On impulse, Cynthia Hicks shelled out big bucks at a Chinese pearl factory. When buyer's remorse kicked in, the emotional journey behind it was unexpected.
"It can be a difficult journey. If you have a cold, cough or sniffle, don’t even bother lining up. Good hiking boots and a walking stick are a must. Bring plenty of water. Be sure to stay at least 25 feet away. Remember these are wild animals. If we need to carry you out, that will cost an extra $300."
I was already intimidated by the pre-trek briefing and we hadn’t even started on our mountain gorilla expedition, which was part of a 16-day tour to southwestern Uganda sponsored by ElderTreks. The 25-foot rule, I learned, was for both their protection and ours. Sharing 98.4 percent of our DNA, the gorillas are very susceptible to human-borne illnesses. We were carriers and they had to be protected from us. They were wild animals and we had to be protected from them. A fair quid pro quo. Thus, eight humans a day are allowed to visit a gorilla group for no longer than an hour. Works for us; works for them.
This is not exactly a drive-by photo op. With a vigorous trek of 1-7 hours, depending upon where the gorillas are that day, you have to REALLY want to see them. But even with visitation restricted to an hour, it is usually well worth the effort.
I am a shy person. I spend most of my days alone. Although it was daunting to figure out how to pack my 21-inch carry on with clothes for hot weather in Rapa Nui and Buenos Aires and freezing weather in Patagonia, dealing with more than a dozen strangers for three weeks was even more of a challenge. During the first few days of the trip I quietly mingled and occasionally exchanged stories, but it wasn’t until the group and I were in the Buenos Aires airport that I discovered there were limits to my shyness.
by Judith Fein
BE A TRAVELER AND NOT A TOURIST; IF YOU TRAVEL BETTER, YOU WILL WRITE BETTER.
Join award-winning travel journalists/photographers Judith Fein and Paul Ross on a CULTURAL IMMERSION TRIP TO TUNISIA, MAY 8-22, 2009.
The goal of the trip is to teach participants how to travel deeply in a safe, exciting, exotic, accessible country and to write about their experiences. The pieces will be read aloud to the group every day, and hands-on instruction will be offered in travel photography, no matter what your level of proficiency.
The 14-night, l5 day trip will include all the highlights of Tunisia-- from the ruins of Carthage to the island of Djerba during a festival dedicated to a woman; from cave dwellers to souk shopping; from Berber villages to Bedouin markets to the stillness of the Sahara desert at night. In addition to visiting the sites, participants will have contact with Tunisians from all walks of life--AND THIS IS THE HEART OF THE TRIP. You will go into homes, music studios, caves, kitchens, mosques and spend time with open-hearted, friendly locals while learning about their culture--how they think, eat, work, live, create art, worship and feel about the world.