It sure made me nervous, but I did it. I got up in front of 60 people and gave a travel talk at Aquinas College last week . Knees knocked and voice cracked a bit, but once the lights were turned low and I could share the fascinating places I’ve been in the last two years I got more comfortable.
Why do I do this to myself? I love to travel and I love sharing the experiences. I also think it is good to “get out of one’s comfort zone” as the cliche says.
The talk was loosely called Travels with Susan because Sheila, the director of Olli at Aquinas College said I could do whatever I wanted. I had trouble picking a country (all so fascinating) so I selected four that have a similar characteristic. For one reason or another they have gone through a period of isolation.
In our hyper-connected world, I think it is interesting to look at countries where people don’t look at Facebook every other minute and time is elastic and they don’t understand our way of life.
What comes to mind is when I was in Bhutan visiting monasteries and I asked our guide if it was ok to take photos of the young novices. Would they be bothered by that? Often I’d see them staring intensely at us. Not smiling.
Sha’s response: “I’ve talked to some of them and they are really perplexed. They have no idea what the outside world is like. It is confusing to them that you would come here and be interested in their world. They don’t understand how different yours is.”
Here are some photos of some of those guys.
One day this little girl followed one of my fellow travelers and me. We had such fun taking photos of her and showing them to her. She was so intrigued with our ability to do that.
Bhutan is one of the four countries I talked about and have six blog posts about this far away and distant place on DesignDestinations.org. It was totally closed to the outside world until the 1960s, when the king opened the door a crack. There were no roads, no school system, no electricity, nothing. It was a country that operated like feudal times.
Tourists were allowed in starting in the early 1970s. They capped the number of tourists for many years, only allowing about 20,000 a year. Now that number is up to 100,000.
The goal is to preserve their culture.
Another country, hidden from modern view is Myanmar (formerly called Burma). It’s isolation has been the result of a nasty military dictatorship. The people there are now embracing visitors from all over the world, more than 5 million expected this year. This is up from 1 million in 2012.
Most fascinating to me was Inle Lake. Click here for a blog post about that remote and isolated part of the world. I’ve done several.
The folks all over Myanmar face the challenge of an infrastructure not updated in 60 years. Only 1/3 of the people have access to electricity. They don’t have the hotels, roads, tour guides or facilities to accommodate all of the folks who want to see the place written about so eloquently by Rudyard Kipling.
For the wind is in the Palm trees,
an’ the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier,
come you back to Mandalay!’
But the spirit is positive and life is looking better for the 53 million people with a beautiful culture and exotic history. An example of the new energy is this image, pulled from the web of young people at a Festival in Yangoon called “Cosplay” where enthusiasts gather to imitate characters from anime series, comics and video games, many drawn from Japanese pop culture.
Welcome Myanmar to the 21st Century.