My “Kids Around the World” photos this week are from Kenya, featuring Maasai children of the Mara and Samburu regions.
Wonder what is a little different about the children in this photo at left? Follow the link to read my journal entry written on the day I photographed these children, just north of Isiola – the “Last Town“.
Happy Photo Friday to my friends at Delicious Baby! This is the last chance I have to post a Photo Friday “Kids Around the World” installment before I am heading around the world myself! Well, halfway anyway, first to Nepal, then on to China, for the next 6 weeks. In Nepal I will have plenty of kids to blog about, as I will be filming a documentary feature at two orphanages in Kathmandu. I may not have time nor means to link up for a few Fridays, but I will be posting articles and images from my travels as I am able, so be sure to become a follower (at right) or sign up for my RSS feed so you can keep posted!
Cape Town, South Africa boasts a great attraction for kids and cameras – the Two Oceans Aquarium located right at the Waterfront. For this week’s “Kids Around the World” post, once again, I feature my own kid as she follows in my footsteps…rather, I follow in hers!
This past weekend I had the incredible opportunity to see, hear, and meet two of the best in the field of being “in the field” and hosting great travel shows, Samantha Brown and Rick Steves. They have the jobs we all dream of, right? They get to travel the world, followed around by a camera, and share their adventures, experiences, and travel tips with the rest of us. And we love them for it! Well, I do anyway. Hosting a travel show is about the only thing still missing from my resume, and since I’m bound and determined to follow in the footsteps of Samantha Brown and Rick Steves, I had to find out what those footsteps entailed. Fortunately, both Samantha and Rick were happy to share at the LA Times Travel & Adventure Show last weekend. Before you think I somehow got exclusive interviews with them, I didn’t. They each spoke to packed conference hall rooms and I just happened to be one amongst the throngs that sat to listen. But I was busily taking notes. Their formats, and their backgrounds, were entirely opposite, and make for an interesting contrast and comparison. Saturday was (unofficially) Samantha Brown Day. She was only there for part of Saturday, while Rick Steves was there both days, so trying to fit both in one day was more than my excited little heart could take, especially considering that Arther Frommer was also making appearances, along with Travel Writers, Editors, Operators, Suppliers, and many of the Who’s Who of the Travel & Tourism Industry. I basically walked around in a semi-daze on Saturday, overwhelmed and overstimulated, and found great relief when it came time for Samantha Brown to talk. Then I could finally sit still and drink my coffee (which I didn’t need!). She appeared in a lovely turquoise sundress very well-suited for LA, and a nice compliment to the colors I was wearing, so already there was a kindred connection. Look, here I am with my new BFF (that’s facebook talk for Best Friend Forever. LOL! – and that’s twitter talk for laughing out loud). And that’s what I’ve learned from online social networking – now you can do it too! Samantha Brown drew a huge crowd of adoring fans, and she was absolutely kind and personable with each and everyone she spoke to. She’s just plain nice, and everyone likes nice. So how did such a nice girl get a job on the Travel Channel hosting her own shows? Well, her story is an inspirational travel tale in and of itself. But I don’t tell it as well as she does, and when I relayed it to my husband later that night, he said “oh that’s made up by her PR manager, that can’t possibly have happened.” I guess you had to be there to hear it firsthand. But it involved cancelled flights, missing flights, and running out onto the tarmack (pre-9/11) standing in front of the aircraft pleading with a pilot to let her on the plane. He gave the thumbs up, and the rest is history. But Samantha’s story gives hope to anyone who has applied for the Best Job in the World with Tourism Queensland despite lack of qualifications, and since many of those applicants are new readers/followers of my blog, this is for you! In a nutshell: Samantha Brown had no journalism, writing, hosting or travel experience whatsoever. She was a drama student majoring in….Musical Theater!!! Well, that explains the chronic perkiness – but she doesn’t tap dance or break into show tunes or drive you crazy, she’s just cute, charming, genuine, and likable. And that’s all it took to land her job traveling the world. Well not quite all. She admits that perhaps her strongest qualification was a background in Improvisation (ah, there’s hope for me yet!). She went on to explain that her show is predominantly unscripted – the camera crew of 5 follow her around as she explores and experiences travel. Sure, they have planned out where they will go, but Samanatha doesn’t have to learn lines or read teleprompters, she just has to be spontaneous, flexible, and engaged. How great is that?! “It’s all about going with the flow,” she shares. And being nice. Making an effort to speak the language, or at least gesturing with a smile, can go a long way. And Samantha has gone a long way just by having those essential qualities. The fact that Samantha is a genuinely nice person who loves engaging with others became quickly apparent. Instead of spending an entire 90 minutes talking at us, she told her story for 15 minutes then spent the remaining time talking with us, by taking questions from people in the audience. Two long lines formed as people approached the microphones with their questions. Some asked travel tips, some went on and on about their favorite episode, and still others droned on endlessly recounting their own travel experiences (one of which included the near fatal car crash encountered on the LA freeway getting to the show). Did Samantha ever once cut anyone short? No. She listened and responded to each and every person as if it were her own grandmother talking. That’s what I mean by nice. And engaged. And, proving that no matter what happens, just be ready to “go with the flow”. One more note about Samantha Brown. When asked if she has plans to publish a book, she responded with a reminder that she is neither a travel expert nor a writer, so she is leaving the guidebook and writing to the true experts, like Rick Steves. Sunday was (unofficially) Rick Steves Day. And what a different day it was. Again, the conference hall was well-attended. Rick Steves had handouts for his audience members – a fancy full-color brochure advertising his “Group” tours, and a Rick Steves branded map of Europe, which retails for $5.95 on his website. So just like he offers his travel advice to us on public television (which is free), he also gives something for free to attract fans to his “live” show. In contrast to Samantha Brown, Rick Steves is an experienced traveler. Rick Steves is a writer. And Rick Steves is a highly-regarded travel expert. So his 90 minutes was chock full of plenty of valuable content – from packing tips to budgeting tips to eating tips to getting around on the cheap. Let’s face it, the economy isn’t conducive to forking out alot of money to travel, and Rick’s got plenty of advice for making the most of your dollar in Europe. While travel tends to decrease in these times, he admits that his business has never been better – people are still reading, watching, and buying guidebooks about travel, whether or not they can actually take the trip! So for those who share travel adventures through blogs and freelance articles, you’re on the right track. That’s how Rick Steves started, he wrote. And wrote and wrote and wrote. In the form of travel journals at first, when he ventured out as a backpacking teenager in Europe. When he found a place he loved, he made a note about it so he could go back and recommend it to others. The rest is history. Now Rick has a crew of 70 people working for him in an office in Edmunds, Washington (in contrast to Samantha Brown, whose crew numbers 6). He travels to film in Mediterranean Europe in the shoulder season of April/May, then again to Scandinavian Europe in July/August. And he’s about to premiere a new series for public television, Rick Steves’ Iran. Which leads me to the most profound point made by Rick Steves during his 90 minutes of straight talk. “Travel as a political statement”. Gone are the days of the guilt-free luxury indulgence of travel. Times have changed. People have changed. And the world is changing too. Eco-travel is an everyday term, and most certainly a travel trend that is here to stay. Traveling and making a difference is what it’s all about now for Rick Steves. Chiming in with the theme of President Barack Obama, the time for change is now. In Europe, Americans can do away with the Canadian flag sewn to their backpack (everyone still loves Canadians too!). And for the first time in years, Americans have the potential to travel and make a difference as an individual, without judgment based on government politics. We are all citizens of the world, and it’s time to put aside political differences and stereotypes, and tear down the barriers of the past. People are people anywhere you travel. It’s time to meet those people face to face, live a day in their lives, and open your mind by the experience of international travel. I have to stop writing now. The point is so integral to who I am and why I travel that I’m suddenly humbled and feeling utterly insignificant. So I’ll close with a very simple truth. We’ve got to be the change we desire.
The road stretched out endlessly before us, and the windswept Patagonian plains pushed out in all directions. Behind us, the pointy crags of Torres del Paine were tucked into clouds and blanketed in dusk. Darkness crept slowly across the landscape.
I was nodding off to sleep on the bus after having had one too many days of hiking and camping, with thoughts of re-naming the range officially to “Toes of Pain”. My feet ached, my toes were cold, and I was grateful to be seated up front near the warm engine box.
For reasons unknown, the bus came to a halt and the driver opened the door to the vast, dark emptiness. The winds howled and whistled right through the bus, causing most passengers to shift position and reach for another layer. The driver sat for a moment with his head down, then checked his mirror, closed the door, and began driving again. Civilization and the coast were still 4 hours away.
I was stirred awake by a loud belly laugh and a jab in my side. A spirit sat on the engine box facing me. He was thin and wore a black hat, and held a brown bottle of beer in his gesturing right hand. He was laughing and entertaining as if to a large audience, and I turned around to see that the entire bus was filled with spirits, occupying seats empty and full, and dangling from the overhead luggage racks. I braved a glance at the driver. He too was a spirit, with a soft round head and an eye that kept dropping from his face. The bus itself resembled a spirit in the form of a fat farmer in skinny overalls as it rolled along bumping over rocks and pits. Everyone was jovial, and there was singing while someone in the back was played a tingy sounding instrument. Many of the spirits were drinking or drunk. These were festive spirits.
But what were they doing on the bus?
Most spirits sweep across this land in a dance with the winds. The wind carries spirits from all over the earth, and they converge here, at the tip of South America, for their favorite activity…leaping off the continent to tumble across the seas. It seems that the very winds which blow across Patagonia are accountable to the passing of spirits as they race toward the continent’s end and leap off into the sky.
I sat back and contemplated the spirits, gleaning in my new wisdom of the winds. I looked at the spirit on the engine box. He paused his celebratory antics and saw that I was ready for a story. He shut his eyes and began “it was a night just like this…..” and softly spoke me back to sleep.
When I awoke, the bus was still bumping it’s way through the black darkness, now with only one headlight. It sounded as if the other had rattled loose and was dragging along under the bus – reminding me of the one-eyed bus driver spirit of my dream.
Everyone else on the bus was asleep, except for the driver. I looked at him and smiled in relief that both of his eyes were still intact. Noticing I was awake and wanting to keep himself in such a state, he engaged me in conversation. After a while, I asked him why he had stopped earlier in the middle of nowhere. He paused a moment, and then spoke:
“My uncle was a bus driver. A few years ago on this road, he lost control and overturned his bus, killing everyone. Whenever I pass through the night on this road, I stop at the site of the crash and pick up the stranded spirits so they can complete their journey.”
A small light flickered in the distance ahead. Then another. Then, light by light, the town of Puerto Natales took form, as the dawn began to spread through the darkness. We reached our destination.
The driver opened the door, and a few moments passed before anyone stood to exit the bus. I was first to do so. As I stepped down off the bus, I was teased by small gusts of wind. Each gust would embrace and surround me, then be gone as quickly as it came. I smiled, knowing the spirits were also arriving at their destination, and each gently bid me farewell before turning to leap off the continent.