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WE’VE THE MAGIC OF RIO p.90
THE MOOD OF SEOUL p.62
THE MOUNTAINS OF AUSTRIA p.78
We don’t make moth food. We don’t make things to be hung up to gather dust in a closet. We make adventure wear. We make things to be used and abused. To be dragged along the asphalt. To be buffeted by Mother Nature. To be worn not worshipped. Life’s too short to be spent cooped up inside.
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From top, left to right: Alex Crétey Systermans, Kari Medig, Adam Birkan, Samuel Zuder, Chiara Goia, Ériver Hijano, Andrew Rowat, Larissa Zaidan, Landon Nordeman, Peden + Munk, Daniel Müller, João Canziani, Alex Crétey Systermans, Rena Effendi
ON THE COVER Recognize these photos? Many have appeared in the magazine over the years. Through them, we celebrate past—and future—travels.
Table of Contents
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THE 2021 A FA R T R AV E L VA N G U A R D Visionaries who harness the power of travel to make a positive difference.
LA VIE EN CIDRE Bittersweet, with a touch of bubbles: A visit to the French countryside serves up cider straight from the orchard.
A FA R . C O M 51
FROM THE EDITOR
THE OBEAH MAN’S SON Jamaica’s magic is always running just below the surface.
COMMON THREADS A glimpse inside the closet of a lifelong traveler
W H E R E T R AV E L TA K E S YO U Illustrator Dima Kashtalyan shows us a whimsical take on slow travel.
After an unprecedented year, [AFAR’s] mission—to inspire, guide, and empower travelers to have enriching experiences that make a positive impact on the world— resonates more than ever.
ILLUSTRATIONS, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: ANDREW JOYCE, BENE ROHLMANN, DIMA KASHTALYAN PHOTOS, CLOCKWISE FROM LEFT: COURTESY OF FOGO ISLAND INN, ALEX CRÉTEY SYSTERMANS, JESSICA ANTOLA
EXTRA PROTECTION, EXTRA HYGIENE Have a healthy journey with all precautions taken to the finest detail for your in-flight safety.
Please visit turkishairlines.com to learn more about our travel standards and other details.
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N E X T S T O P : K- P O P A father visiting Seoul with his K-pop–obsessed teenager wonders: How do you raise a traveler?
A COLLECTOR’S EYE Confessions of a deltiologist: Historian and postcard collector Jessica B. Harris opens her archives.
UP In Austria, where the Alps cover 62 percent of the country, hiking is just a part of regular life. An intrepid American writer laces up his boots.
HER NAME IS RIO “You’re not going to die—you might learn something new.” Author Carmen Maria Machado overcomes her travel anxiety in Brazil.
CL OCKWISE FRO M TOP LEFT: JI NHW A JAN G, D AN IEL MÜLL ER, COURTESY OF “VINTAGE POSTCARDS FROM THE AFRICAN WORLD”
EX P NO.
E X PE R I EN C E N O. 1 5
E X PE R I EN C E N O. 7 4
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South Shore Surﬁng
There is a place for discerning families who seek to balance luxury with the laid-back lifestyle and awe-inspiring beauty of our island home. Welcome to Kukui‘ula on the South Shore of Kaua‘i. Home to some of the most famed locales for adventure in the world, Kaua‘i is a place where you can challenge your inner athlete and explorer. Our Huaka‘i Outﬁtters are a team of experts, many of whom grew up on the island. They can help your family master a new skill or sport, or discover some of the most pristine locations for adventure on Kaua‘i. South Shore Surﬁng is just one of an abundance of experiences available in the Ultimate Family Retreat.
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“Against the water, I did what I wanted to do: I read and ate.”
CARMEN MARIA MACHADO
Her Name Is Rio
Experience the timeless charm and unrivaled hospitality alit found only in Charleston, Char South Carolina. The perfect stay ay awaits. a
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AFAR.COM @AFARMEDIA FOUNDERS GREG SULLIVAN & JOE DIAZ
“I’m booked for New Orleans for Jazz Fest 2021 for my 40th birthday, with three (and counting) friends from the U.K. Better six months late than never.” —T.C.
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Where will you go once you’re vaccinated?
VP, EDITOR IN CHIEF Julia Cosgrove @juliacosgrove
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, BRAND PARTNERSHIPS
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DIRECTOR OF DIGITAL CONTENT
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DIGITAL FEATURES EDITOR Katherine LaGrave @kjlagrave
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DESTINATION NEWS EDITOR
Lyndsey Matthews @lyndsey_matthews
SALES, SOUTHWEST Lewis Stafford Company
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SALES, MEXICO AND LATIN AMERICA
JUNIOR DESIGNER Ryan Legaspi
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“I am dreaming of something celebratory, active, and carefree, and a family surf trip to the Maldives is calling.” —O.M.
“The dense forests of the Belgian Ardennes, which is a twohour road trip from my brother’s newas-of-2020 home in Brussels.” —K.L.
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VP, COFOUNDER Joe Diaz @joediazafar
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“I’m heading to Marrakech, Morocco, this summer to attend the rescheduled wedding of a dear friend’s daughter.” —B.B.
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“Post-vaccine, when everything is open, I’ll be in the EmiliaRomagna region of Italy, eating cheese and prosciutto until my pants no longer fit.” —R.T.
Lindsey Green @lindseygreenlikethecolor
“I’m planning a trip to visit my grandparents in Toronto and tacking on a short road trip to explore the Great Lakes.” —R.L.
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AFAR ID Statement AFAR® (ISSN 1947-4377), Volume 13, Number 2, is published bimonthly by AFAR, P.O. Box 458 San Francisco, CA 94104, U.S.A. In the U.S., AFAR® is a registered trademark of AFAR LLC. Publisher assumes no responsibility for return of unsolicited manuscripts, art, or any other unsolicited materials. Subscription price for U.S. residents: $24.00 for 6 issues. Canadian subscription rate: $30.00 (GST included) for 6 issues. All other countries: $40.00 for 6 issues. To order a subscription to AFAR or to inquire about an existing subscription, please write to AFAR Magazine Customer Service, P.O. Box 6265, Harlan, IA 51591-1765, or call 888-403-9001. Periodicals postage paid at San Francisco, CA, and at additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to AFAR, P.O. Box 6265, Harlan, IA 51591-1765.
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SABINE HRECHDAKIAN Writer “Part of what drew me to cider is that I love an underdog,” admits Sabine Hrechdakian, who wrote La Vie en Cidre (p.37). The beverage typically doesn’t get the same respect that wine does. “In France, it’s like, ‘Grandpa drinks that stuff,’” she says. “But the maker I write about does a cider that is so elegant, it’s like champagne.” Hrechdakian’s work also appears in Upstate Diary. Connect on Instagram @SabineHrechdakian.
DA N I E L M Ü L L E R Photographer ROL AND WAT S O N - G R A N T Writer
“I wanted to get at the sense or feeling you have when you hike these mountains.”
J I N H WA J A N G Illustrator For Seoul-based illustrator Jinhwa Jang, the creative spark for Next Stop: K-Pop (p.62) came from the coffee shops she frequents in Hongdae and the bustling streets of Gangnam. “Seoul itself is an inspiration,” Jang says. As she worked, Jang also took a cue from the story and switched on her own K-pop playlist, heavy with hits from girl groups Twice and Red Velvet. See more of her work on Instagram @jinhwajangart.
Fiction writer Roland Watson-Grant grew up in Jamaica, where he watched his father practice folk magic, an experience he reflects on in The Obeah Man’s Son (p.51). “I like to be the believing skeptic,” Watson-Grant says. “It’s in that space between the two opposing worlds where we find magical realism. I leave room for the unexplained, and that’s what informs my stories in a very real way.” Watson-Grant is at work on the third novel in his series, Trilogy of the Swamp. Find him on Instagram @rolandwatson_grant.
DAN IEL MÜLL ER
German photographer Daniel Müller spent four days last June shooting his first feature story for AFAR (p.78). An active hiker now based in Switzerland, Müller is used to the mountains, but this was different: He and his assistant trekked upwards of four hours a day, battling inclement weather and icy trails. And while Müller says the sweeping Alpine vistas impressed him, he also wanted to capture what he calls the “in-between” moments—the hikers sharing schnapps in the sun, the smiles and advice traded on the trails, and the deeply satisfying Kaiserschmarrn, a traditional fluffy, torn pancake that served as a fitting reward for reaching yet another mountain hut. “I wanted to get at the sense or feeling you have when you hike these mountains,” he says. Since coming down from the Alps, Müller has been preparing for his next big “project”: parenthood. Follow him on Instagram @dan.mueller.
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afa r.c o m
A FA R .C O M / T R AV E L- G U I D E S
Craft brewers and culinary upstarts, artists and free spirits mingle in this North Carolina city set against the Blue Ridge Mountains. Puerto Rico
A FA R .C O M / T R AV E L F O R G O O D
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MAKING UP FOR LOST TRIPS
Thinking about exploring the outdoors on two wheels? Want to discover underrated national parks? Check out our new guide for the “camping curious.”
We’ve been cooped up, over-Zoomed, and Vitamin D deficient for too long—it’s time to swap “deferred dreams” for “bookings.” The team at AFAR has all the intel and inspiration you need to put much-missed travel back on the calendar.
Consult our list of once-in-alifetime adventures that also support Indigenous-owned businesses, wildlife restoration, and more.
A FA R .C O M / T R AV E LTA L E S
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Don’t miss season two of our Travel Tales by AFAR podcast, streaming this May.
PHOTO : ROSE MARI E CRO MWELL; I LLUSTRATION S, CL OCKW IS E FROM LEFT: SAM ISLAND, KATY WANG
We’re craving mofongo and fluffy mallorcas, the sound of panderos in San Juan, and a sandy path that leads to a secluded beach. Time to consider a trip to PR.
Relax, Reconnect, Repeat LET THE ISLANDS OF TAHITI INSPIRE YOU WITH SIX NEW ITINERARIES DESIGNED BY AFAR.
Celebrate something special, or just celebrate life The trip of a lifetime awaits with overwater bungalows, French-meetsPolynesian cuisine, outdoor thrills, and more on The Islands of Tahiti. From Bora Bora to Moorea, these inspiring itineraries feature our picks for unforgettable experiences and adventures. Start dreaming of pink-sand beaches, authentic culture, and expanses of ocean that are just the reset you need.
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From t he Ed itor
TRAVEL TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
until my calves hurt. Getting lost and then found again. Making a serendipitous discovery on a small, empty street in a big, bustling city. Tasting a dish that has deep ties to traditions that aren’t my own. I’ve missed meeting strangers whose love of home and pride of place upend any preconceptions I might have had before visiting. I’ve missed figuring out the idiosyncrasies of transit systems. I’ve even missed hearing, “We’ve reached our cruising altitude.” We will travel again soon—of that I am sure. Borders will reopen; family, friends, and loved ones will reunite; and milestones will once again be celebrated in crowded restaurants and on epic trips we’ve spent the last year wistfully dreaming about. But when travel does come roaring back, I want it to be better—for travelers, for the communities they visit, and for the planet. During the past year, AFAR’s executive team has devoted considerable time to determining what matters now—for our company, travelers, and the world. As you’ll see in myriad ways in 2021, we’re doubling down on the credo that travel is a force for good. In everything we do, we aim to inspire, guide, and empower travelers to have enriching experiences that make a positive impact. We can be more purposeful about the ways we travel. We can travel more slowly, empathetically, sustainably—and yes, joyfully. In this issue, we celebrate the 2021 AFAR Travel Vanguard (page 23), six visionaries who are working to make the industry more inclusive, purpose led, environmentally and economically sound, intentional, and future proof. This year’s class of Vanguard honorees is changing the face of travel for good, and after the year we’ve all had—and the travel industry has felt so deeply—it seemed even more important to honor their contributions. I hope you agree.
I’ VE MISSED WANDERING
J U L I A C O S G ROV E
Editor in Chief
My last international trip before the pandemic was to Paris, where I spent several weeks showing my daughters some of my favorite old haunts (including Chez Marianne, above)— and discovering new ones.
What Makes This Beach Different? Plan an unrivaled kind of Florida vacation. Spread out on 23-miles of golden beaches. Dine at waterfront restaurants serving up sunset views. Or cruise miles of scenic waterways in the yachting capital of the world. What makes this beach different? Everyone under the sun. Learn more at visitlauderdale.com
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Fou nder ’s Note
IT’S TIME TO MAKE TRAVEL MORE SUSTAINABLE
the world is beginning to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. COVID cases and death rates are dropping, and, most significantly, distribution of vaccines has accelerated worldwide. Travel is starting to rebound after the most devastating year in memory. We at AFAR are as anxious as anyone to get back on the road. We are also more cognizant than ever of the effects of our actions and are deeply committed to traveling more conscientiously. With that in mind, we have converted AFAR into a public benefit company, specifically devoted to making travel a force for good in the world. We will be accountable to all our stakeholders—including you, our readers—for our success in this regard. Later this year we are launching a program we believe will help us all travel more sustainably: Global Steward. In partnership with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), a leader in cultural, economic, and environmental stewardship for the travel industry since the United Nations formed it in 2010, we will rate hotels and lodges in their ongoing journey toward greater sustainability. GSTC and GSTC -accredited certifying bodies will independently assess and evaluate hotels, making this program unlike anything else in the travel industry. Hotels will work towards continuous improvement in 160 performance indicators, such as how they support ecological biodiversity and how they act to minimize greenhouse gas emissions. Do they provide living wages to all employees and equal employment opportunities to local residents? Do they support community infrastructure and development? You too can recognize the businesses doing forward-thinking work by “voting with your dollar,” thus motivating greater change and commitment to sustainability across the hospitality industry. We believe in leading by example, as AFAR has done since our launch in 2009.
In Bhutan, the world’s only carbon-negative country, the Six Senses lodges pride themselves on their commitment to environmental sustainability and the local communities that surround the properties.
Safe travels, GREG SULLI VAN & JOE DIAZ
FRÉDÉRI C LAGRANGE
AS WE WRITE THIS,
TO PLAN FOR PUERTO RICO.
It’s time to remember what anticipation feels like. To look forward to rising with the embrace of the sun and nodding off with the help of a warm Caribbean breeze. To stroll endless beaches beneath inﬁnite blue skies. To stop dreaming of a luxurious escape, and start experiencing one again. It’s time to take care of yourself by letting us take care of you. Learn more at DiscoverPuertoRico.com/Info/Travel-Guidelines
Dorado, Puerto Rico
Dorado Beach: A Ritz-Carlton Reserve
To learn how Puerto Rico is prioritizing your safety and to get an idea of what to expect when you arrive, check out: discoverpuertorico.com/promise
PUERTO RICO: PARADISE FOUND Why It’s Easy to Travel Responsibly Here and Plan the Relaxing Trip You Need
With beaches, culture, and luxury hotels, Puerto RicoÕs
ISLAND ABUNDANCE has attracted travelers to its shores for more than a century. Named for the gold found in its river, this land of plenty more recently has become known for sustainability and ecoluxury resorts. Today, it’s a pioneer of health and safety protocols too, helping to establish the “new gold standard.” And, passports aren’t required for U.S. residents, making the sunand-fun-filled island jewel an even more brilliant way to restore and refresh.
Committed to Health and Safety
landmarks, while a trip to the island’s mountainous core reveals its true heart and deep indigenous roots.
Rigorous measures are in place for those traveling to Puerto Rico. Everyone
Awe-Inspiring Outdoor Activities
must complete a Travel Declaration Form and receive a negative PCR test no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. Other protocols include an island-wide curfew (12:00a.m.-5:00a.m.) and mandatory face masks indoors.
Fascinating History and Culture From ancient Taíno roots to Spanish colonial architecture, Puerto Rico offers millennia of history steps away from its beaches. Hundreds of years under the Spanish crown resulted in some of the world’s most well-preserved forts, convents, and other
With mountains, rain forest, and the Caribbean Sea— including after-hours bioluminescent bays— there’s so much more to do in Puerto Rico beyond sunbathing. Cloud forest hikes, night kayaking, and rare parrot-spotting are just a few of the activities that make it an outdoor playground for all levels of thrill-seekers.
Work in Full Color Forget your passport and forget your couch, you can turn remote work into an extended vacation in Puerto Rico.
Whether you’re decamping for summer break as a family or planning a romantic sojourn, the island’s conveniences and amenities mean you all you need is your laptop.
Natural Beauty at Eco-Luxury Hotels
Find Calm at Secluded Beaches
it a natural choice for wellness retreats. From private plunge pools and awardwinning spas to onsite organic farms and sprawling nature reserves, Puerto Rico’s eco-luxury hotels are equal parts green and glam.
There’s a reason Puerto Rico is called the island of enchantment and it has everything to do with its shoreline. Packed with hidden seashores, unspoiled coves, and frothy surf, there’s an uncrowded beach to suit everyone looking to truly relax.
Growing numbers of green properties on the island make
Music to the Ear The island’s many sounds—and sights, tastes, and experiences— are a joyful noise. Eavesdrop on chirps and peeps in lush natural environments. Savor the soundtrack of surf crashing on the beach. And tune in to the sophisticated hubbub of San Juan, Bayamón, and Ponce, cities that move to a Latin beat.
the desert is
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+ APOORVA GANDHI
THE 2021 AFAR TRAVEL VANGUARD Visionaries who harness the power of travel to make a positive difference. by J E N N I F E R F LO W E R S / Portraits by J E N N Y M Ö R T S E L L
THE 2021 TRAVEL VANGUARD
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has always believed in the power of travel as a force for good. After an unprecedented year, our mission—to inspire, guide, and empower travelers to have enriching experiences that make a positive impact on the world—resonates more than ever. The people you’ll meet on the following pages, our 2021 Travel Vanguard honorees, have spent years working to contribute to responsible, sustainable, lasting change in the travel industry. As we begin to explore again, these visionaries are fitting guides to motivate us to tour, cruise, journey, stay, hike, and meet in more conscientious and connected ways. — — —— — — — — — —— —— —— — —— ——
A FA R , AT I T S C O R E ,
Nature should be accessible to everyone, and the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro is helping make that vision a reality. IN 2009, Rue Mapp sat down at her computer to start a blog called Outdoor Afro, where she wrote about what had long been on her mind—the lack of Black representation in the nation’s parks, forests, and riverways. “We needed to tell a new narrative,” says Mapp, a nature lover from her earliest days. As a child growing up in Oakland, California, Mapp spent weekends
and summers on her family’s ranch 100 miles north of the city. “When you looked at images of the outdoors in magazines and in commercials, you didn’t see people who look like me,” she says. “What was missing was an empowered story that lifted up Black joy in nature, and showed Black people outside as strong, beautiful, and free.”
In 2015, after years spent working as an analyst and consultant, Mapp pivoted full time to Outdoor Afro, relaunching it as a nonprofit committed to the idea that nature should be accessible to everyone and should not be limited by race, budget, or geography. Today, led by a coalition of 100 volunteer ambassadors across the United States, Outdoor Afro has
taken thousands of people into state and national parks, through white-water rapids, and down canyon chutes. It has also led more accessible experiences in urban areas, including a community walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Throughout the year, the nonprofit organizes hiking, biking, kayaking, and camping excursions for a network of nearly 50,000 people. Since founding Outdoor Afro, Mapp has been invited to the White House to watch former President Obama sign America’s Great Outdoors Initiative, a memorandum that supports and promotes community access and conservation efforts in nature. In 2020, she hiked with Oprah Winfrey in Oakland’s Joaquin Miller Park during Black History Month. And her community grows by the day: The racial reckoning following the murder of George Floyd and the surge of fervor for getting outdoors during the pandemic created spikes of interest in Outdoor Afro. Donations increased by 100 percent and Mapp grew her staff to 10 people. While Mapp knows there’s a long way to go, she points to silver linings: More people use social media as a vehicle to speak up about Black experiences outdoors, and traditional media outlets are paying more attention to diversity in their coverage. But the true measure of success, according to Mapp, is much bigger. “We’re in a race to the ordinary,” she says. “It’s not a big parade down Main Street, the moment that we’re working for. It’s one where we expect that everyone has equitable access to the outdoors.”
Get Ready to Ramble AFAR’S THREE NEW ITINERARIES WELCOME YOU TO THE LAND OF NATURAL WONDERS, FINGER-LICKING BBQ, AND SMALL-TOWN AMERICANA.
The South is calling From outdoor thrills to fascinating culture and history, visiting the South stimulates all the senses. Inspire awe with the caves of Kentucky, geological marvels you can experience by boat or foot. Discover the serene coast of South Carolina and its Gullah history and culture. And, in West Virginia, be one of the first to raft the rapids in the country’s newest national park. AFAR JOURNEYS
THE 2021 TRAVEL VANGUARD
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“WE WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE, FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE, FEELS LIKE WE ARE PUTTING PEOPLE FIRST AND TREATING THEM WITH RESPECT AND DIGNITY.”
GROWING UP IN the Washington, D.C. area as the son of immigrant parents, Apoorva Gandhi learned quickly that he didn’t have the “right” name or the “right” lunch food. In some cases, it was a social snub; other times, kids threw rocks at him on the playground. “I just turned 51, and I still remember how that feels,” Gandhi says. “It gave me empathy for those who don’t feel like they belong, and for those who yearn to be included.” These experiences shaped Gandhi’s lifelong mission: to help make people feel welcome. At first, while he worked as an internal
business consultant for Accenture, and subsequently Marriott, his work around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) was extracurricular. But in 2010, after taking notice of Gandhi’s leadership and passion for DEI, Marriott offered him the role of VP of Multicultural Affairs and Business Councils at Marriott International. Today, Gandhi leads external DEI strategy at the world’s largest hotel company. To help improve inclusion practices at Marriott, he is also the lead liaison with diversity advocacy partners including Out & Equal, Disability:IN, and the Hispanic
Association on Corporate Responsibility. “It’s not about political correctness,” he says. “This is an important business initiative, especially in our industry, where welcoming all is what it’s all about. And not just for customers, but also for people who work here. It makes a difference when employees feel, ‘If I work there, I will belong. I will be welcomed.’ ” One of Gandhi’s biggest achievements is working with his team on the expansion of Culture Day, a series of events the company launched in 2014 to help hotel staff around the world understand and cater to different types of community celebrations, from Indian weddings to Latinx quinceañeras. During 2018, demand from hotels for the program doubled and in 2019, Culture Day took place in more than 25 cities globally. In 2020, thanks in part to Gandhi’s work, DiversityInc named Marriott number one across industries on its Top 50 Companies for Diversity list. The pandemic-related halt in travel led to furloughs of thousands of staffers at Marriott, along with an annual loss of $267 million. Despite this, Gandhi’s work continues to grow. As the company regroups, he is more determined than ever to help drive inclusion forward at Marriott. “We want to make sure everyone, from all walks of life, feels like we are putting people first and treating them with respect and dignity,” he says.
Marriott International’s VP of Multicultural Affairs and Business Councils has a message: Welcome.
THE 2021 TRAVEL VANGUARD
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LONG BEFORE the
global pandemic, Mei Zhang’s goal was to enable travelers to cultivate meaningful relationships with the people and landscapes of China. But as the Berkeleybased founder of WildChina watched the rift between the U.S. and her native country widen—exacerbated in the U.S. by racist language characterizing COVID-19 as the “China virus”—she saw even more opportunity
to create mutual understanding. Says Zhang: “To me, the most interesting thing about building WildChina has been fostering this kind of human-to-human contact and relationship that’s real, and not implemented or prescribed either by the government or by the Western press.” Since 2000, Zhang has done just that, taking both international visitors and domestic travelers on immersive
“WE WANT TO CHANGE YOUR WAY OF THINKING ABOUT CHINA, BUT A LOT OF IT IS CHANGING OUR WAY OF VALUING OUR OWN CULTURE AND CREATING A SENSE OF APPRECIATION FOR THE BEAUTY IN DAILY LIVES.”
trips that celebrate the myriad people and cultures within China. She accomplished this by enlisting more than 200 on-the-ground guides and empowering them to go beyond the rote recitation of destination facts and to tell their personal stories. Whenever possible, WildChina ushers people behind the scenes—whether that means meeting a cheese maker in Shaxi or sitting down to a home-cooked meal with a local family. WildChina normally brings more than 10,000 travelers to China each year, and though the pandemic slowed her operation, Zhang has kept her mission alive. For travelers, she’s hosted a series of virtual events that feature people from all corners of the country, including a farmer from Guangdong who is leading a movement in sustainability. Through book club events with such prominent authors as Lisa See, Zhang has also facilitated timely dialogue around Chinese culture and history. She’s led virtual guide trainings
within WildChina and has begun to invite other travel companies to share ideas about helping travelers make more fulfilling connections with locals. In many ways, Zhang is hoping to impart the same feeling she had when she first realized the beauty of Yunnan, her own home province in southwest China, as a young woman living in the city of Dali. It was from there that she traveled to the western city of Zhongdian—since renamed Shangri-La— and fell in love with the grassy meadows inhabited by yaks, with the glimpses of Tibetan culture, and most of all, with the warm hospitality and reciprocal curiosity among the people she encountered. “What [WildChina] really is about is creating life-changing experiences,” Zhang says. “We want to change your way of thinking about China, but a lot of it is changing our way of valuing our own culture and creating a sense of appreciation for the beauty in daily lives.”
FROM TOP: @THEPOSTCARDTRAIL, @HANSOLOVER
The founder of tour company WildChina helps bring locals and travelers closer together.
THE 2021 TRAVEL VANGUARD
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AKWASI AGYEMAN The CEO of the Ghana Tourism Authority is inviting the African diaspora to explore their roots. school student at Tulane University in the early 2000s, Akwasi Agyeman saw his native Ghana everywhere: in the Afro-Caribbean rhythms he heard in city festivals, in the use of okra in gumbo, and even in the local Creole language. Yet many of the African Americans he met in New Orleans knew next to nothing about the African continent. “I realized that these are our brothers and sisters,” Agyeman says. “I knew there was that connection, and I was curious to find a way to unlock it.” Little did Agyeman know that in 2017, he would be called by Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo to become the CEO of
AS A BUSINESS
the Ghana Tourism Authority and would be challenged to address that very question: How can Ghana meaningfully reconnect with the African diaspora? In the fall of 2018, Agyeman’s biggest project was made public when President Akufo-Addo announced it at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Dubbed the Year of Return, the 2019 initiative would commemorate the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans arriving on the shores of Jamestown, Virginia, by inviting the African diaspora to Ghana. It was a symbolic journey for the descendants of those Africans, many of whom left for America through the forts and
castles that line Ghana’s coast. Agyeman’s team promoted a series of experiences and events around history, resilience, and culture: sobering tours of the castles, a Jamestownto-Jamestown event that began on U.S. soil and ended in the district of the same name in Accra, and even an offer of dual citizenship for more than 100 people. They invited media outlets including the BBC and Ebony, and celebrities Lupita Nyong’o and Samuel L. Jackson visited. The effort led to an unprecedented 18 percent growth in tourism in 2019 that garnered $3.3 billion in revenue. The number of American travelers doubled, and the average number of days in country rose from 7 to 10. The Year of Return also revealed needs for continued engagement and a better tourism infrastructure. It spurred Beyond the
Return, a decade-long initiative to train more hospitality professionals, introduce e-visas, launch pilgrimage journeys called Sankofa (meaning “go back and get it”), and better connect visitors to the country’s numerous annual festivals. To Agyeman, this work is a continuation of efforts to examine history. In 1998, Ghana became the first country on the African continent to celebrate August’s Emancipation Day, which commemorates the abolition of slavery throughout the British Empire. In 2007, it launched the Joseph Project—named after the biblical Joseph who was sold into slavery but eventually became a freed nobleman—inviting Black travelers to explore their roots. “We’re sincere about our attention to the African diaspora,” Agyeman says. “We are family. Let’s reconnect.”
“I REALIZED THAT THESE ARE OUR BROTHERS AND SISTERS. I KNEW THERE WAS THAT CONNECTION, AND I WAS CURIOUS TO FIND A WAY TO UNLOCK IT.”
THE 2021 TRAVEL VANGUARD
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IN A WORLD linked more closely than ever by business and technology, Zita Cobb sees mostly broken connections between people and places. Cobb experienced this disconnect firsthand as a young girl on remote Fogo Island in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, where islanders had lived sustainably for hundreds of years before the onset of industrialized overfishing. Her father, an illiterate fisherman,
supported his household on subsistence living and trade. As the cod population plummeted, he wondered how he would feed his family when the fishers on the boats were fishing for a living and the boat owners were operating the boats for profit. “My father kept saying, ‘I don’t understand why people fish day and night— don’t they realize they’re going to take all the fish?’ ” Cobb says. “Then he finally figured it out and said,
“TOURISM CAN BE AN ENABLER OF CULTURE AND PLACE, BUT IT NEEDS TO BE COMMUNITY BASED AND COMMUNITY LED.”
‘They must be turning the fish into money.’ ” This experience inspired her and her father to want to understand more about the traditional business world; it also motivated Cobb to leave Fogo Island to pursue a career in business. But in 2006, Cobb returned to her native island to join her brothers in founding the Shorefast Foundation, a nonprofit that supports local cultural programs and businesses via charitable initiatives. One of Cobb’s biggest projects debuted in 2013, when she opened Fogo Island Inn, a minimalist, 29-room retreat. All of the inn’s profits go to Shorefast, which helps to engender more initiatives that support Fogo Island in sustainable ways—a key element of Cobb’s larger vision. “Tourism can be an enabler of culture and place, but it needs to be community based and community led,” Cobb says. “It has to do more than just bring money to an economy. It has to work harder
to support culture and to create cultural and economic dignity for the community.” At press time, the inn remained shuttered due to the pandemic, so Shorefast has leaned more heavily on other projects—including woodshop, textile, and seafood-distribution businesses—to help sustain island residents. In many ways, the experience has been a wake-up call for Shorefast not to focus solely on tourism. In November 2020, to help create more globally recognized, locally driven businesses that benefit destinations, Cobb launched the Community Economics Pilot, an enterprise that will apply learnings from Fogo Island to four different communities within Canada. “I don’t want communities to become irrelevant the same way my dad became irrelevant,” Cobb says. “These capacities to participate in the world are what’s going to make the difference on whether a culture or a community is going to survive.”
COURTESY OF FOGO ISLAND INN (2)
For the founder and CEO of Shorefast, empowering communities is key to sustainable travel.
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THE 2021 TRAVEL VANGUARD
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The CEO of Hurtigruten Group believes the cruise industry can help passengers become better stewards of the environment. WHEN DANIEL SKJELDAM became
CEO in 2012, it was to help save Hurtigruten, the homegrown business founded in Norway in 1893, from collapsing. Two years later, with Hurtigruten once again profitable, Skjeldam made sustainable travel its core mission: because the more he joined his staff on expeditions, the more he saw the devastating effects of climate change. “One of the biggest concerns among crew members has been the massive change happening around them,” Skjeldam says, who grew up using Hurtigruten’s coastal express ships in his native Norway. “Officers who had been sailing in the area for 30 years
would say to me, ‘You know, Daniel, where we are now is where a glacier used to be.’ ” Hurtigruten, which sails between the Arctic and Antarctic circles, stopped using heavy fuel oil—a cheap and heavily polluting fuel commonly used on cruise ships—more than a decade ago. Under Skjeldam’s leadership, Hurtigruten in 2017 partnered with the Clean Arctic Alliance to launch the HFOFree Arctic Campaign, which works to ban the use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic shipping. In July 2019, Skjeldam oversaw the launch of the world’s first hybrid electric– powered cruise ship, the MS Roald Amundsen. Its twin, the MS Fridtjof Nansen, followed in
February 2020. (Both vessels are able to operate their engines at maximum efficiency while storing power for times when an extra boost is required.) Skjeldam’s long-term goal is to operate all ships completely emission free. The company has announced plans to debut an emissionfree ship as soon as possible, hopefully by 2030, and is looking into alternative energy sources such as hydrogen and biofuels made from organic waste. Hurtigruten’s destination stewardship extends to the guest experience aboard the company’s 15 ships, where programming aims to enlighten travelers about the people and landscapes they encounter. Instead
of typical cruise ship entertainment, passengers find expedition teams; instead of casinos, science centers. The cruise industry has been criticized for its poor environmental track record, and Skjeldam knows there is work to be done before Hurtigruten can achieve its goal of operating solely emission-free ships. But he believes cruise companies can help drive innovation while providing the experiences that will inspire passengers to better protect the planet. “We firmly believe that people take care of what they love. When you take people to experience regions like the Arctic, you send back climate ambassadors,” Skjeldam says.
“WE FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE TAKE CARE OF WHAT THEY LOVE. WHEN YOU TAKE PEOPLE TO EXPERIENCE REGIONS LIKE THE ARCTIC, YOU SEND BACK CLIMATE AMBASSADORS.”
FROM TOP: ESPEN MILLS, STEFAN DALL
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LA VI E E N
CIDRE Ninety minutes from Paris, you’ll find ancient apple trees, innovative artisans—and a cider that rivals champagne.
by S A B I N E H R E C H D A K I A N photographs by A L E X C R É T E Y
Grébaut is the chef behind Paris’s Michelinstarred Septime.
Due to COVID-19, cider makers in 2020 had an excess of apples—fruit they would usually sell—which means they made a lot of brandy. (It can age longer than cider.)
JUST BEF ORE WE L AND iiiiii iiiiiii ii iiiiiiiiiiii i iii iifigii i iiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiii iii iiiiii y finaiiii ii iiii iiiiii i iiii iii iiiii i iii iiiiiiiii iii ii i iii iiiiiii ii ii i i i i iiiiiii iiiiiii iiiiiiii i i iiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiii ii iiiii i i ii iiii iiii iiiii i iii i iii iiiiii ii iiii iii i ii iiiiiii i iiii iiiiii i iiiiiii ii i iiiii ii i iii iii ii iiii iiii iiiii iiiiiiiiii i iii i iiii i ii ii iii i i i ii i iiiii iiiii i iiiiiiiiii iii i i i iiiiiiii iiiiii iiiiiiiiii i i i iii ii iiii iiiiiiiiii ii iiiiii iiiiiiiii i ii iiiiiiiiii iiiiii iiiii i iiii iiii iiiii iiiiiiiiiiiii i iiiii iiiiiiiiiiii ii ii iii i iiiii iii i i ii ii iiiii i ii iii i1iiiiii i i i ii iiiiii iiiiiiiiii iiii ii ii ii i iii iiiiiii iii i iiiiiii iii iiiiiiii iiii iii iiii iii ar off tii i iii i ii iiiiiiiiiiiiii i i i iiiiii i iiiiiiii iiii iiii i ii iiiii i i iiii iii ii iii ii i i iiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiii iiiii iiiii iiii i iii i ii i iiiii iiiiiiii iii iiiiii iiiiiii iii iiiiii i iii iiii iii iii ii i ii i iiiii i i iiiiii ii iiiiiii iiii i ii i ii iiiii iii iii i i iiii ii iiiiiiiiiii ii iii iiiiiiii iiii iii ii iii iiiiiiiiiii i i ii i2iiiiii iiii i ii iii ii iiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiii ii i iiiiiiii iiiiii iiiii i iii ii iii i iiiiiiiiiii ii ii ii ii i iiii i i iiii iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiii iiii i ii3 iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii i ii i ii i i i ic id r e iii iiiiii iii iii ii ii i iii ii iii iiii ii iiii iiiii i i iiii i iii ii ii iiii i i ii i iiiii i iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii iiiii iiiii i i i i ii iii i iiiiiiii iiiii iiiiiiiiii iiiiiiiiiii ii ii iiii 4iiiiiii i iiiiiiiiiii i iiiii iiiiiiiiiiii i iiiiii iii ii i iiiiiiiiiiiiiiii i iiii iiiii iiiiiiiiii i ii i iiiii iiii i i iiii i i iii ii iii ii ii i i iiiiiii i iiiiiiii ii iii
A few days later, while walking down one of these paths, I will pass a man holding snails, antennae waving, perched on each of his outstretched fingers.
Ruisseau means “stream”—the cider house was named for the many streams that flow throughout Le Perche into the Huisne River.
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After harvest at Domaine du Ruisseau, apples are washed, then milled to create a pulp, or marc. The marc is then loaded into a presse à paquet and squeezed to extract the juice, or moût. The moût sits for a week to allow pectin to float to the surface, then ferments for three to six months before being bottled. Cider is, ideally, enjoyed within one to two years of bottling.
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Their visit culminated in a tasting event that landed their bottles in many of New York City’s top restaurants and inspired an annual Cider Week.
Percheron cider makers, who rely on in-person and restaurant sales, were hit especially hard by the pandemic. In recent months, things have started to improve.
Wassail had an acclaimed three-year run.
Leroux has done field research and even written a book about the folk music of Le Perche.
Meet them and plan your own cider road trip at afar.com/cider.
This is just one of Leroux’s orchards. In total he has 3,200 trees and grows 36 different types of apples.
I first met Leroux in 2011, when he, along with several other Percheron cider makers, visited the Hudson Valley 5 to share their centuries-old knowledge with local growers and makers. The integrity and refinement of their ciders 6 made such an impression on me that, four years later, I opened New York City’s first cider bar 7 to spread the gospel. Ever since, I have wanted to visit the region that inspired me in so many ways. Finally, I’ve arrived. Leroux, now a little grayer around the temples yet still full of passion, ushers me inside his cozy tasting room, which is filled with elegant bottles of cider, honey, and jams made on-site and CDs of his traditional folk band.8 As a founding member of the Syndicat cidricole du Perche, Leroux leads his fellow Percheron cider makers 9 in a Normandy-wide effort to revive cider, a beverage still considered an old man’s drink in France—or synonymous with the cloying plonk made from apple concentrate and sugar that’s served at most French bars. Leroux opens his award-winning Cidre Fermier du Perche, a semisweet style typical of the region. I take a sip, and it’s as sublime as I remember. It’s light and perfectly balanced 11 (bittersweet, and just a touch acidic) with delicate bubbles on Leroux and others par with the best champagne. “We are not making cider to are constantly make soda,” he says emphatically. “We are making a beverage rediscovering to put on the tables of the best chefs. A noble product!” apples. At one Later, Leroux and I stroll by his pastures and his beloved point, I ask about a tree with ugly, donkey, Voltaire, to a small orchard 10 where he grows 6 of the purple apples. 11 50-plus cider apples endemic to Le Perche, many of which He explains that he were nearly lost when, in the early 20th century, orchards found the tree in were replaced with industrial grain fields.12 He points out an abandoned sweet Bedan, bittersweet tardive de la Sarthe, and acidic orchard: “I took a cutting and grafted pomme de Boué. It’s that last element—acid—he explains, that a scion here. distinguishes Le Perche ciders from other Norman ciders. Now [it’s] in the “Ciders from the Pays d’Auge have a lot of fruit, but not book of allowable much acidity. In the northern Cotentin region, you will varieties for find more bitterness,” he says. “Here in Le Perche, first you Percheron cider.” taste sugar, then bitterness, but you always finish with a bit of acidity that gives freshness and balance to our ciders,” he says with obvious pride. 12 It turns out that Le Perche’s apples owe their depth This is true of flavor, and their acidity, not to soil, but to the region’s throughout inland climate. Located far from the moderating effects of Normandy, which is home to the Atlantic Ocean, Le Perche is drier, with hotter summers at least 120 apple and colder winters than the rest of Normandy—paradise varieties. for apples, which achieve maximum fl vor with dramatic swings in temperature. This terroir distinction is the reason that, after more 13 than two decades of lobbying, Percheron ciders were finally Cider makers and awarded their own AOC 13 (appellation d’origine contrôlée) officials gathered with the AOP (appellation d’origine protégée) soon to follow, at Mortagnemaking Le Perche the third official cider appellation in au-Perche on Normandy and the sixth in Europe. October 14, 2020, to celebrate the Back in the tasting room, I sip another glass of Cidre long-awaited AOC Fermier and marvel that Le Perche is everything I’ve designation. imagined and more. For years, I watched Leroux and others fi ht for recognition. To be here, enjoying ciders made from apples rescued from oblivion, in a region finally getting its due, I can’t help but feel like I’m witnessing the rebirth of a vital tradition.
Clockwise from left: Harvest time at Domaine du Ruisseau; freshly bottled cider; a farmworker inspects apples for flaws.
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When one door closes, another one opens. So if recent world events have you working from home or afar, why not bring your laptop – and your sense of wonder – to Key West in The Florida Keys? With wide-open spaces and sublime weather, inspiration abounds. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. This one happens to have skies of blue. ﬂa-keys.com/keywest 1.800.527.8539 For the latest protocols on health & safety in The Florida Keys, please visit our website.
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OBEAH MAN S SON In Jamaica, Obeah is an ancient art that many still practice— but no one talks about. Well, until now.
by R O L A N D W A T S O N - G R A N T Illustrations by B E N E R O H L M A N N
to an enchanted place. That’s the law. Touch down at the Norman Manley International Airport in Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, and you will not see a sign. But a quick visit to the customs agency’s website reveals that a strict rule applies:
THEY SHALL N O T PAS S
YOU DO NOT TAKE MAGIC
All publications of de Laurence, Scott & Company and of the Red Star Publishing Company of Chicago in the United States of America relating to divination, magic, cultism or supernatural arts are prohibited from entering the country through the ports.
Collect your bags. Apart from that sparkle on the Caribbean Sea, you will not observe a trail of pixie dust as you cruise inland, but you might notice that New Testament Bible perched on your taxi driver’s dashboard. It’s been open to Psalm 35 long enough for the pages to crisp under the sun. The book is for his spiritual protection. That piece of jewelry riding his index finger is a guard ring. It has a single red stone to ward off negativity, so let’s hope you didn’t bring any with you. Things just got real—or real magical.
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Cruise through downtown Kingston in the early morning. That street vendor squeezing a lime and throwing buckets of water around his stall? He knows: Mischief comes under cover of night to sprinkle potions (“Oil of No Sale,” “Powder of No Profit”) meant to negatively affect his livelihood. And if Jah didn’t send showers of blessings overnight, it’s up to the vendor to wash the evil away before commencing business. In another shop, you might see an aerosol can of “Bad Mind Go Away” spray. As you pass through the city’s ghettos, travel to fishing villages in the south, or range across the rain-drenched ravines of the countryside, watch for flags mounted on bamboo poles— they mean there’s a spiritual doctor in the house. Behind the corrugated zinc fence is a balmyard, the home or “ffi e” of an Obeah Man or Woman. Obeah is Jamaica’s spiritual folk practice, used either to ward off evil or bring harm to someone else. Some compare it to Santeria or Haitian Vodou or North American Hoodoo. When you know to look for it, Obeah will materialize everywhere. But you will find no Jamaican quick to admit even an oblique association with the practice. Well, let me be the first. My name is Roland Watson-Grant. I am the Obeah Man’s Son. I can tell you some stories. MY FATHER, JOE, was a fixer. My brothers and I grew up in the 1970s in a twobedroom dwelling in Kingston, among scores of household appliances that had given up the ghost. It was a morgue of sorts, but Joe was known for resurrecting radios and TVs with the wave of a soldering iron. Every day, many a customer came to collect precious items brought back to life. Then there were those who came by night. They spoke in whispers: Who in the tenement yard is trying to harm me? What talisman can break a curse? Yes, Joe also repaired things in the spiritual realm and provided the trinkets of the trade. Dealing in Obeah is an open secret in Jamaica. Yet customers are careful to conduct business covertly as the practice is still frowned upon by some—and against the law. The first prohibitions against Obeah were uttered as early as 1760, after slaves rebelling against the British Crown were said to have enjoyed the spiritual protection of Obeah Men and Women. Today, more than a hundred years after the forbidding ink dried on the written law, the taboo remains, though the archaic punishments prescribed by the original document— including whipping the offender over a barrel—have long lost their relevance and power to deter. Those who put quill to parchment did not foresee an oracle called the Internet or a medium named Amazon, dealers in the sorcery of making things
M Y FAT H E R , T H E R E PA I R M A N
appear on one’s doorstep. British lawmakers could not have anticipated YouTube videos streaming full instructions on how to cast a revenge spell on whoever stole your lover. One morning when I was a child, police raided our house before dawn. They flipped the mattresses, searched for weapons, dug through appliances, and demanded to see a license for CB radio equipment, all the time ignoring a different kind of technology—or sciance, as Jamaicans sometimes refer to Obeah—that had been packed into wooden boxes under the bed. In retrospect, I realize this predawn raid may have been brought on by the presence of a 30-foot CB radio pole on our roof. Joe constructed towering antennas that allowed him to talk to Louisiana and Alabama from his workbench. In the 1970s, this kind of activity would easily have attracted the attention of the island’s pro-Cuba government, and persons could be perceived as spying for the United States. My father was on another mission, though. Years later, I would fully comprehend the relevance of Louisiana to the Obeah Man’s business. Joe made treks from Jamaica to the southern United States to learn about Hoodoo, the “cousin” of Obeah. There he would procure the literature that held spells and herbal remedies practiced in both Hoodoo and Obeah, those outlawed books by de Laurence, Scott & Company that the customs department likes to confiscate, and accoutrements sought after by Jamaicans from all walks of life, but not readily available on the island. Talismans to secure love and blessings, amulets to block
WHEN WE HIT THE ROAD TO EXPLORE THE WORLD On our e-bike tours through Europe and overseas, we will introduce you to the abundant culture each individual region has to offer. With an e-bike, you can relax actively during your holiday, because the physical exercise beneﬁts your health and the e-engine supports you in times of need, so no hill rides will be challenging anymore. Away from mass tourism, we will show you the most beautiful places, enjoy delicious local cuisine, allow our soul to be free and relax in charming accommodations. With Edelweiss Bicycle Tours, you can discover the sustainably safe and carefully selected paths. This gives you the opportunity to discover the beauty of nature, unﬁltered and up close.
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MANY MORE DESTINATIONS ON
M AY / J U N E 2 0 2 1
I AM FROM JAMAICA . The place is enchanted. There is an old folk tale, handed down through generations: Three turkey vultures roll through the streets of Kingston atop a threewheeled coffin, one of the birds repeatedly asking for a “Mr. Brown”—a classic manifestation of Obeah. Mr. Brown, as the legend goes, may have sought the services of an Obeah Man, then refused to pay—the vultures were a sort of otherworldly debt collector. (The practice might be private, but the punishment? Not so much.) The story went on to be immortalized in a Bob Marley song of the same name. Even as I write, I nurse a fractured kneecap, the result of a bizarre fall on an otherwise uneventful day in Kingston. After the accident, the calls came in. Most of the conversations did not end without the mention of Obeah. “So you walkin’ and just fall down and mash up your knee, just so? No, man. Something wrong!” Then came the nervous laugh. But seriously, even at this moment, magical powers are winning against proscription. In 2019 the current administration began
T H E L AS T S TA N D
harm—they all slipped past the airport X-ray among electronics and stove replacement parts. When my family broke apart in 1980, the repairman couldn’t fix it. Betrayal is a curse of a sort, and a woman’s heart is not simply bewitched back to happiness. My mother took her four sons into a swamp, miles away from where my father lived. It was a wilderness bristling with the thorns of acacia trees, as if evil had overcome a kingdom. I still visited my father’s house. At age nine, when other boys may have been finding their father’s secret stash of Playboy, I discovered that those wooden boxes still sat under his bed. Packed inside them were a de Laurence book, pamphlets related to the Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses, and rubber stamps with seals said to summon angels. That same year, after my mother refused to rekindle their relationship, Joe became one of those who lurked under cover of night. The repairman came to break her. While we slept, he traveled miles to our house in the swamp to use sciance against his own family. Soon it was commonplace for the sun to rise on powder sprinkled across our path, oils splashed on the corrugated zinc fence, or earth freshly disturbed where small glass bottles of colored liquid had been buried. Apparently, the Obeah Man didn’t reckon that my mother might have had rituals of her own. Had he taught her some tricks, like a Jedi Master? I will never know. What I do know is that soon after those nocturnal activities began, Joe woke up in excruciating pain. Overnight, his arm had swollen to twice its size, a condition that landed him in the hospital. To this day, Joe, now 83 years old, still sends strange, rambling messages by text to his children, like a man possessed. Perhaps my mother is a conjurer herself.
Those who put quill to parchment did not foresee an oracle called the Internet or a medium named Amazon. to talk about decriminalizing Obeah. The general feeling among Jamaicans is that such a move would enable practitioners to throw open the gates of hell. In this debate, I admit: I am with the undecided. Skeptical as I am about matters of the supernatural, I leave room for the inexplicable. My father is a brilliant and practical man, yet a believer. I know what I have seen and yet refuse to completely embrace. Perhaps this half-hug is necessary. Maybe living with such duality is why I write stories that hover somewhere between myths and the mundane. Regardless of public opinion, the 1898 law is on the back foot, so to speak. Or, more appropriately, perhaps it stepped over the Obeah Man’s “Oil of No Return” and, like me, has been left without a leg to stand on.
Roland Watson-Grant’s first novel, Sketcher (Alma Books, 2013), was nominated for an Amazon Rising Star Award. Watson-Grant was short-listed for the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize and is the recipient of a Musgrave Medal in his home country, Jamaica.
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COMING TOGETHER FROM AFAR Online events and experiences build our global travel community and celebrate the power of travel as a force for good. ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ AFAR Liveﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ breathing workshopﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ introducing our ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ “Are You Smarter Than a Founder” trivia game. ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ virtual wine tourﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ ﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁﬁ
M AY / J U N E 2 0 2 1
COMMON THREADS How a lifetime of travel sharpened one adventurer’s sense of style
In 1968, Iris Antola embarked on a trip around the world. She bused through Afghanistan, lived on a wooden houseboat in Kashmir, and even worked as a nanny for the chief of protocol of Iran’s shah. Everywhere she went, she was inspired by clothes: She saw bold prints, colorful fabrics, intricate embroidery, and elaborate beading as entry points into other cultures. Her travels shaped her own sense of fashion and style. Iris and her husband raised their children on adventure, too, taking them to China, Tibet, and other destinations around the globe. One of those children, Jessica, became a photographer. Now, mother and daughter look back, in words and pictures, on Iris’s sojourns and the many memories woven into her clothes. — SARA BUTTON
C U LT U R E
“We were with a group at a jewelry store in southern India, and I loved that necklace [opposite page, top, in the silver tray] at first sight,” Iris says. “It’s temple jewelry: We were told the designs are inspired by architectural details of temples. [The necklaces] also may serve as a donation. I pointed the necklace out, but the other women weren’t interested. I had already bought some items, but I asked the owner if he could come by our hotel that night if it was still available. He did. The next day, the others’ husbands were so impressed and asked to contact the jeweler. I had to say, ‘No, this is an antique necklace, one of a kind!’”
M AY / J U N E 2 0 2 1
C R E AT I V I T Y
“My own mother and grandmother made everything,” Iris says. “My mother would buy fabric in catalogs because we didn’t have department stores. I saw her decide what types of things would go together; she’d make the patterns. Sometimes I brought home fabrics from my trips. When we were in Zanzibar in 2012, the staff around the resort at Ras Nungwi Beach Hotel wore uniforms made of this fabric [above] that blew me away. I bought some of it there, and Juan Risuleo in L.A. designed the dress. At home, it looks a little different. Everything about that fabric brings back memories of travel in Zanzibar.”
M E M O RY
“I connect clothes with the places I’ve worn them,” Iris says. “Usually I wouldn't pack anything like this Oscar de la Renta coat with fur trim. But I took it once when we were going to see Carmen at La Scala in Milan. The tenor Jonas Kaufmann performed; he was excellent. We stayed at the Grand Hotel et de Milan and walked to the opera house. Afterward, we had a late dinner at the hotel’s restaurant Don Carlos, which was named after an opera by the composer Giuseppe Verdi, who stayed at that hotel for many years.”
Jessica Antola’s work has been featured in Time, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. Her monograph, Circadian Landscape, was published by Damiani in 2018.
I love that my parents had that sense of adventure. It’s part of why I ended up as a photographer who focuses on travel—I share that wanderlust and desire to see and explore and understand.
M AY / J U N E 2 0 2 1
N E X T S T O P
K P O P
Dad loves travel. Teen loves Blackpink. Put them together and what do you get? A dizzying tour of Seoul’s pop music scene.
by Eric Weiner Illustrations by Jinhwa Jang
M AY / J U N E 2 0 2 1
O U R Great Korean Adventure began the way many great adventures do: with a misunderstanding. I was driving my 14-year-old daughter to school, as I do most mornings, steering our Subaru while sipping coffee from a tumbler, with her beside me, head down, transfixed by the flickering lights of her smartphone. On this day, for some reason, I decided enough was enough. My parental foot was coming down—hard. “Sonya,” I barked. “We’ve got six minutes together. Stop texting your friends and talk to me.”
“I’m not texting my friends, Dad,” she said. “Well, what are you doing on your phone?” “I’m learning Korean.” I nearly sideswiped a mailbox. “You’re doing what?” At a stoplight, she handed me her phone. Sure enough, it was opened to an app with unfamiliarto-me characters: the Hangul alphabet. My daughter was teaching herself Korean. Why? “K-pop,” she said, as if it were obvious and I were clueless. Her reply surprised me, confused me—and set in motion a 7,000-mile journey from our home in Silver Spring, Maryland, that, in ways large and small, altered the trajectory of our relationship. K-pop, of course, is Korean pop music. But that’s like saying the Beatles were just a band, or David Beckham just a soccer player. Technically accurate, but woefully inadequate. K-pop is a cultural phenomenon and a multibillion-dollar industry. K-pop is performance art, as much visual as musical. It is a manufactured cultural product that is also fan driven. It can celebrate virtues such as hard work and moral probity yet has been rocked by scandals. Pinpointing K-pop’s origins is tricky. Many say it was born in the early 1990s. Some say it was in 2006 with a solo performer named Rain, one of the first to break out internationally. The dispute comes as no surprise; everything about K-pop is conflicted,
199 2 Year K-pop was born, with the debut album by the trio Seo Taiji and Boys
10 Age that many K-pop idols begin their training
which seems fitting for a peninsula politically carved in two and officially still at war. K-pop is, above all, the sound of a country finding its voice, like a teenager blossoming into adulthood. Fans around the world may not know how to read Hangul, but they do know BTS and Blackpink and dozens of other K-pop groups dancing and singing their way into young hearts everywhere. K-pop is an alternative universe, and, unbeknownst to me, my daughter had immersed herself in it. At school basketball games, she and her friends danced to bouncy K-pop tunes during halftime. Between classes, they traded K-pop music and gossip. How did I miss all this? The short answer: adolescence. Sonya was pulling away from me, as teenagers do. The longer answer: I wasn’t paying attention. I had responded to her withdrawal by withdrawing too, retreating to my books and single malt rather than risk rejection. This was wrong, I realized, and I vowed to do something about it. I would join her in K-pop World. But how? Sure, I could listen to K-pop songs, watch K-pop videos, buy K-pop merchandise. Instead, I decided to do what I always do when confronting a mystery of epic proportions—get on an airplane. One morning a few weeks later, on our drive to school, I pitched my crazy idea to Sonya. Let’s journey to the mothership of K-pop: Seoul.
She hesitated, and I thought I knew why. Our previous trips together, to France and India, hadn’t gone so well. I spent most of the time dadsplaining about one historical site or another. She spent most of her time eating McDonald’s and texting friends. The main problem, I realized, is that they were my trips, with Sonya accompanying me—involuntarily. I wanted this trip to be different. I wanted it to be her trip.
months later, as we board the plane, prepandemic, I nervously contemplate the balancing act that lies ahead. I’m eager to convey my love of travel and of participating in life even if it means making a fool of yourself. Yet I know I can’t push her too hard, lest she rebel and become a—gasp!—homebody. I want Sonya to be a traveler, like me, but she is not me. I’ve overlooked this obvious fact during our previous trips and am determined to get it right this time. Trouble brews the moment we check into our hotel in Seoul and discover our room is the size of a subcompact car. She demarcates her side of the room, erecting a wall of pillows as impenetrable as the DMZ. I am not to cross that line under any circumstances, she says. I retreat to the lobby and crack open
A F E W
2020 Year the first K-pop group (BTS) was nominated for a Grammy
Untangled, by psychologist Lisa Damour. “Healthy adolescent development requires certain conditions—one being parents who can handle rejection.” I sigh when I read that. I am a writer. I cannot handle rejection. My solution: escaping our subcompact hotel room and immersing ourselves in Seoul. In our corner of Seoul, to be more precise, called Hongdae. “You’ll hate it, but your daughter will love it,” said our interpreter, Jeong-eun, when I sought her advice early in the planning stages. So be it. If this was going to be Sonya’s trip, not mine, it seemed like a good opening concession. Stepping onto the busy boulevard that fronts our hotel, I instantly see what Jeong-eun meant. Hongdae feels as if it were designed by teenagers for teenagers, with little adult supervision. I count no fewer than three gaming cafés within one square block of our hotel. Thrift stores nuzzle alongside a flashy Air Jordan flagship. We’re walking down a pedestrian street chockablock with noodle restaurants and stores that have names like Tomato Library (a clothing store without a single tomato or book) when we hear it: a pulsating beat, layered with electronic melodies and cheery, campy lyrics that alternate between Korean and English. K-pop. Back home, Sonya would have to seek out K-pop. Here, it finds her. It’s in the air and on the streets. It’s the soundtrack of Seoul, whether you like it or not. Sonya, dropping her teenage guard, says simply, “This is awesome.”
The music emanates from giant speakers erected by a group of street performers. Clustered in teams of two or three, they dance with an agility and synchronization that belie their busker status. “I wish I could dance like that,” I tell Sonya. “You’re so weird,” she says. I’m about to ask her whether she means good-weird or bad-weird but stop myself. For teens, eager to fit in, there is no good-weird, only bad. What is travel, though, but an exploration of the weird, an attempt to make the strange familiar? I’m tempted to say but don’t. On the way back to our hotel, we notice an alley running behind it. The tiny street is brimming with more life than you’d find in other cities’ widest boulevards: barbecue restaurants, coffee shops with names like the Yellow Elephant, and, best of all, convenience stores. In this part of the world, convenience stores are not merely places to inhale an oversize soft drink or microwaved burrito. They are the heartbeat of neighborhoods. This is where people go to meet, have a beer, escape the heat. We buy a Gangseo beer and a Sprite and plant ourselves on two plastic chairs abutting the curb. It’s time to plan the rest of our stay, I announce, neglecting my intention to make this her trip. Opening a map, I explain our options. East and across the Han River lies Gangnam, the posh neighborhood made famous, or infamous, by the singer PSY in his megahit song “Gangnam Style.” The video, featuring PSY singing and prancing, amassed more than 4 billion views on YouTube, greatly expanding K-pop’s global appeal. There are stores selling K-pop merchandise and cafés run by entertainment companies where we might, might, spot an actual K-pop idol. The wild card is a K-pop concert. I thought scoring tickets would be easy. I was wrong. I have a contingency plan:
23 Number of members in the largest K-pop group, Neo Culture Technology
a hologram “concert” in a shopping mall. I hope it doesn’t come to that. The following morning, after a brief but animated tussle over bathroom counter space, we head for Gangnam. Stepping aboard the subway, Sonya is impressed with the sleek and spotless cars and the robust Wi-Fi signal. Sonya is less impressed with my navigation skills. I’ve misread the public transit map, confusing bus and subway lines, dispatching us far from our intended destination. “You have no sense of direction,” she says, before correcting herself: “No, you have a negative sense of direction. How do you travel the world?” Good question. I’ve lost my way in Brooklyn and Bulgaria, New Jersey and Nepal. Undeterred, I charge ahead, oblivious to my wayward ways. Gumption is my GPS. All good travelers, I tell Sonya, know the value of getting completely, hopelessly lost. She’s not buying it. She commandeers my smartphone and with a few swipes of her finger gets us back on track. She is in charge now. Ah, I think, as we trundle under the Han River, so this is what reverse parenting feels like.
S I N C E
PSY gently mocked it nine years ago, Gangnam has grown even posher. Its streets, lined with high-end stores and cafés, are crowded with Lamborghinis and Maseratis.
Size of government fund for cultivating K-pop
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“We don’t like the same things about Seoul, Sonya and I. She likes the thrift stores. I like the libraries and bookstores.”
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In my mind, they were collaborative. They were not. And apparently, I’m not doing much better this time. “I follow you everywhere,” she tells me as we leave the bookstore. Her words land like a body blow. Clearly I’ve failed to cede control. This must change, I decide. So when she suggests we go shopping for vintage clothing, I agree, even though it’s the last thing I want to do. Doing something you wouldn’t normally do, and doing it with gusto—that’s another aspect of travel I claim to embrace. So we shop, and I take my own advice, making the strange familiar.
preparation for our trip, I had read books about K-pop, studied its origins, mapped its global footprint. I had not, however, actually listened to K-pop. When, on day four of our journey, Sonya points out this obvious oversight,
100M Number of fans BTS drew to its online concert in October 2020
I take her advice and binge-listen. I like what I hear. I like Twice and their unapologetically upbeat lyrics, a mix of Korean and English: You gotta know you’re one in a million . . . . One in a million, the only one in the world. You’re a masterpiece, you are perfect. I like the way the wildly successful K-pop group BTS tackles subjects not typically discussed in Korea, such as sadness and loneliness. As I listen, I silently thank Sonya. She has opened a new and wonderful world to me, one I never would have discovered on my own. I’m not done parenting, though. One of the lessons I want to instill in Sonya is to get involved. Don’t be a passive traveler—do something. I urge Sonya to use her Korean, even if it’s only a few words, but she refuses. She’s afraid of making mistakes. She’s not buying my “mistakes are how we learn” line, so I decide to teach by example. I sign us up for a K-pop dance lesson. Day five, we find the Real K-Pop Dance Academy tucked away in the basement of a nondescript building in Hongdae, not far from our favorite convenience store. The studio has mirrors and wooden floors. It looks like a disco relic. There are eight of us: a group of college students visiting from California, a couple from Japan— and me. Despite much cajoling, Sonya refuses to join the class. “I don’t dance,” she declares. “It’s not what I do.” Our instructor is perky and ridiculously fit. She makes each of the moves look easy. They are not.
I try my best to keep up, but soon fall hopelessly behind. When she dips left, I dip right. When she pirouettes, I spin like a drunken dervish. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice the Japanese couple and immediately wish I hadn’t. They’re much better at this than I am. Afterward, I ask Sonya, who saw everything, where I went awry. She suggests it was during the warm-ups. “You have no shame,” she says. “I think you need some.” “Was I really that bad?” “Let me put it this way,” she says. “I would not pursue this as a career path.” OK, so I can’t dance. But I participated. I was willing, and able, to make a complete fool of myself, and that is a valuable lesson—one I hope will rub off on Sonya, if not today, then someday.
seventh and final day of our journey: My persistence has paid ff . Concert tickets, at last. That’s the good news. The bad news is it’s not tickets to see Twice or BTS or some other red-hot group. We got tickets to see PSY. In K-pop World, he’s an outlier. At 43, he is a generation older than most idols. But he helped put K-pop on the map, and somehow it seems fitting that we’re going to attend a concert by the old man of the business. We arrive early, but others have, too. Tens of thousands of Koreans, mostly adults in their 30s and 40s.
T H E
$ 100,000 Average cost of training a would-be idol for a year
2 Minimum number of years a K-pop idol trains
And us. Outside, the Korean equivalent of a tailgate party is underway, with giant inflatable PSYs floating alongside food trucks selling kimchi and dumplings. As we enter the stadium, staffers hand us each a poncho. How nice, I think, a souvenir. Sonya, for some reason, is concerned by the ponchos. I soon discover why. When PSY appears on stage, the water cannons are let loose. We’re instantly soaked. We should care, but we don’t. Why? Partly because it’s 100 degrees outside but mostly because we’re in Korea at a PSY concert and there is a possibility of dumplings. (The latter is of great interest to Sonya, who never met a dumpling she didn’t like.) PSY is, like me, shameless. Unlike me, he has talent. He grinds his hips and prances across the stage, accompanied by 10 dancers. Gold streamers and sparklers fill the air, mixing with the streams of water. He’s singing in Korean, then suddenly switches to English, and I hear: “Right now!” People are jumping and pumping their fists in the air and screaming, “Right now!” I can say that, I think, so I do. I jump and punch the air. “Right now!” Is it campy? Sure, but K-pop owns its campiness, celebrates it, and that makes all the difference. Sonya is several yards away, huddled under her poncho. No air punching for her. She’s drenched, but even from this distance I can see the expression on her face: the look of pure joy. PSY still hasn’t performed “Gangnam Style,” and we figure he won’t until the very end. Tired and soaked, we decide to leave early. We’re in the parking lot behind the stadium, eating kimchi and dumplings when we hear, faintly, in the
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distance, “Ehhh— sexy lady”: “Gangnam Style.” Oh well. The dumplings are delicious, Sonya informs me. Later, as our taxi crosses the Han River, I ask Sonya what she thought of the concert. “It was fun,” she says surprising me with her articulation of something other than annoyance. “So you enjoyed it?” “I enjoyed it internally. Most people enjoyed it externally.” Maybe, I think, with the bright lights of Hongdae filling the taxi windshield, this is what adolescence is all about. Internal enjoyment, but external coolness. Any other way would be, well, weird. After the long flight home, we’re walking across our front yard, luggage in hand, a few yards from the front door, when I say, “Well, eight days together and we didn’t kill each other.” “Not yet,” Sonya says, without missing a beat. “We’re not home yet.” I smile. The kid has a sense of humor. My work here is done. For now. Author Eric Weiner wrote about being a better traveler for AFAR’s January/February 2021 issue. Illustrator Jinhwa Jang is profiled on page 12.
Collector's Eye Author and culinary historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris reflects on a hobby that has spanned more than half a century in this excerpt from her 2020 book, Vintage Postcards from the African World: In the Dignity of Their Work and the Joy of Their Play. by JESSICA B. HARRIS
who collects postcards. I have spent more than 50 years of my life as a postcard addict roaming the world, always on the lookout for the little piece of pasteboard that would complete my collection, add another valent to its scope, or just plain make me smile with delight. My first postcard collection was made on my first trip to Europe in the summer of 1963. Then, I traveled with my parents. Faithful tourists, we had divided out souvenir tasks into three disciplines: still photographs, slides, and movies. It was an extremely well-documented trip, but it was truly notable because, like many tourists had in the past, I discovered postcards. I became obsessed with the pasteboard rectangles, amassing a collection of the wish-you-were-here views as we traveled. There was the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Baptistery in Florence, and Michelangelo’s David—multiple views! I also began to collect images of the works that I loved in the museums we visited, of my favorite street corners, and more. D E LT I O LO G I S T I S S O M E O N E
That collection is long gone, thrown out in one of the many purges that have marked my life. The images were the usual ones notable for nothing more than the fact that they were the catalyst that brought me to postcard collecting in earnest several decades later. That journey would begin as I was working on my doctoral dissertation. The subject was the French-speaking theater of Senegal, and I journeyed to the West African nation to do my preliminary research. In the early 1970s, a Frenchman named Michel Renaudeau lived on Gorée Island off the Dakar coast. I never met him but heard that he’d created several books of antiquarian postcards of West African scenes from his own postcard collection. I found a copy of one of the books in a Dakar bookstore, and with one glance I was hooked on the older postcards, realizing that they presented a vivid photographic memorial that documented the way things were as nothing else could. Many were images taken by François-Edmond Fortier, a Frenchman whose name I did not know at the time. In his images, the dusty streets of Dakar’s past sprang vividly to life. My friend Carrie Sembène (the then wife of the late Senegalese filmmaker [Ousmane Sembène]) was an expert in all great things Dakar. She introduced me to an antique shop on a side street in the center of town. The small shop sold everything from intricately carved wooden bowls and old musical instruments to vintage hand-cut eyelet Goréenne shifts in pristine starched cotton. There, amid the dresses and the bowls and the rest, lurked
a tattered box of postcards. I found one or two that I loved and purchased them, but it soon became obvious that my graduate student budget couldn’t stretch to more than a few. I illustrated my dissertation with images from the postcard books and those few cards that I managed to find in my Dakar wanderings. But I became determined that I’d find a way to begin a true collection of antiquarian cards of my own. As often happens, life intervened. My love of postcards was put on hold for a few years until, as a journalist for Travel Weekly newspaper in the early 1980s, I was selected to go on a two-week bus trip through Belgium and France. The trip began in the Low Countries—Brussels to be exact. We did the usual things: a tour through the Grand-Place, a chocolate factory visit, a walk by the Mannekin-Pis, and more. We also visited the flea market at Sablon. There, I saw my first European postcard vendor. The person’s stand was unlike the others; rather than the rich display of porcelains or furniture, glassware or rugs, this stand was nothing more than folding tables topped with filing boxes. One glance inside the boxes revealed the treasures. Each of the well-marked boxes contained postcards, masses and masses of old postcards of the kind that I had seen in Dakar. It was my “aha” moment. Of course! Postcards were designed to be sent home! Home for most of the colonists was Paris or London or Brussels. There were more likely to be more cards lurking in attics and scrapbooks in Europe than in Dakar or Pointe-à-Pitre. In retrospect, there seemed to be a decade-by-decade ramping up of my postcard mania. The next huge jump would occur in the mid-1990s. My writing career had taken off in quantity, if not in cash, and I was at work on my fifth cookbook, The Welcome Table: African American Heritage Cooking. I was charged with finding illustrations to complete the work. I knew I wanted line drawings; that was no problem. But, I also knew that I wanted a few archival images that would convey the depth of history and give a picture of the past. Again, as I had in my dissertation, I turned to the vivid evocations of the past that postcards provided. However, to my horror, I was reduced to renting images from the usual photo stock houses at fairly expensive fees. It was the moment I was subconsciously waiting for. I finally had an excuse to purchase the cards that had long intrigued me. The logic that unleashed the dam of acquisition was why “rent” images when, for the same amount of money or often even less, I could own the image—my own little pasteboard piece of history? I was off and running. Today, with way too many shoeboxes crammed full of cards in their archival sheaths and a file of ephemera, a fair knowledge of postcard history and their background, and a collection of research and reference books to guide me, I can say that I collect in six different categories. I have a collection of postcards about the city of New Orleans that shows that city’s growth and development, another on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, and a small number of cards of old New York City. These collections
Excerpted from Vintage Postcards from the African World (University Press of Mississippi, May 2020). Copyright © 2020 by Jessica B. Harris.
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represent my curiosity about the history and development of the places where I live and have personal history. Cards of early 20th-century Paris and others of the same period of France and England speak to my love of history and my career as a former French teacher. One I simply call “Beautiful Women,” speaks to my love of costume, textile, and the study of feminine adornment, while another contains images of the cotton belt of the American South, a subject of equal fascination. The bulk of the collection remains images of Africans and their descendants in diaspora and their connections to food. Years ago, I broadened it to depict not only labor, but also festivities, dances both real and posed, religious ceremonies, and more—in short, the full scope of a wide section of the history of Africans and the African diaspora in the dignity of their work and the joy of their play. I wish I could say that I am no longer collecting cards. However, if there were a postcard-buyers-anonymous group, I’d have to stand up and admit that I’m a postcard collector and I’m always on the lookout for a yard sale, boot sale, or vide grenier whenever I travel. I find it impossible to pass up a gorgeous card. I guess that’s why I am a deltiologist. Jessica B. Harris is the author, editor, or translator of 17 books. In 2020, she was named the recipient of the James Beard Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.
1 Balafon players, Sénégambie-Niger, date unknown
2 Zulus at mealtime, date unknown
COURTESY OF VINTAGE POSTCARDS FROM THE AFRICAN WORLD. COPYRIGHT © 2020 BY JESSICA B. HARRIS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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for the past, 3 Prayer, mailed 1904
4 Bourjanes rice sellers, Madagascar, mailed 1908
5 A Dahomean beauty, mailed 1908
6 Gathering grapes, near Cape Town, mailed 1907
7 Ping-pong, mailed 1903
THE AN BE ARIB 1 Guadeloupe, date unknown
2 Black person’s hut, La Corona, Curaçao, mailed 1906
3 Coconut pickers, Puerto Rico, date unknown
4 Acras vendor, Guadeloupe, date unknown
COURTESY OF VINTAGE POSTCARDS FROM THE AFRICAN WORLD. COPYRIGHT © 2020 BY JESSICA B. HARRIS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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the present, 5
5 Vegetable men, Havana, Cuba, copyright 1904 (Detroit Photographic Co.)
6 Banana carrier, Port Antonio, Jamaica, mailed 1909
7 General Transatlantic Company coal carrier, Martinique, mailed 1901
COURTESY OF VINTAGE POSTCARDS FROM THE AFRICAN WORLD. COPYRIGHT © 2020 BY JESSICA B. HARRIS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
E TH ED T S I UN ATE ST
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1 A society cakewalk of the “Upperten duskies” of the New South, Newport News, Virginia, date unknown
2 Praline vendor, New Orleans, date unknown 3 Southern dinner toter, Macon, Georgia, date unknown
4 Bashful Billy and sister, copyright 1902 (Detroit Photographic Co.)
5 Preparing turtle for shipment, Key West, Florida, date unknown
6 Among the orange groves in Florida, date unknown 7 Norfolk natives, Norfolk, Virginia, mailed 1915
U by Ű Ű Ű Ű Ű Ű Ű Ű Ű Ű Ű
photographs by Ű A N I E L M Ű L L E R
Four days, 30 miles, and one hell of a climb: A writer takes on hut-to-hut hiking in the Austrian Alps.
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told there was nothing to see at first, just a staccato rumble thundering up from the valley below. It had been a quiet afternoon in Tyrol, the next blast of summer rain still just a threat to the east. Over at the mountain hut Bettelwurfhütte, the day’s arrivals moved out to the patio as the rumble approached. For 125 years the stone and wood structure has been a refuge for weary hikers, an outpost of warm beds and hot goulash high on the southern face of Austria’s Kleiner Bettelwurf. At 6,814 feet, when the patio is not shrouded in ghostly mist, the view takes in the full vertiginous majesty of the surrounding peaks. Elsewhere in his beloved Alps, John Ruskin, the 19th-century English art critic, wrote of the “ghastly poise” these mountains command. On this day, I learned later, someone had glimpsed that ghastly poise a little too directly. The rescue chopper at last swept into view, slicing through the clouds and banking toward the hut. Helicopter rescues are not uncommon out here in Austria’s craggy west. Climbers fall, succumb to heat or cold or exhaustion, wander into the path of falling rock. The country’s highest mountains are here, its steepest ski runs, its most formidable hikes. Whatever dangers lurk are indivisible from the grandeur and the splendor and the sheer geologic scale; as with all things sublime, the beauty and the terror are one. But there had been no falls, no exhaustion, no rock encounters that day. The hiker being rescued had started her trek at Pfeishütte, a hut five-and-a-half winding miles to the west. Her expedition had begun along
the edge of a gorgeous limestone valley, amid wildflowers and patches of snow and the clang of sheep bells echoing across the hills. As she went higher, she entered a separate plane of cold and gray, that Sound of Music backdrop giving way to fog and barren rock. She would have just passed memorials to some previous hikers when she saw it. Through a narrow notch in the jagged ridgeline—I’ve done my best to cobble things together—the woman peered down the back side of the mountain. What lay below was a stomachchurning drop down a nearly vertical face. You couldn’t even really see the bottom. A sickening realization followed: That faint thread etched across that nearly vertical face was the trail. What the hiker did next was arguably what any sane nonprofessional mountaineer would do: She turned around. Adding miles to her trip and many hours to her day, she walked back down the mountain she’d just climbed and all the way around it, and the ones next to it, until, via the longest route possible, she at last reached Bettelwurfhütte. As it was conveyed to me by hikers who had witnessed the incident, she arrived safe, sound, and traumatized. In the safety of the hut’s warm interior, a kind of deferred panic set in. She had seen something terrifying, perhaps the prospect of her own demise, and she needed to get off that mountain—not later but now. The rescue helicopter summoned to facilitate this touched down in a clearing nearby, just hours after my friends and I arrived at that same stomach-churning drop and peered down at that same impossible trail.
in Innsbruck, Tyrol’s capital city, the five of us had inhaled eggs and pastries and sausages at Hotel Innsbruck, thrown on our packs, and walked merrily along the Inn River until we reached the Hungerburgbahn’s Congress station. Austrian efficiency being what it is, you can get from an espresso in the old town center to the mountains in minutes; one funicular, two cable cars, and there you are. The view of Innsbruck alone is worth the ride, the spires and SOME 24 HOURS EARLIER
red tile roofs and dignified old Hofburg palace unfurling below, a city squat and grand. My friends and I snapped photos and ascended blithely into the fog ahead. The five of us comprised a loose Venn diagram of high school, college, and grad school friendships. Curtis is a wry university lecturer with black glasses and a nimbus of curls; José and Maple are a documentary filmmaker and a lawyer I have bounced around with since my college days; finally, there’s another Chris, a schoolteacher based in Oakland and
the most organized among the group, forever tapping his foot while we futz with our hiking poles. We were rowdier in days past. Now— in our 40s, most of us fathers—an interest in long walks had taken root. A four-day, three-night hike through the Austrian Alps had struck us as ideal for our purposes. Our purposes were: Have fun. Don’t carry too much stuff. Let someone else cook. Finish each day’s trek at some sort of convivial group lodging, without having to hike back into town at night. Each day’s hike was around six
miles (except for the last day, which was 12 but mostly downhill). We were all decent if hardly obsessive hikers, and the hope was to brush up against what remained of the golden age of alpinism, that decade or so of mountain lust in the mid-19th century when many of Europe’s peaks were summited, and Romantic sensibilities about them helped transform conceptions of nature itself. Of course we wanted that. Making all this possible was the patchwork of humble but homey mountain huts built mostly toward the end of that century, perched on rocky
A hiker begins to descend Stempeljoch, one of the steepest—and toughest—sections of the 39-mile Karwendel High Trail.
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WE’D REALIZE THE
CLIFF BESIDE US HAD MELLOWED promontories and tucked into soft, rolling valleys. You can find these buildings throughout the Alps, though the flavor and provenance differ by country. Many huts in Slovenia were created by anti-fascist partisans in the mid-20th century, for example, while Austria’s huts were born of a more romantic sensibility: balm for the soul, solace from the depletions of the industrial world, and so on. Many of Switzerland’s huts date back to the Middle Ages, when shepherds needed shelter during their months spent in alpine pastures. The appeal of these huts isn’t just cozy lodging and a home-cooked meal, but the wholly different spirit behind them. Like a comprehensive rail system or functional health care, the mountain hut is one of those institutions we don’t really have in the States. Various structural explanations exist, but ultimately it bespeaks a fundamental difference in how we relate to our wildlands. In the U.S., we sing about our mountains, carve faces on them, send postcards of them, and, once in a while, after much preparation and buying of gear, we actually climb them. Mountains for the average American are Special Occasion geography. In Austria, where the Alpine Club boasts more than 600,000 members (nearly 7 percent of the population) and an afternoon Wanderung is as accessible and likely as a coffee, mountains are just a regular part of life. Hence, the locals who exited at the top of our gondola ride scarcely blinked at the forsaken world we had stepped into. My friends and I blinked. High in the clouds, socked in by fog, we could see almost nothing—except that the trail was impossibly narrow and bordered on one side by certain death. Of course a fatal fall can happen on any mountain. But here the edge was just so close, the bottom so bottomless, no margin for missteps. No guardrail protected us at key vistas, no signs warned what would happen if we took one more step. It struck me as some kind of unspoken Austrian pact one enters into, trudging into the mist: We are adults, and these are mountains. The climb that first day wasn’t brutal—we’d had rougher workouts—but it had a seriousness to it. This was not the kind of trail where you occasionally stumble upon a nice little bench, named after some happy fellow who liked smoking his pipe and contemplating poetry there. I’d pictured our hike as a time for reflection, but as
INTO MERELY AN EXTREMELY STEEP DROPOFF, AND FALLING WOULD ONLY RESULT IN BREAKING ALL OUR BONES.
we panted our way up a series of steep switchbacks, it became clear there was no room for rumination. Wholly fixated on each step— Is this rock stable? Is that one wet?—my mind went white with focus. Step, pole, step. Glance ahead, locate trail marker, step, pole, step. Periodically we’d realize the cliff beside us had mellowed into merely an extremely steep dropoff, and falling would only result in breaking all our bones. These were relaxing moments, and we filled them with chatter. We had just rounded the southwest corner of a bulging, fog-cloaked outcropping when the rain began. It pelted our faces and slicked the rocks, but we were ready. In a moment of foresight back in Innsbruck, it had dawned on us that our carefully researched raincoats would be no match for a prolonged mountain storm. We had found some cheap ponchos big enough to cover our packs, and now, in the shadow of Mount Mandlspitze, we helped each other into them. It’s funny, the things that get you through. Fortified with a thin layer of polyester, I felt a surge of defiant energy. Is that all you’ve got? The mountains’ answer—Ha, no—would come the next day. For now we followed the trail down a welcome descent and, beneath the austere plane of rock and fog, into a soothing green world of pines and wild grass. To the left, a rolling carpet
of moss poured down a gentle slope in a series of soft lumps, presumably the bodies of our predecessors. Finally, just a few hours after we set out, came a glorious sight, resolving in the fog: a large brown hut, built nearly a century earlier by people who understood our every need.
was roaring at Pfeishütte, the log walls thick, the common room toasty, the small window warm from the setting sun. We sat at a corner table, the smell of ancient pine and hikers past filling the room. At the next table, a couple of old guys were huddled over a chessboard, and at another what appeared to be a father and daughter reviewed a trail map. We drank big glasses of beer and tiny glasses of schnapps, then wolfed down plates of house-made venison sausage and dumplings. From a realm of extreme ruggedness, we had moved into one of extreme pleasantness and communal good cheer. When the dinner rush subsided, I fell into conversation with the woman who had brought us our food. She told me she’d had some kind of fancy corporate job before this, but something wasn’t right. She quit, gave away half her stuff,
THE WOOD-BURNING STOVE
The best part about hut-to-hut hiking in the Austrian Alps? Most lodges serve hearty Austrian fare, such as schnitzel and potatoes, alongside frothy mugs of beer.
THESE PEAKS 84
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REPRESENT A SET OF ACHIEVEMENTS TO CHECK OFF. THEY WERE AN EXPRESSION OF A COLLECTIVE IDEA, ELECTRIFIED BY NEW UNDERSTANDINGS OF NATURE.
and found this gig, attending to aching hikers in a remote, creaky old building. She loved it. “Even cleaning sinks and toilets, I’m happy,” she told me. I asked what kind of personality the job requires, and she closed her eyes in concentration. “You need . . . an imagination for the mountains,” she said. Later that night, my friends and I stacked tidily in our bunks, I thought about what an imagination for the mountains meant. I had spent several weeks before our trip immersing myself in the modern history of the Alps and of alpinism in general. As best I can piece it together, there was a minute when a central concern throughout 19th-century Europe was joining the latest cursed expedition up the Aiguille Verte or the Grandes Jorasses. These huts sheltering us had been built to accommodate a growing fervor. These peaks didn’t just represent a set of achievements to check off. They were an expression of a collective idea, electrifi d by new understandings of nature and the mastery thereof. A romp in these mountains entangled you in lofty ideas about destiny, character, nation, and soul. It seems that humanity
was having a whole lot of feelings and needed a realm massive enough to contain them. It was beginning to make sense to me. There you are, hiking a mile above your ordinary life, breathing the invigorating air of pure survival, relying on nothing but your wits and fortitude. All the muddled whys and hows of daily existence vaporize, replaced by the great binary: Will I or won’t I make it? From there it’s not hard to imagine how the thoughts grow ever headier. You make it to your destination, sip your bracing schnapps, and pretty soon you’re developing a school of aesthetics around the alpine experience; or threading your religion through it; or, in the cases of some in the 19th century, your devotion to nationalism. As mountaineering spread and the idea of recreating in nature took hold, the Alps became a contested zone—not territorially but imaginatively. Like the mythical American West, these hunks of rock became draped in competing narratives. Were these spaces to be revered? Conquered? Preserved? At the turn of the 19th century, as railways and highways expanded, the Alps became more accessible. And then, as
climbing became synonymous with greatness and the Alps with a certain purity, along came the Nazis. Swastikas fl w over mountain huts in Germany and Austria by the 1920s; by the ’30s the Alpine Club had been pressed into recruiting a mountain infantry. These peaks weren’t just geological formations, but opportunities for nation building and far-right politics. And then it changed again. Today the Alpine Club promotes the benefits of mountain recreation, with an eye toward diversity and inclusion— which still seems somewhat aspirational— and scientists go to their glaciers for the latest gloomy climate data; again they are a mirror of what we want to be and what we are. I had a thought at 2 a.m. that first night. I’d climbed out of bed and was staggering around for the bathroom when I ended up at a window. In the pale moonlight there was nothing to see but dark hulking forms in the distance. Half asleep, I had the thought that I was looking at time itself—the heaving of earth and the calving of ice and entire forgotten oceans that happened here. And us? The blip of foolishness that is humanity? We’ll clomp around on these mountains for
Opposite page, from left: apfelstrudel, a traditional dessert; the 106-year-old Hallerangerhaus.
a while longer, projecting onto them whatever we project, and then we’ll be gone, and the mountains will remain, saying in their mountain voices, “What were they going on about?”
THE NE XT M ORNING the fog and rain were gone,
replaced by bright blue skies. Which is to say we had a clear view of the stomach-churning drop that had traumatized that poor hiker. I can still picture the moment we, too, peered down that seemingly vertical wall of loose rock and realized that the thin line crisscrossing it was our path down. The ridge we were standing on is called Stempeljoch, and hiking literature acknowledged the steepness of the trail down it with impressive Austrian restraint. A “technically difficult descent” was all the drama it allowed. And so we stifled our blubbering and began. Slowly, shakily, I brought my right foot forward and placed it on some loose rocks. It held. I breathed, then brought my weight forward onto
This page, from left: painted rocks serve as trail markers; a fellow hiker.
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HOW TO PLAN A HUT-TO-HUT HIKING TRIP IN THE AUSTRIAN ALPS
There are more than 500 mountain huts in Austria, including upwards of 170 in Austrian Tyrol, the western region where writer Chris Colin trekked. Nearly half of the huts are run by the 159-year-old Austrian Alpine Club (the largest mountaineering organization in the country), with the summer season (May–November, weather dependent) the most popular, and comfortable, time of year to tackle
a long-distance hike. The huts, which can sleep anywhere from 4 to 200 guests, are spread out across 24,855 miles of maintained trails in Austria. Some require a challenging hike to access, and are best for multiday treks, while others are located at lower elevations, making a day trip doable from major Austrian cities, such as Innsbruck. Two of the most popular long-distance trekking routes in the Austrian Alps include the 257-mile Eagle Walk (known locally
as the Alderweg, and tackled in stages) and the 39-mile Karwendel High Trail (the route writer Chris Colin hiked a portion of). It’s relatively easy to plan a trip on your own. While in the past reservations were advised but not required, COVID restrictions mean everyone must book ahead. Huts start at around $35 per night, inclusive of breakfast and dinner. Travelers can join the Austrian Alpine
Club for a $74 annual fee and receive meal discounts, emergency insurance, and at least $12 off nightly hut fees. Book through alpenverein.at/ huetten-en/finder.php. For a guided trip, book with a reputable outfitter such as Trekking Austria, a Viennabased company that has been leading day hikes and multiday hut-to-hut tours for a decade. Guides from $77 (lodging, food, and transport not included). trekkingaustria.com
The Karwendel High Trail is divided into six stages and includes rocky valleys and steep descents as it crosses the Karwendel Mountains.
őőőőőőőőőőőőőőő őőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőő ő őőőőőőőőőőő őőőőőőőőőőőőő őőőőőőőőőfhűtte
ő feishűtte ő őőőőőőőőőő Nőrdlinger Hűtte őőőőőőőőőőőő
THE KARWENDEL HIGH TRAIL őőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőő őőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőő őőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőőő
it little by little. It held. Another breath, the other foot. I felt I was toeing the ledge of a gently sloping limestone skyscraper. Leaning into the side of the mountain, we inched along a series of switchbacks, testing each step, each trying to keep the weight of his pack from extending beyond his center of gravity. We had agreed in advance to space ourselves out. That way if someone fell, he wouldn’t take anyone else out— one widow back home seemed like plenty. Normally, when I feel fear—sharks, planes— a small, reasonable voice in my head reminds me: You’re fine. This time, that small, reasonable voice agreed with the loud and terrified one: This was not wise. One misstep would’ve ended it all. But once I’d begun, there was nothing to do but finish and no safer way to go about it— going down on your butt wouldn’t change the geometrical peril of it. At one point I made the decision not to look at José, taking tentative steps ahead of me. I couldn’t bear to watch. I don’t know how long it took—10 minutes? 30? 60?—but there came a moment when the worst was suddenly behind me. The last third of Stempeljoch was almost easy by comparison,
Map illustration by J O N A D A M S
banking left into a short snow bridge before continuing at a decidedly mellow angle. We sat by the snow and unclenched. I couldn’t tell you what I thought about, except that I noticed for the first time all the scrubby plants growing on the side of that impossible hill, desperate little things clinging to life just as I had. That night, we rested our poor bodies at Bettelwurfhütte, the mountain hut perched over that fearsome plummet—the Eagle’s Nest of the Karwendel Mountains, it’s called. The one where the terrified hiker had awaited rescue. The following day was mild in comparison. Periodically as we hiked, wild sheep scampered above us on the trail, sending softball-size rocks whizzing past our heads. We walked on hot gravel and wet stones and crunchy snow, earning our final hearty meal and tidy bunks at Hallerangerhaus, a hut nestled cozily amid taller peaks, and a base for several easy, non-death-defying strolls. On our last day there was nothing resembling danger, only the Austria of my imagination, all quilty pastures and towheaded children frolicking on hillsides. Curtis stripped down and hopped in a frigid stream. Chris waited impatiently in the
distance. Finally, after 12 miles, my friends and I ended up at an empty train platform in the village of Scharnitz. The afternoon light was fading. We dropped our packs at our feet and waited. Across the weedy tracks, the mountains rose abruptly, enormous and rough. Elsewhere in the multiverse, I suppose, versions of ourselves proclaimed their significance, captured the peaks’ sublimity in oil paints, maybe founded a school of thought or two. We just sat and observed. You don’t meet many people emitting philosophies about nature these days. Maybe our daily lives are too divorced from it, or maybe we’ve conquered nature after all. But maybe it was always as simple as it felt to me there: It’s enough to know that these wild and precarious places are there—that we can haul ourselves up them, and if we’re lucky, tromp back down, better simply for having made it.
Contributing writer Chris Colin wrote about a California van trip for AFAR’s May/June 2019 issue. Switzerland-based photographer Daniel Müller is profiled on page 12.
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Built in the early 1890s, Bettelwurfhütte is a mix of tradition and modernity: Stone walls date to the late 19th century; the solar panels are a recent addition.
NAME S IO ON A LAST-MINUTE TRIP TO BRAZIL, A TRAVELER TIPTOES OUT OF HER COMFORT ZONE. by C A R M E N M A R I A M AC H A D O
photographs by L A R I S S A Z A I DA N
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MANY I started getting emails intended for other Carmen Machados. One in Chicago, another in Arizona, and yet another in Florida. I’ve gotten endless reminders to update gym memberships; a photo of a daffy, grinning pit bull in a Santa Claus hat; and once, alarmingly, a discharge report from an ER in the Midwest. I also get emails in Portuguese for an unclear number of Brazilian Carmen Machados. Sometimes the emails appear to be about finance or real estate; sometimes, they’re from college students to their professor. I say “appear” because I am not Brazilian and don’t speak Portuguese. At first I tried using translation software to create a response—“I am not the Carmen Machado you’re looking for!”—but it didn’t seem to make a difference, so I gave up. When I learned I was to go to Rio in two days on a spontaneous trip for AFAR’s Spin the Globe series (before the pandemic hit), I immediately emailed my kid brother, a seasoned international traveler. He suggested I check out Guaíra Falls near the border of Paraguay, and when I looked that up, I discovered that, according to the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories, Americans were not supposed to travel within 100 miles of the Brazilian border with most countries. I also discovered that Brazil was in the middle of a yellow fever outbreak, and anyone visiting should get vaccinated. I drove two hours from Philadelphia into the next state to a travel clinic to get the vaccine
M A N Y Y E A R S A G O,
that, apparently, one needs because—and I read this fact out loud to myself more than once— yellow fever can kill you. (Once, years ago, when I was afraid to go skydiving, a friend of mine assured me that it wouldn’t kill me; I wasn’t going to die. It could kill me, I said to her. I could die. “Yeah,” she said, “but if you tell yourself you’re not gonna die every single time you’re afraid it’ll happen, you can only be wrong exactly once. Those are pretty good odds.”) I printed out all my documents in triplicate, hid them in my suitcase and backpack. I packed a travel guide and a phrase book and purchased travel insurance. I sprayed all my clothes with
a mosquito-repelling formula that required me to dry them outside, overnight. I arrived at JFK four hours early, deeply embarrassed about my lack of chill. I landed in Rio midmorning, then sat in the airport for two hours, nursing a coffee I’d ordered by accident and making detailed notes about how much a cab should cost, how to negotiate my fare, whether or not tipping was appropriate. You’re not going to die, I thought. You might learn something new. My hand had a slight tremor; I pressed the pen down into the page as hard as I could. In the cab, I realized my jaw was locked from tension and massaged my face as the city opened up in front of me.
A M A C A N C E R — a fiercely loyal homebody, a lover of the water—and so when I reached Rio I went straight to the ocean. The cab dropped me off in front of a large seaside hotel in Ipanema—full of tourists, many speaking English—where I left my suitcase and wandered onto the beach. At the water’s edge, the movement of the ocean softened my whole body. A sign warned against swimming, but people swam. The sea was cool, the greenish-blue of a predawn night sky. As each wave pulled back from the shore, sand was drawn into its translucent mass, where it gathered and swirled like tiny galaxies before being scattered in every direction. Over and over these universes gathered and dispersed. I stood there in the sand until the afternoon waned and the shadows lengthened and the sunbathers began to thin out. I
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That night, when I went to a churrascaria (steakhouse), I sat by myself and remembered the first time I’d ever gone to a restaurant on my own: in college, to a little café on the canal in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. I ate oysters, drank wine, and looked out over the water. Here in Rio, smartly dressed waiters milled around with steaming swords of meat, and I sat with my wine and a card that I could turn over—green for more, red for no more. One man came over with a massive bottle—large as a toddler—slung in his arms. When I gestured toward it, he poured me a tiny amount in the bottom of a glass. I sipped it. It tasted odd, grassy and medicinal. He poured me a whole glass. It was cachaça, a drink made of sugarcane juice, so strong and unfamiliar I felt like a teenager encountering hard liquor for the first time. I ate four different animals and puffy pastries filled with cheese and drank wine and had more cachaça. When I left, it was dark. Do not walk alone at night, the State Department had cautioned me, but I did. I walked back to my hotel alert as a sparrow.
when I traveled to Cuba with my brother to see our family, I found myself struggling with the little Spanish I knew. In Rio, the Spanish that had failed me in Cuba was suddenly flooding into my mouth. I could, as it turns out, check into a hotel, order food, get directions, tell people about myself and my family. But of course Spanish is not the language of Brazil; Portuguese is, and unfortunately for me, my name is about as Brazilian as they come. Upon hearing it, everyone I met let loose a torrent of words I could not understand, though they felt vaguely familiar. Great, I thought, a new language for me to be a failure in. Stressed, I began to mash together Spanish and Portuguese. There is a name for this hybrid, someone told me later: Portuñol. I started with Portuguese and ended in Spanish, or started in Spanish and ended in Portuguese, or started in one and ended up in some language no one on Earth speaks. I combined words, dropped letters, inverted the little grammar I knew. Later, I went back to the beach for real, in my bathing suit. Even though my hotel was distinctly meant for tourists, the shores of Ipanema A FEW YEARS AG O,
were crowded with locals; they resembled the stands of a baseball game, teeming with people and vendors. I loved how different it looked from a beach in the U.S. I loved the vendors and the fact that fat women were wearing string bikinis and men were playing soccer and little naked babies were crawling over the sand and round pigeons were wandering around looking for scraps. It felt chaotic, friendly. When you looked down the length of the beach, Morro Dois Irmãos—Two Brothers Hill—rose out of the horizon like an ancient monster, like Godzilla. The man who rented me my chair spoke a little English and asked me something that was unclear—something about a goat? He pantomimed, and I realized he was asking me about my astrological sign. Cancer, I told him (loyal, homebody, water), and when he didn’t understand I made pincers with my hands. He laughed, and then asked me for my name. Carmen, I said. He said something in Portuguese, I explained that I spoke no Portuguese but some Spanish, and he responded with a little bit of Spanish. I have never found small talk to be burdensome or difficult or tedious; on the contrary, I love it. When I was a child, and I had the chance to go out into the world with my father—rare moments when he was not working and let me come with him to the hardware store or a local pub, where he would order me a root beer—I always admired the way he forged tiny, fleeting relationships with strangers. This moment on the beach felt like that: kind, and easy. A tiny, wobbling bridge connecting one human being to another, if only for an afternoon. Against the water, I did what I wanted to do: I read and ate. A man came by carrying a cooler and a tiny stove, and cooked a skewer of Halloumi over the coals until it was browned. He rolled it in oregano and handed it to me, salty and warm. On my lap was a copy of Little Women, which I hadn’t read since I was a child but was rereading now in order to write a commissioned essay for the novel’s 150th anniversary. I couldn’t think of a better metaphor for growing up than that: returning to a beloved childhood classic with an adult’s eye. My book grew damp and full of sand; little drips of oil landed on what I was reading and revealed text on the opposite side of the page. I ordered more grilled Halloumi. Then a young coconut, which was hacked open with a machete in front of me. Then a frozen açai bowl topped with strawberries. Then empanadas. I realized I’d never been on a beach and felt full before. For the rest of the day, when he passed by me, the chair rental man waved and made pincers with his hands.
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working behind the hotel desk about the Images of the Unconscious Museum, he tried to dissuade me from going. He suggested more popular tourist destinations in different parts of the city. (I had already visited Christ the Redeemer, delivered there by a train that pulled me up a mountain. When we got to the top, the spread of art deco Jesus’s arms was obscured by fog. People swarmed around the base of the statue, and when the opaqueness thinned for a moment, everyone turned their eyes upwards and snapped selfies. Monkeys ate jackfruit in the trees. Birds swooped around, and I caught a photo of one perfectly silhouetted against the mist. I had also already visited the Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading, a library as magnificent as advertised that looked like a scene from Beauty and the Beast.) I felt stubborn; I’d looked up interesting destinations in Rio before I’d left home, and the Images of the Unconscious Museum, a collection of art created by psychiatric patients, was the one that I kept returning to in my mind. The fact that I was being discouraged from going was surprising and made the museum even more appealing. You aren’t going to die, I thought. You might be ready for something new.
WHEN I A SKED THE MAN
Did I want to go to the museum? he asked. I did, I said. He asked again: Did I need to go to the museum? I had no response—after all, how do you answer a question like that?—but I repeated my request for a taxi until he ordered one. The museum was miles from the hotel, far from the touristy part of the city. The taxi driver seemed nervous about dropping me off, but I insisted. Inside, the signs were entirely in Portuguese. Armed with a translation app, I learned that the museum was founded in the 1950s by the psychiatrist Nise da Silveira and contains more than 300,000 examples of art therapy from an era when the alternative treatments for those with mental illness were things like lobotomies. Carl Jung visited the museum, once upon a time, and was by all accounts deeply impressed with the program. App in hand, I read every plaque, flipped through every book. I noticed that many patients drew houses. The translations read like poetry. “This house never existed. Fernando’s house was a dream house.” “His coconut trees [portray] the feeling of longing for one of his dear sisters.” “Anita came to bloom.” I felt like I was crossing many thresholds at once—time, language, meaning, geography, my own anxieties. I was not dying. I was learning something new. I was there for hours and left as twilight was pooling in the streets. In the cab, I wrote the phrases I was using the most in the front of my Portuguese phrase book. A conta, por favor. The check, please. Quanto custa? How much does this cost? Mais um, por favor. One more, please. Posso acariciar seu cachorro? May I pet your dog? Every time I looked up from the page, the view was deliciously unfamiliar. I could have been going anywhere.
THAT NIGHT I MADE my way to a restaurant
that promised oysters. I held up one finger to the hostess, who guided me to a tall table on the curb, where I stood, drinking wine and sucking the fruity bodies from their shells. After a long while, a group of people gestured and asked—well, pantomimed— if they could share my table. I nodded, and told them, clearly but haltingly, that I didn’t speak Portuguese. One of them got very excited. “English?” she said. “Yes,” I replied. “American? ” she continued. I nodded again. “Philadelphia,” I added, but pronounced as I imagined it would be in Portuguese. Fee-lah-DEL-fee-ah. They told me they were friends, meeting up after work. One was a consultant, another a teacher. One had a loud, brassy smoker’s voice that reminded me of a family friend. Another woman spoke English and communicated what I was saying to her friends. The Brazilian election—the one that would elect a fascist, Jair Bolsonaro—was on the horizon. I’d been instructed by folks from home familiar with Brazil that it would be some combination of unwise and unsafe to bring up the election in conversation with Brazilian people. But this woman talked about it unprompted. She asked me if I voted for Trump. No, I said, God no. She nodded. “We are very afraid,” she said. “Yeah,” I said. “Me too.”
on the water. I surprised myself when I did this, going up the hills to the Santa Teresa neighborhood. I’d gotten comfortable at the beach, and I’d come to know the roads into the city. I could traverse Ipanema without looking at my map. I’d developed a sense for how the buildings came together, the signs in storefront windows, the order of the trinket I LEF T THE HOTEL
vendors near the sand. I’m like an old hound: When I am comfortable it is hard to move me. And still, I left, because I knew it was important to continue to move through my anxieties. You have to take the momentum where you can get it. I wouldn’t die. I would learn something new. In Santa Teresa, the mist and heavy dampness hadn’t burned away like it had on the coast. My new hotel, Mama Ruisa, was an old residence, a
manor with many rooms and vintage statues and an air of burnished refinement, as well as a large gray cat that slept loose-boned on the furniture. From this elevation I could see all of Rio: the moon-shape of her, the other houses clustered into the mountainside like mushrooms, the drop into the valley, the glittering sweep of the city, and at its edge the white beach, like salt on the rim of a glass.
I walked the neighborhood, eating meaty bowls of feijoada and bites of bobó de camarão (shrimp stew), pulling myself up slick, steep cobblestone roads furry with moss. I fell a few times, landing on my butt after the tread on my sneakers gave way. I took photos of the endless street art: Pelé and Frida and dragons painted on concrete walls. And, though no one will ever call me fearless, when I had a chance to practice what I’d been
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learning, I took it. I breathed deeply and asked someone, in Portuguese, if I could pet her dog. She said yes, and I did.
Carmen Maria Machado is an author, most recently of In the Dream House: A Memoir (Graywolf Press, 2019). This is Brazil-based photographer Larissa Zaidan’s first feature story for AFAR.
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Where Travel Takes You
Illustration by D I M A K A S H T A L Y A N
at any distance.
For close friends
BRING SOMETHING MORE TO THE TABLE
Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 40% Alc./Vol. ©2021 James B. Beam Distilling Co., Clermont, KY.
INTRODUCING THE ALL-NEW
CROSSROADS COLLECTION WITH TUFFSKIN NYLON. ¨