RIP, Leonard Nimoy: 10 Things Mr. Spock Taught Us About Travel
Leonard Nimoy created more than just a sci-fi icon; he created a travel guru. (Photo: Getty Images)
When I found out Leonard Nimoy “Spock” had died, I was in a car rental office at LAX (despite how deliciously ironic it would have been, the rental agency was not Enterprise), where a reservation mixup had me in a state of early meltdown. I was this close to going full Klingon on the poor rental agent when I had a thought that often pops into my head in such situations: “What would Spock do?” I then got my Spock on: I calmed down and resolved the situation logically — without having to do a Vulcan nerve pinch on anyone.
You see, Nimoy’s Spock is more than just an iconic sci-fi character to us Trekkies (I fully own the label, thank you very much; no need for the more politically correct designation, “Trekker”). Nimoy’s Spock is nothing short of a guru; he represents a way of life in which you can handle anything if you just keep your cool, use your smarts, and focus on the job. The way Spock applied that philosophy to his journeys made him the ultimate travel guru. The guy must have racked up millions of frequent-flyer light years as he explored strange, new worlds, sought out new life and new civilizations, and boldly went where no one had gone before.
No matter what calamities befell Spock’s travels — hostile aliens, faulty equipment, a Captain who shoots first and asks questions never — he always pulled through. So as we mourn the man who brought Spock to life, let’s reflect on the 10 travel lessons we learned from Mr. Spock (and we mean the original Spock; sorry, Zachary Quinto) over two series, eight movies, and almost 50 years of Star Trekking.
1. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”
Spock always cared about the greater good — a must-have trait if you’re traveling with friends (Photo: Paramount)
Spock’s line from “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” — when he sacrificed his own life to save his crewmates aboard the Enterprise — is probably the saddest moment in “Star Trek” history. But it offers an all-important lesson for travelers: when traveling with a group, it sometimes is necessary to take one for the team for the greater good. For instance, I once traveled with friends to an out-of-town destination and everyone really wanted to go for sushi. Everyone, that is, except for me; I found sushi to be barely edible.
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But I also knew that getting 10 travelers in a strange town to agree on where to go for dinner is a debate that could potentially last until breakfast time. Me being the lone holdout could have easily thrown our dinner plans — and the group’s delicate dynamic — into chaos. So I bit the bullet and agreed to sushi. Was it a sacrifice akin to… oh, say, suffering massive burns and a fatal case of radiation poisoning, so you can fix your ship’s warp drive and save the lives of hundreds of your friends? Not quite. But it did serve the greater good in a small, culinary way. And sometimes such travel sacrifices can work out to your benefit: either by developing an appreciation for sushi (me) or being brought back to life in “Star Trek III” (Spock).
2. Don’t let yourself go too long without a “vacation”
Poor Spock waited too long to bang the gong in this classic “Star Trek” episode (Photo: Getty Images)
There’s a classic “Star Trek” episode, “Amok Time,” which is one of the rare times we see the super-logical Spock lose his cool; he yells at Captain Kirk, trashes his cabin, threatens Dr. McCoy, and even snaps at the hot nurse who has a crush on him. What was it that made Spock get so stressed out? Turns out, he’s suffering the ill-effects of a Vulcan biological condition called pon farr, where Vulcans must return home to spawn every seven years or else they freak out and eventually die.
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No, we’re not saying a seven-year dry spell will kill you (it’ll only feel like it). But in a nation where Americans leave 40 percent of their paid vacation days unused, Spock’s affliction teaches us the importance of not letting too much time go by without taking time off to go to the beach, do a staycation at home, see out-of-state friends, or use any other method to charge your batteries.
3. Have your smartphone handy
No matter where he traveled, Spock always had an app for that. (Photo: Paramount)
Whenever Spock beamed down to a new planet, he always had with him his handy-dandy tricorder, a little handheld device he used to navigate, scan his surroundings, and look up information — just like we do with our smartphones today. Spock’s tricorder was always present, always loaded with the latest apps and always, always fully charged. A lesson we can all learn when we travel with our own tricor… er, I mean smartphones.
4. Learn how to communicate with the locals
Spock knows that great communication is logical, especially in San Francisco. (Photo: Paramount)
In “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” Spock and the Enterprise crew travel back in time to present-day San Francisco to round up a couple of humpback whales and bring them back to the 23rd century (long story). While Spock wasn’t overwhelmingly concerned with blending in visually (check out his wardrobe), he cared very much about communicating effectively: so much so that he dove into a marine park tank to “talk” with the whales and, later, used his newly-learned swearing skills on the marine biologist who confronted him. Curse at the locals at your own risk, but learning how to communicate in the native language — or the local idioms, if you’re traveling to a place that speaks the same language — can go a long way toward helping you get what you want. Even if it’s a pair of humpback whales named George and Gracie.
5. Brush up on local customs
Have marshmallow, will travel. (Photo: Paramount)
When Spock takes shore leave to go camping with Kirk and McCoy in Yosemite National Park in “Star Trek V,” he comes prepared. “Before leaving the ship I consulted the computer library to familiarize myself with the customs associated with ‘camping out,’” he informs his stunned travel buddies as he produces a marshmallow to roast by the campfire. He later suggests a sing-a-long, with mixed results (turns out, the lyrics to “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” pose a logical quandary for Spock because “life is not a dream”). Spock knows that traveling is more than simply beaming yourself to a new location. You need to sample the local traditions and customs to get the most of every journey. And if that involves roasting marshmallows, singing pointless songs, and sampling beans laced with Jack Daniel’s, well, chalk it up to the pursuit of knowledge. As it happens, not only is this scene in “Star Trek V” the most educational in the movie, it’s also the only watchable one.
6. You’re never too old to travel
Old Spock meets Young Spock (Photo: Paramount)
Even after his run in the original TV show and movies, Leonard Nimoy’s Spock continued to be active long, long into the character’s golden years. When he appeared in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” for a Romulan adventure with Captain Picard and Data, Spock was a spry 139 years old. When he popped up in the 2009 “Star Trek” reboot to help his younger self, played by Zachary Quinto, save Earth, he’s pushing 160. It’s comforting to see such an old guy still “boldly going” — saving planets, time traveling and, presumably, gettin’ his pon farr on — well past the century mark. If Spock can do it, there’s no reason the rest of us, health permitting, can’t continue to globetrot when we’re half Spock’s age.
7. Do your research
To help figure his way out of a travel jam, Spock once “invented” the Internet (kinda) in 1930s New York. (Photo: Getty Images)
On the classic “Star Trek” episode, “City on the Edge of Forever,” Spock, Kirk and McCoy travel back to 1930s New York City, where Kirk falls in love with a local woman played by Joan Collins. Trying to find some information about the era they’re in, Spock uses his tricorder to basically invent the Internet (sorry, Al Gore). Spock shows us that when traveling, you can never have too much information, especially when you’re going to New York. And because Spock’s research also yielded an important fact about Kirk’s new girlfriend — that the future of human civilization depends on her dying in a car accident — Spock also teaches that it’s not a bad idea to Google someone you’re having a vacation fling with. Speaking of which…
8. Forget your bad trips
If only there were a Spock around to help us forget our bad trips. (Photo: Paramount)
On an episode of the original series, Captain Kirk has another travel fling that ends tragically. The disastrous love affair leaves Kirk, usually an unrepentant man whore, moping about the Enterprise like a lovestruck teenager who just got dumped in homeroom. So Spock makes a bold move: he mind melds with the despondent captain to make him forget about the girl he lost. Spock knows that if we all dwelled on the unpleasant experiences we’ve had while traveling — bad flights, crappy hotels, affairs that end in heartbreak or worse — we’d never leave our homes. We can’t explore strange new worlds while dwelling in the past; we have to forget about the bad stuff and move on. It’s all part of the boldly going part.
9. Always find a way
Spock was the ultimate Boy Scout: always prepared. (Photo: Getty Images)
“He would have found a way,” Kirk once said about his friend during a desperate situation in “Star Trek III.” “If there were that much at stake, Spock would have found a way.” On this point, Kirk was right. Spock was the original MacGyver; his ability to logically think his way out of any jam is a legendary part of the “Star Trek” mythos. Encountering a malevolent space probe intent on wiping out everything in its path? No sweat for Spock. His spaceship stalls out at the exact moment a madman’s ready to blow it out of the sky? Handled. Trapped on a planet with a bunch of ape-like creatures trying to kill him and his travel buddies? Spock thinks his way out of that jam, too. Spock’s never-say-die attitude has salvaged many a trip that otherwise would have gone down in flames. Next time a calamity threatens to ruin one of your journeys, don’t throw up your hands and give up. Be like Spock.
10. Be a good friend
Spock is always saving Kirk from himself (Photo: Getty Images)
Whether he’s saving the Enterprise from certain destruction, or saving Kirk from his own impetuous decisions (seriously, if “Star Trek” were a just universe, Spock would have been the Captain and Kirk the loyal sidekick), Spock logically concluded that friendship is an important part — if not the most important part — of traveling. “I have been and always shall be your friend,” he once told Kirk. The way he always put his travel buddies first is one reason Spock is a great traveler — and while we will miss him so. Travel long and prosper.
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