Monday, February 25, 2008

Great Armchair Travel, Anyone?

Life is once again becoming mellow and predictable. There's time to read, and this weekend, we made time for laziness - even managing to make it out to the beach for a lovely afternoon stroll (well, I guess it doesn't count as a stroll if you're 4 months pregnant and carrying a 25 pound toddler on your back while walking in soft sand... but I certainly needed the workout).

Nothing super-adventurous to write about today, but I can share two recently read, incredible articles that have made an impact in my life (from my trusty Best American Travel Writing - 2006 edition).

The first one is a piece called "The New Mecca" by George Saunders, originally published in GQ. One of several points that the author is trying to convey is that the families of Dubai are no different than you and I. They wear different clothes, and have different religious beliefs, but they love each other, and want the best for their children. They want peace.

My favorite quote from the piece is:

"What one might be tempted to call 'simplicity' could be more accurately called a limited sphere of experience. We round up 'a suspected Taliban member' in Afghanistan and, assuming that Taliban means the same thing to him as it does to us (a mob of intransigent inconvertible Terrorists), whisk this sinister Taliban member- who grew up in, and has never once left, what is essentially the Appalachia of Afghanistan; who possibly joined the Taliban in response to the lawlessness of the post-Russian warlord state, in the name of bring some order and morality to his life or in a misguided sense of religious fervor- off to Guantanamo, where he's treated as he personally planned 9/11. Then this provincial, quite possibly not-guilty, certainly rube-like guy, whose view of the world is more limited than we can even imagine, is denied counsel and a possible release date, and subjected to all of the hardships and deprivations our modern military-prison system can muster. How must this look to him? How must we look to him?"

Also interesting was the article, "Rediscovering Libya" - from the same anthology - written by Kira Salak. She is truly a fantastic writer, and a very brave woman. She explains how, when she visited Libya (what some people would consider a frightening Muslim extremist state), she thought she would be hated, but was actually accepted and treated with respect. But I've really simplified it. The story of her adventures in that country makes for great reading.

(Above Image: Niger tuareg in Ubari lakes, Libya, by Eric Lafforgue)

No single person can ever possibly traverse the whole globe, which is why it's so important for us to share our journeys with others. I feel like a better, more traveled, version of myself every time I complete an account of someone's travels. Even better, when it's exceptionally well written, a part of me wants to get on the next plane, to see what they have seen. Then, and only then, vicariously is just not enough.

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