MatadorU students and faculty share with us stories about their travel mentors.
"On the surface he might have looked like a typical tourist, with pale white skin which often burnt under an English sun let alone an African one. He always wore khaki-style trousers and shirts, and kept a phrasebook in the front zip of his rucksack. But my dad was as far removed from your notion of a 'tourist' as it is possible to be. He hated beaches and hotels and craved culture, interaction, adventure, and meaning. He set up multiple charity links around the world with our school, and when he took me to Rwanda with him I saw first hand what sort of impact he was having on communities there.
Perhaps the juxtaposition of the super-tourist look versus his nature and attitude made people love him more. Either way, to hundreds of people he was a father, an uncle, a friend. He was inspirational in ways few of us can only hope to be. And so he never wanted me to simply 'travel'. He wanted me to explore, to experience, and to learn. He always took us to somewhere new whenever he could get time off work, and although being perched on his shoulders gazing at a Scottish loch might feel very distant now, every new country still brings another experience, another memory, another acquisition of knowledge, and a forever thankful son."
"Bruce Parry spends a month with indigenous groups all around the planet, from the chilly wilds of Siberia to the humid rainforest of the Amazon. In this time, Bruce goes to extreme lengths to integrate himself, even when it is painful, like undergoing traditional piercings, dangerous, like bull jumping, or cause him to vomit uncontrollably -- like trying ayahuasca.
"My point of inspiration is Greg Marinovich. I met Greg in the early '90s, shortly after he won his Pulitzer. At the time, I was wondering if photography and travel would ever intersect with my long-term interest in social justice. I don't recall what Greg said during his presentation; I do remember most of what he told me during the "meet-and-greet" following his slide show. He said, and I'm paraphrasing:
"Just seeing someone — especially a mother over a young child or a young fighter or a young civilian who's being killed — and that look they give you as you come to photograph them, while you're kind of apologizing about photographing, is so humbling."
At that moment, I knew my path was set and my destiny was forecast. I didn't know it would be close to ten years before life circumstances and my skill set would merge and allow me to travel and turn my camera — and pen — on social justice issues globally." Photo: Via Jerry Nelson
"She called home after talking her way into the country, riding a golf cart up a steep mountainside, and readying herself to sail by catamaran around the Windward Islands.
My older sister, Melissa, is my travel mentor. She left our Midwest home to study oceanography and coral reef restoration after high school. While living and working in the Florida Keys, I came to visit, and she chartered a snorkel boat to take me to the living brain coral she had transplanted herself. In many ways, my sister reminds me of a female Jacques Cousteau, her head always underwater, discovering a new creature, cavern, or species. Melissa traveled to Honduras to become scuba certified, then sailed the Caribbean by catamaran. She taught scuba diving and slept under the stars every night for months. After hearing her travel tales, I knew I’d go on to do some exploring of my own."
“That’s hereditary” usually follows something negative, but every time I get an email blog update from my expat Aunt Pupsi, I smile, knowing that whatever is in her blood is definitely in mine. Most people over 70 don’t tend to have a blog, especially one chocked full of adventures experiencing different countries and cultures, but she does. I continuously try to tag onto her epic escapades to Scotland and Oman and Argentina and wherever her heart desires, but the truth is, I can’t keep up with the “old lady.” Instead, I follow her advice carefully, embrace her unfettered strength to live life fully, and plan for the best-selling biography I’ll write about her one day."
"For me, wise old women have always been a staple part of life. My wonderful grandmother, my next door neighbor, my 1st grade teacher — I’ve always found myself soaking up the wisdom of the women around me. I guess it’s not too surprising then, that on my first trip to Asia, I found myself sidled up to this beautiful Burmese grandmother at her son’s restaurant in Bagan, sharing a cigar and talking without speaking any of the same languages. It’s people like her that make me feel comfortable yet fascinated when I’m away from home, and it’s that feeling that keeps me tirelessly exploring the world."
"Adam Gaine, a 27 year old from Ireland was venturing around the United States on an orange Honda Shadow motorcycle when he approached us outside of Mac's Tavern (the one owned by Rob McElhenney) in the Old City District of Philadelphia. A few Camel Crushes and five 10 percent Felony IPAs later, we found ourselves on the fire escape of our hostel, sharing travel stories and hopes for future adventures.
He told us about a patient of his back home who he gives round-the-clock care to, Simon Fitzmaurice. Diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease and left paralyzed, Fitzmaurice has written a book, It's Not Yet Dark, and an upcoming film My Name Is Emily, entirely with the use of an eye gaze computer. Adam's passion and energy in speaking of Fitzmaurice, as well as his stories of his journey through the US and Africa, fueled me throughout the rest of my own travels. It's funny how strong a connection can be developed in a simple meeting, and how such pain can be felt in parting ways with someone I've only spent a total of eight hours with."
"I read Ed Abbey's book, Desert Solitaire, on the train back from my first solo trip to the Southwest. A week later, in Rochester, NY, I read The Monkeywrench Gang, and knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life: road trip, hike, and rock scramble in the desert Southwest -- and fight for that country. I've done that for exactly thirty years. Next week, I'll head out to the Mojave Desert to find new places I've never moved across before and I'll fight to keep them free from corporate solar installations." Photo: Via Mary Sojourner