces in the screen for years.

Then it was decision time: I ignored my parents' advice on where to go to college, when to go and what to major in. It appeared, however, they were grateful for a law-abiding teenager with aspirations.

So it was off to Iowa City, Des Moines, New York and even London -- space is tight here, so in this paragraph I had to take us on fast-forward to the present and these columns.

This is my 222nd column -- yes, I have been counting. I wrote another 33 while living in London. That comes to (very roughly) 150,000 words.

Some of these word packages were a real pleasure to create; others were plain painful. In all cases, I gave the columns my final edit by reading them aloud to catch disfluencies and redundancies.

However, this ends the weekly Keystrokes series (although I remain with Travel Weekly). To close this series, I want to convey my gratitude to you, our readers, for your feedback and encouragement.

Writers are no less hams than are actors, and reader response equates to applause in a theater. You are a champion audience.

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