What happens when a travel writer can’t travel? That’s a question facing thousands of frustrated laptop and camera toting travelers all itching to see something/say something. I’m among them. Fortunately, so far I have enough stories and photos to sustain my blog, https://ALittleLightExecise.com for some months. But as the pandemic wears on, then what?
I will probably be forced to take a tour of my office, crammed with mementos of past adventures. It would include some of the more curious objects I’ve carted home: Besides all the paintings of Italy and the large reproduction of a 16th century map of Rome I bought in the Vatican that hangs over my desk, other objects serve to bring back memories of travels that can’t be repeated as the world and I change over time.
The first thing I see is a heavy bronze-colored gold-medallioned silk robe hanging on the door. I bought it in the so-called Russian market in Phnom Penh shortly after the fall of the dictator Pol Pot. A balsa-wood dhow with its lateen sail sits on top of a bookcase. It’s from a vendor on the beach at Ras Kutani, a resort south of Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean where I picked up bits of coral and unfamiliar shells washed up in a storm and worried about a leopard that had been seen nearby. Next are strings of thousands of tiny colored beads making up a necklace bought in Nairobi when I traveled there for World Food Programme (just announced as the 2020 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize). Behind the dhow is a carving from Ghana and another from New Guinea. An outrigger canoe model from Tahiti sits next to a whale baleen boat from Alaska, and two carvings of river traders with their bags and bundles rest on the windowsill.
The bookcase, which holds many dozens of books about Italy, has a few objects tucked on the shelves. My two favorites are a tiny matchbox from Greece with a drawing of Diogenes holding up his light to find a truthful person, and an equally tiny icon I purchased from a Russian shop in Sitka.
Every object tells me a story about travel: The Japanese woodcut of a snow scene reminds me of the elderly man selling his work in the town of Otaru. We couldn’t communicate in words so we both smiled, bowed and said “Hai.” The painting from Haiti is full of magical realism showing women winding their way to market through a thick forest. I bought it at the hotel in Port-au-Prince during my stay there shortly before the building collapsed in the horrendous earthquake in 2010. A painting on parchment of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples is from Addis Ababa. It hangs near a puppet from south India with the head of a monster and a skirt of palm fronds reminding me of a Kathakali dance performance in Kerala.
There’s still space on my walls but when I’ll really travel again is unknown. For now, it’s Whidbey Island and Port Townsend on the docket. But maybe, just maybe, at least I’ll be able to return to where my heart lies – Rome.
We have such a variety of writers in our organization that we thought it would be fun, exciting and enlightening to have multiple blog post authors.
We will be sharing all sorts of writing-related topics!