The moral cost of travel 

It was in Paradise Lost that John Milton introduced the notion that Adam and Eve ate an apple from the tree of knowledge (thus explaining why your “knowledgeable” elementary school teachers may have had the infamous symbol sitting on their desks). The writers of Genesis left the forbidden fruit unspecified, but scholars have since claimed it could’ve been a grape, possibly a fig, even a pomegranate. Whatever it was exactly, the first Biblical book is clear that its consumption was the ultimate sin — and ever since the Western world has equated knowledge with a loss of innocence. Banned from Eden, the original sinners were also the original knowledge seekers, and the idea that understanding means corruption is widespread, often seen in dubious platitudes like “ignorance is bliss.”
Throughout history, innocence has been lost when new knowledge is gained, and the most common way for that to happen is by leaving home. By temporarily or permanently saying goodbye to what she knows best, the traveler willfully treks out from the light into the dark, plucking an apple from the tree of knowledge on her way.
The realm of the unknown is perhaps humankind’s greatest fear, but as the philosopher Spinoza said, “There can be no hope without fear, and no fear without hope.” To travel is to hope, but it’s also to confront one’s fears. To stay in your tiny corner of the globe is to stay ignorant, and, indeed, it can be blissful. Yet what a warped perspective this blind contentment gives. Prejudices and naïve thoughts bask in restfulness and immobility.
Travel can inadvertently cause people to become scared of the world.
Read more
It was in Paradise Lost that John Milton introduced the notion that Adam and Eve ate an apple from the tree of knowledge (thus explaining why your “knowledgeable” elementary school teachers may have had the infamous symbol sitting on their desks). The writers of Genesis left the forbidden fruit unspecified, but scholars have since claimed it could’ve been a grape, possibly a fig, even a pomegranate. Whatever it was exactly, the first Biblical book is clear that its consumption was the ultimate sin — and ever since the Western world has equated knowledge with a loss of innocence. Banned from Eden, the original sinners were also the original knowledge seekers, and the idea that understanding means corruption is widespread, often seen in dubious platitudes like “ignorance is bliss.”

Throughout history, innocence has been lost when new knowledge is gained, and the most common way for that to happen is by leaving home. By temporarily or permanently saying goodbye to what she knows best, the traveler willfully treks out from the light into the dark, plucking an apple from the tree of knowledge on her way.

The realm of the unknown is perhaps humankind’s greatest fear, but as the philosopher Spinoza said, “There can be no hope without fear, and no fear without hope.” To travel is to hope, but it’s also to confront one’s fears. To stay in your tiny corner of the globe is to stay ignorant, and, indeed, it can be blissful. Yet what a warped perspective this blind contentment gives. Prejudices and naïve thoughts bask in restfulness and immobility.

Travel can inadvertently cause people to become scared of the world.

Read more


The white marble platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda is warm under my bare feet. Yangon, Myanmar, is already steamy, and it’s only 8am. Up here the hum of engines and sharp bursts of car horns below sound distant, but the humidity is as thick as it is on the root-tangled streets.
A smiling woman in uniform points at my ticket. It’s a kitsch photograph of the gold-plated cone of the Shwedagon. She checks the date stamped on it while I look at the creamy smudges of thanaka on her cheeks — tree-bark paste that’s dried like thick brush strokes. She nods and points down a quiet alley between rows of shrines.
I set off slowly. There are reverent groups of men in dark sarongs and smart shirts, women in bright oranges and pinks. I find myself looking at everyone’s toes. Their bare toes poke out bold and separated. They’re not jammed together, not like the toes of the old French women I’ve met, swollen and bulging with bunions in tight, low-heeled loafers. I look down at my own feet, my Zimbabwean feet that’ve seen the insides of too many winter boots. I find myself hoping no one notices how my big toes have started to point inwards, because in my heart I’m the kind of person who has the country feet of hot countries, and since I can’t speak a word of the Myanmar language, my toes are all that can speak for me. I want them to say we have something in common.

From: Barefoot in Yangon
The white marble platform of the Shwedagon Pagoda is warm under my bare feet. Yangon, Myanmar, is already steamy, and it’s only 8am. Up here the hum of engines and sharp bursts of car horns below sound distant, but the humidity is as thick as it is on the root-tangled streets.

A smiling woman in uniform points at my ticket. It’s a kitsch photograph of the gold-plated cone of the Shwedagon. She checks the date stamped on it while I look at the creamy smudges of thanaka on her cheeks — tree-bark paste that’s dried like thick brush strokes. She nods and points down a quiet alley between rows of shrines.

I set off slowly. There are reverent groups of men in dark sarongs and smart shirts, women in bright oranges and pinks. I find myself looking at everyone’s toes. Their bare toes poke out bold and separated. They’re not jammed together, not like the toes of the old French women I’ve met, swollen and bulging with bunions in tight, low-heeled loafers. I look down at my own feet, my Zimbabwean feet that’ve seen the insides of too many winter boots. I find myself hoping no one notices how my big toes have started to point inwards, because in my heart I’m the kind of person who has the country feet of hot countries, and since I can’t speak a word of the Myanmar language, my toes are all that can speak for me. I want them to say we have something in common.image

From: Barefoot in Yangon

Portraits of death and dying abroad

THE LITTLE GIRL FROM NEXT DOOR slips through the fence and knocks at my parents’ sliding door. She sits herself down at the kitchen table and asks for a biscuit. We’re not really used to having neighbours, but we’re getting better.
“Voilà,” my mother says, handing her a chocolate digestive, and Manon begins to nibble it.
“Merci.”
Her mouth grows slick with saliva, and every now and then she delicately turns the biscuit this way and that, unsure of her line of attack.
“How did you learn to speak English?” she asks finally, unable to conceive a world beyond this little town in Brittany. Unable to conceive a non-France.
“The same way you learned French,” I say. “When you were a baby, it was the language you learned from your parents. I learned English from Rosie and Jay and they learned from their parents.”
“Oh. Like when you were in the tummy?”
“Yeah…sort of.”
“Where are your parents, Rosie?”
My mother puts on her matter-of-fact-face and says, “Ils sont morts.”
“Oh,” says Manon and continues to eat her biscuit.
“Are they in the cemetery here?”
“No, they’re buried in the mountains of Zimbabwe,” says Ma, deciding it’s easier to say buried than sprinkled, because then we’d have to explain cremation.
“I kind of know what buried means, but could you tell me again?”
“Well,” I say glancing over at Ma, “when you die you get put into a big box called a coffin and they dig a really deep hole and then they put the coffin in the hole and cover it over with earth.”
“And they throw beautiful flowers in too,” says Ma with a big smile. “White ones and pink ones and yellow ones.”
“Ah bon,” says Manon, her eyes magnified by her tiny pair of pink glasses, crumbs all around her mouth, “And red ones too?”
“Oui!”
Suddenly she pops the rest of the biscuit into her mouth, jumps off her chair, zips into the office, and comes back with a piece of paper and a pencil. Her mouth is still bulging with soggy digestive as she sketches a smiling person in a long box surrounded by flowers.
“Like this?” she asks and turns the page around to show us.

“Exactly.”
She turns the page back, her pencil poised.
“Should I cover it over with dirt now?” she asks, starting to scribble over the picture.
“Non, non!” I say, “It’s perfect just like that.”
“Do you know who it is?” she asks.
“Qui?” asks Ma.
“MANON!” she says with a grin and pens her name onto the paper with the cursive letters they teach French kids.
Continue
THE LITTLE GIRL FROM NEXT DOOR slips through the fence and knocks at my parents’ sliding door. She sits herself down at the kitchen table and asks for a biscuit. We’re not really used to having neighbours, but we’re getting better.

Voilà,” my mother says, handing her a chocolate digestive, and Manon begins to nibble it.

Merci.”

Her mouth grows slick with saliva, and every now and then she delicately turns the biscuit this way and that, unsure of her line of attack.

“How did you learn to speak English?” she asks finally, unable to conceive a world beyond this little town in Brittany. Unable to conceive a non-France.

“The same way you learned French,” I say. “When you were a baby, it was the language you learned from your parents. I learned English from Rosie and Jay and they learned from their parents.”

“Oh. Like when you were in the tummy?”

“Yeah…sort of.”

“Where are your parents, Rosie?”

My mother puts on her matter-of-fact-face and says, “Ils sont morts.”

“Oh,” says Manon and continues to eat her biscuit.

“Are they in the cemetery here?”

“No, they’re buried in the mountains of Zimbabwe,” says Ma, deciding it’s easier to say buried than sprinkled, because then we’d have to explain cremation.

“I kind of know what buried means, but could you tell me again?”

“Well,” I say glancing over at Ma, “when you die you get put into a big box called a coffin and they dig a really deep hole and then they put the coffin in the hole and cover it over with earth.”

“And they throw beautiful flowers in too,” says Ma with a big smile. “White ones and pink ones and yellow ones.”

Ah bon,” says Manon, her eyes magnified by her tiny pair of pink glasses, crumbs all around her mouth, “And red ones too?”

Oui!

Suddenly she pops the rest of the biscuit into her mouth, jumps off her chair, zips into the office, and comes back with a piece of paper and a pencil. Her mouth is still bulging with soggy digestive as she sketches a smiling person in a long box surrounded by flowers.

“Like this?” she asks and turns the page around to show us.

Manon's grave

“Exactly.”

She turns the page back, her pencil poised.

“Should I cover it over with dirt now?” she asks, starting to scribble over the picture.

Non, non!” I say, “It’s perfect just like that.”

“Do you know who it is?” she asks.

Qui?” asks Ma.

“MANON!” she says with a grin and pens her name onto the paper with the cursive letters they teach French kids.

Continue

2. You accept that places like East Redfern are real suburbs. Gentrification has brought great things to Sydney. The explosion of cool new pokie-free bars and pubs, a burgeoning set of top-notch restaurants and cafes, and greater scope for the city’s creative community. Gentrification has also displaced original residents and seen the creation of faux-suburbs by real estate agents looking to further price-gouge your already inflated weekly rent. But hey, it’s ok. You think East Redfern sounds pretty cool, and the Norfolk does do great tacos. (via 18 signs you were born and raised in Sydney, Australia - Matador Network)

2. You accept that places like East Redfern are real suburbs. Gentrification has brought great things to Sydney. The explosion of cool new pokie-free bars and pubs, a burgeoning set of top-notch restaurants and cafes, and greater scope for the city’s creative community. Gentrification has also displaced original residents and seen the creation of faux-suburbs by real estate agents looking to further price-gouge your already inflated weekly rent. But hey, it’s ok. You think East Redfern sounds pretty cool, and the Norfolk does do great tacos. (via 18 signs you were born and raised in Sydney, Australia - Matador Network)

While the stereotype of the area is that it’s all barren desert — which isn’t entirely inaccurate — there’s a lot more variation and personality in the Southwest than the backdrops of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons would suggest. Next time you decide to hop in your car for a trip around the country, here’s why you should hang out in the Southwest. (via 25 reasons you need to road trip the American Southwest)

While the stereotype of the area is that it’s all barren desert — which isn’t entirely inaccurate — there’s a lot more variation and personality in the Southwest than the backdrops of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner cartoons would suggest. Next time you decide to hop in your car for a trip around the country, here’s why you should hang out in the Southwest. (via 25 reasons you need to road trip the American Southwest)