Sure, it’s important to keep dwelling … however you may nonetheless journey by means of books – Twin Cities
We don’t travel much these days, but we can see other countries through the eyes of good writers in these three paperbacks. These authors each have a different type of travel story to tell, including traveling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder / Depression, the importance of pilgrimage, and finding out about local people.
“Luggage: Confessions of the Hypochondriac with Globetrotter” by Jeremy Leon Hance (Health Communications Inc., $ 16.95)
“A new one will rise like a mad Highlander (only in this case there can be far more than one). I’d spent the last two years in intensive care working on my obsessions about cancer and other potentially fatal diseases. But Rhett’s invitation to Suriname spurred Steve to whisper something new to me. “Snakes, snakes, snakes.”
Jeremy Hance is afraid of everything; “Fear of flying, fear of stray dogs, fear of stray cats, fear of cars, fear of airplanes, fear of raw chicken, fear of malaria, fear of fear.” That’s because this St. Paulite inherited obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression. He calls his OCD “Steve” and his depression “Malachi”. Though Steve whispers in his ear about possible death, Hance is a world traveler, if at times scared. He’s also a personable narrator who the reader takes root for when they’re worried that a lion might be outside his tent in Africa or that there might be rabies in a two-year-old droppings he steps into the Caribbean
In Baggage, Hance shares the effects of his insanity with graceful writing, combined with vivid descriptions of journeys through Kenya, Peru, Malaysia, Botswana, South Africa, Suriname and Guyana in a book that is funny, hopeful, and sometimes daunting when He is writes with deep emotion about environmental degradation in places like Borneo where forests have been cut to make way for the palm oil industry.
Writing about the death of Tam, possibly the last male Bornean rhinoceros on the planet, Hance reflects on how much his writing about the 21st century nature deals with loss: “I do believe, however, in some ways Growing up with mental illness helped me prepare to write about such topics. I already knew very well loss and despair. And conversely, he knew healing and hope. “
Hance is doing well when he’s out with his wife Tiffany, but when he’s alone and traveling with a small talisman his therapist recommends keeping him in his pocket, his OCD / Steve is always there. For example, when he was sick on a trip to the Amazon, he imagined that his “unborn daughter would never know her father, only that he perished in the Amazon …”. He’s so paranoid that he “has two indigenous Kichwa men who canoe with me upriver for two hours while I sit gloomy behind my back, barely noticing the bliss of the biodiversity around me. I imagine some capuchin monkeys see me and say to themselves, “Damn it, what’s the matter with this guy?” It turned out there was nothing wrong with him, but he will definitely see a doctor when he gets home. In Jakarta, he has to force himself to ride a motorcycle even though Steve urges him to run for it.
There are also moments when Hance shows his deep love for animals, a thread that runs through the book. In Hispaniola, he is with men in a shady forest where they tie a solenodon, a mammal that survived early extinction: “It is as beautiful as anything that has ever lived,” he writes. “Pinprick eyes with deep backs, dark brown fur that turns into sunset orange around her face and forelegs, a blotch of blonde on the right side of her head… Solenodons are ridiculously adorable. … Like a living muppet, tens of millions of years before Jim Henson invented it. “That night, he writes,” turned out to be one of the best of my life … “
Although Hance admits that he will never be a great or even a very good traveler, he has become an accomplished traveler.
“And above all, I know why I keep doing it,” he writes. “One of the reasons is selfish: I’m addicted to novelty. I love encounters with new places, new people, new foods and of course the non-human inhabitants who form the foundation of our world. He also has a task to do: “… tell stories for species and places that their own cannot tell.”
Hance grew up in Buffalo, Minnesota, and graduated from Macalester College. His travel adventures are complemented by memories of his childhood, including his first kiss in a hospital psychiatry at the age of 13, how animals were his first love, how his mother overcame debilitating depression and terror, and how he “met” Malachi – his depression – as he was in fifth grade.
Hance wrote a popular blog for The Guardian and is a columnist and former editor of Mongabay’s environmental news website. He is also the author of a collection of articles entitled “Life is Good: Conservation in the Age of Mass Extinction” (2012).
“Baggage” ends with the familiar dialogue between Hance and Steve, his OCD, telling him not to get on a plane because this is the one he will die in. Hance ignores him. He’s going to Vietnam.
“Pilgrimage”By Edward C. Sellner (Wipf & Stock ($ 25; $ 20 at wpfandstock.com/pilgrimage.html)
Pilgrimage is one of the oldest human practices. It’s associated with a variety of religions and spiritual traditions … the pilgrim instinct itself lies deep in the human heart. “
Ed Sellner, Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Theology and Spirituality at St. Catherine University, is a spiritual guide trained at the Jung Institute in Zurich, Switzerland who has organized and led groups of pilgrims to holy sites, taught courses and facilitated retreats, traveled to South America, Europe, Asia, and the United States for wisdom.
In “Pilgerfahrt” Sellner writes about the practice of pilgrimage; ancient stories and traditions that inspire pilgrims, desert pilgrims, Celtic monk travelers and Russian saints, stages and common elements of pilgrimage.
“Pilgrims are people who believe or disbelieve in all kinds of things, who identify with a particular religious tradition or not,” he writes. “What connects them, however, is their search for beauty, meaning or a spiritual dimension in their daily life.”
Sellner traces the history of the pilgrimage and points out that the Bible and the Koran, as well as the sacred texts of Buddhism and Hinduism, encourage their followers to travel to the countries of their founders and the graves of their saints. He sees Abraham, venerated by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as the earliest recorded pilgrim. Later there is Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Virgil’s “The Aeneid”.
Sellner describes the Jewish pilgrimage, the long history of which begins with the Hebrew people wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, and the pilgrimage called Hajj, where Muslims gather in Mecca for 10 days, and the journeys of Hinduism and Buddhism.
Saints and their homes are magnets for pilgrims around the world, he explains. There is Mary, a 5th century prostitute from Alexandria who was prevented from entering a church by an invisible force. She repented and became “one of the great desert mothers” known as Mary of Egypt. There were traveling Irish monks who traveled as far as modern Poland, Hungary and Russia. “From the seventh century to the middle of the eighth century, these Irish monks, along with Anglo-Saxon missionaries, became the main religious and cultural influence that influenced the Carolingian Empire and ultimately all of medieval Europe,” writes Sellner. Their journey, called peregrinatio, was the practice of hiking out of love for God – sometimes with, sometimes without a fixed destination.
Sellner includes helpful resources such as a list of 40 famous pilgrims and sites, as well as important books and films about pilgrimages.
“Ultimately, our sacred journeys are about soul building,” he writes. “We are looking for a transformation that not only helps us live well, but also prepares us better to die well. The pilgrimage is about discovering that our true pilgrimage is what we engage in every day. “
“The other worlds: unusual adventures of a curious traveler” by Tom Mattson (Dudley Court Press, $ 16.95)
The journey, which was to last six months, was now in its fourteenth month, on the fifteenth. I meandered a little faster through Esram, Ankara and Istanbul in Turkey, Athens and the Greek Islands, Yugoslavia, Romania, West Germany, Venice and crept on the Adriatic coast to Barcelona in Spain.
Mattson is a lawyer who lives in his hometown of Biwabik, Minnesota, and in a tin-roofed hut in the Mayan Guatemala Mountains. The rest of the time he visits friends he has made in some of the 75 countries he has visited, often by motorcycle.
In “The Other World” Mattson takes us on quick journeys through adventures in Cuba, Guatemala, Japan, China and Finland, the land of his ancestors. Everywhere he goes, he engages the local people, even if he only knew a few or no words in their language.
What Mattson does well is asking big questions about connecting people. How did his ancestors get to America from Africa over the past 60,000 years? In Guatemala he said that the 22 different groups of Mayans in this country are like family. In Vietnam, he visits community halls that are used as places of worship by Chinese residents and traders and are Vietnam’s version of the old Finnish Kaleva halls with immigrant backgrounds in Minnesota and other states. He traveled with Yamano Indians around an island shared by Argentina and Chile and visited the ethnic village of Dong in China.
Mattson is always ready for new adventures, including one that landed him a night in Mexico’s infamous Tijuana Prison. He left his government leader and traveled to Burma (now Mayanmar) alone, which he shouldn’t be doing. He crawled and slid through narrow tunnels in a Bolivian silver mine and explored a glacier in the company of the leading Argentine glaciologist. One of his favorite places is Mazunte on the Mexican Pacific coast, a “pint-sized bivouac” where children “just as much like to slide on sand or water as Minnesotans like to slide down winter hills”.
Mattson’s prose is enriched with photos and helpful maps that trace some of his routes. Good for him. A book cannot have too many cards.