Hidden Treasures: Looking Back on Four Years of Stories
This will be my final regular post for Wandering Educators. With this end in mind, I spent part of the weekend looking through many of the 86 posts I've done for the site over the past four years.
The first article was set in Dien Bien Phu, a dusty Vietnamese town not on the usual traveler circuit but very much in twentieth-century history books, given its pivotal role in bringing an end to French control in Indochina. Other posts took the reader to a historic convent in Syria, a curb on a popular Bangkok street, and a famous square -- Tahrir Square -- in Cairo during the Egyptian demonstrations that would overthrow a president. Sharing something of popular, not-so-popular, and historic places has been one goal of my posts.
On a bus in Tibet
Rudard Kipling wrote that, "The first condition to understanding a country is to smell it." Smell is a difficult attribute to convey through text and I've seldom tried. At times in my posts, however, I have included a nod to the role of sound in travel, such as in the Muslim call to prayer in Sumatra or a John Denver tune in Thailand.
Well before Kipling was theorizing about the relationship between smell and understanding, Saint Augustine wrote that "the world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." In some of my posts I've also connected travel and books, though not metaphorically. Books enrich our travel experiences -- perhaps something like Bao Ninh's The Sorrow of War or something by Paul Theroux. When one returns home, one might also wish to flip through his or her old guidebook, and find that it still has the power to guide.
Perhaps the biggest theme in my posts has concerned the interaction among people through travel. There is the Turk who gave me a ride along the Black Sea, and the ones who fed me breakfast in Ankara. There were the guys in India who, after I asked about tipping customs at a Pizza Hut, invited me out for the evening, and the men in Jerusalem who danced longingly hours after a suicide boming. There was the day I met CNN's Christiane Amanpour, and the evening an Egyptian woman saw my thirst and shared her drink. There were the Swiss who gave me a place to sleep in Singapore, the Panamanian flight attendant's family who took me in on Christmas Eve, and the Kurdish man who bought my tea in a troubled town. And of course there was Angela, the pregnant Nicaraguan women who, merely by saying my name, tenderly reminded me of the importance of knowing a language if one wants to move much beyond the superficial when visiting a foreign land.
My posts have often been simple and quickly done. Despite their imperfections, I hope they've conveyed something of the breadth and depth of our world and the people who live in it. My thanks to you for reading, and to Wandering Educators for graciously giving me this venue.
A full list of my posts is available here.
Joel Carillet, chief editor of wanderingeducators.com, is a freelance writer and photographer based in Tennessee. He is the author of 30 Reasons to Travel: Photographs and Reflections from Southeast Asia. To learn more about him, follow his regular photoblog, or purchase images, visit www.joelcarillet.com or www.istockphoto.com/jcarillet.