My Big Fat Mauritanian Ramadan

Editor’s note: Among the many pleasures of travel are those serendipitous encounters that expand our worlds in ways that we never expected – as in the wonderful tale that follows. A trip that begins with throwing banana up on oneself and the surrounding passengers in a crowded minibus is surely destined to be horrible. But sometimes, I’ve learned, the worst beginnings make for the best trips.  My week living with a Mauritanian family during Ramadan was one of those times. A classmate and I were studying in Dakar, Senegal, and wanted to do something unforgettable for our first term break.  A trip to the Sahara Desert for close encounters with sand dunes, camels, and ghost towns seemed to fit the bill. But the banana incident, on the way to the Mauritanian border, marked only the beginning of a series of back-to-back, ill-fated events. Our wallets and cameras disappeared somewhere between the...

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Report from Iran: An Interview with Jean-Paul Tennant

GeoEx pioneered American travel to Iran, leading our first tour there in 1993. Through the ensuing years, our returning travelers have invariably enthused about the warmth of the people and the wonders of the sites. GeoEx CEO Jean-Paul Tennant recently visited Iran for the first time. We sat down with him to get his impressions of this alluring, often misunderstood country. How long was your Iran trip and where did you visit? We were in-country for 12 days. We started in Tehran, flew south to Shiraz, then wound back to Tehran by car via Persepolis, Yazd, and Esfahan.

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Ode to the Soul-Center of San Francisco

To get to one of the spiritual centers of San Francisco—a perfect microcosm, in fact, of the city of evergreen revolutions—you can just turn left after the high-rising office buildings downtown, walk past Francis Ford Coppola’s eccentric seven-storey American Zoetrope mock-pagoda, hauntingly bathed in green shades after dark, and stop just past the spot where Columbus Avenue meets Jack Kerouac Alley. But a more appropriate way of getting to the official historical landmark is down Grant Avenue, at the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, past a long line of slightly kitschy tourist shops displaying quotes from Lao Tse and Jimi Hendrix and posting eco-conscious green Hello Kittys in their windows. Many of the items on sale amidst the Chinese banks and signs for the “Gold Mountain Monastery” are Japanese kimono (and in Japantown, they’re selling Korean food); quite a few of the Chinese-looking figures you see are emerging from a...

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On the Macal

Mary Jo McConahay is a veteran, award-winning journalist and documentary filmmaker. Her most recent book is Maya Roads: One Woman’s Journey Among the People of the Rainforest. Visit her website at www.mayaroads.com. She was just named Travel Journalist of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers. Yellow-headed swallows dipped in and out of thick mist resting on the river. That fog probably followed the water’s curve for miles, I thought, maybe the whole length of Belize. I wouldn’t see a thing from the boat.  Atop a bank overlooking the Macal, I stood with my arms crossed, waiting for full dawn, feeling miffed. The fog had burned off along...

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Feeling the Flow in Luang Prabang, Laos

With just hours to go before leaving Luang Prabang, I sit down to sketch beneath the awning of a sidewalk café. My subject is a temple, one which a local woman tells me is called Wat Thoung Sad. It has a layered roof, each square section slightly curved and fitted neatly into the next, and a few towering coconut trees beside it. Almost instantly, I can tell the temple on the page will be what I hope to portray of the temple before me. It’s difficult to say how I know this – rather, it’s something you can feel: this thing called flow. Every line takes on a life of its own, and yet magically connects to every other line. For once, each curved edge of the roof, each individual vein of a banana leaf, comes out exactly as I’d pictured it – and more so. Then, in the chatter of tourists behind me, I hear “arigato...

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Don George, Editor

Don George is Editor in Chief of Wanderlust: Literary Journeys for the Discerning Traveler. He has been Travel Editor for the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle and Salon.com, and Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Publications. Don has published eight books, including Travel Writing, A Moveable Feast, The Kindness of Strangers, and Tales from Nowhere. E-mail him at don@geoex.com.

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GeoEx event with Isabel Allende in Conversation with Don George; September 24, 2014
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