Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Now available on Amazon, Travels in India — the e-book! It’s the illustrated full story of my adventures in India, most of which is  material that has never appeared on the website. The blog has more photos than the e-book, but the e-book has all the details.

Travels in India gives a blow-by-blow description of my month long road trip in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh in March of 2011. As you know if you’ve followed the blog, I visited the major tourist attractions in Delhi, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Jodphur, Udaipur, Jaipur and Agra. I also visited a few places that were off the beaten path. But more than that, the e-book tells the stories of the people I met, some of them wonderful, some fun and some irritating.

This travelogue has lots of detail about eating, drinking, getting sick and bathroom facilities. It’s what everyone wants to know but is afraid to ask, particularly women. If you find that too much information, perhaps you might like another travelogue better.

If you want to know what it’s like for a woman to travel alone in India who’s not a college-aged backpacker, this book might be helpful. This is not a guide book, it’s the experiences of a traveler. Most of all, if you want to be immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of India and be entertained, Travels in India is for you!

A dear friend has passed away. Steve Sardeson, resident of Baraboo, Wisconsin, who liked to call himself The Genuine Tourist,  succumbed to cancer at the age of 62 in November.  I only learned of his passing yesterday.

I met Steve online a few years ago. We were both exploring the idea of retiring in Mexico. He and his wife Pat had traveled there many times and loved the country and the people.  Steve and I bumped into each other on an online forum, which sparked a flurry of correspondence.

I introduced Steve to the world of blogging, and he took to it like a bullfrog to a pond. A passionate photographer and an enthusiastic traveler, Steve populated several blogs* with stories about his trips. He loved Mexico and wanted to share the joy.

Two years ago, my first trip to Mexico coincided with one of Steve and Pat’s. We were all going to be in Xalapa at the same time, so Steve graciously offered me the use of the spare bedroom in the house that he and his wife had rented for their month-long stay.  I would stay with them for the one week I would be in town.

This was the first time — and, sadly, the only time — we would meet face to face. Steve and Pat were such a delight to be around. They were upbeat and up for anything. We explored towns off the beaten path, some of which didn’t even have a path!

img_3859a.jpg
Steve Sardeson, the tireless Genuine Tourist,
hard at work, performing community outreach.

Steve was a tireless and very talented photographer. After I thought I’d exhausted all the angles from a scene, Steve would still be clicking away. He was drawn to people and not shy about taking photos of strangers. In one town he had taken some photos of a couple of young boys who had been curiously following us. When I turned around, I saw Steve showing the boys their photo on his camera display. I quickly got a shot of that. It’s one of my favorite pictures of him.  Being around Steve and watching him interact with people encouraged me to try to get past my shyness about photographing strangers.

Steve, The Genuine Tourist, was the best kind of tourist you could be. He didn’t buy into the whole pretentious traveler vs. tourist debate.  He knew, as long as he wasn’t a full-time expat, that he was a tourist. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Steve did his research. He made an effort to learn the history of each place he went. When he and Pat made any of their three-month trips to Mexico, they blended into the community as much as possible. They shopped at local markets, ate where the locals ate, did what the locals did. They loved the culture and immersed themselves in it.

Steve wasn’t fluent in Spanish, but his sincerity, his genuineness, carried him through when words failed. On our way to the Xalapa Anthropological Museum, he had an enthusiastic conversation with the taxi driver in both fractured Spanish and English. He didn’t speak Spanish well, but he never stopped trying to communicate in any way he could. The cabbie responded to Steve with a great deal of warmth and told us a little about himself and how he came to own the cab. It was one of those great little moments in traveling — and touristing.

Steve and Pat didn’t travel just for enjoyment. A portion of each trip included such things as bringing school supplies to children or volunteering at local dental clinics. They also sponsored a needy child in Haiti. Steve was a social worker and Pat a dental technician in their nontourist lives. They always wanted to give back.

We kept in touch after the Mexico trip, updating each other on our lives and plans for upcoming trips. Although our friendship was mostly long distance and online, it was as meaningful as any I’ve had.

Steve, you will be greatly missed.

______________________

*Steve’s blogs include:

genuinetourist.wordpress.com

huatulcoparadise.wordpress.com

oaxacacity.wordpress.com

visitxalapa.wordpress.com

My Mexico blog, including the week at Xalapa with Steve and Pat:

roadtoveracruz.wordpress.com

I’ve just published a memoir: Bread From the Sky. For a variety of reasons, I procrastinated for years before working to bring my handwritten journal into shape for publication. Living in Togo was a tremendous experience, and thoughts of West Africa kept returning, stories that begged to be told.

How many cat heads do you have to eat before you acquire the characteristics of a cat? Why do you hang a snail shell in a tree? How do you get a curse removed? And who buried a gri-gri in the yard? These and other burning questions are answered in Bread From the Sky.

Here’s a synopsis:

    Wanting a career change and armed with a graduate degree in international studies, a woman in her mid-40s leaves her divorce and ordinary life behind for a two-year stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo, West Africa. 

    She learns survival skills in order to live without electricity or plumbing like the rest of the people in her adopted village. She also gains language skills as, in addition to French, which is still the official language, there are over half a dozen local languages in common use at her village. Adjusting to a new culture, several different languages and some very old attitudes is sometimes difficult, frustrating and funny.

    There are friends to be made, foods to get used to, bureaucrats and insects to contend with, health issues to recover from and red tape to choke on. Dealing with people who want to rip her off, who harass her (sexually and otherwise) and who always want something from her isn’t easy. The challenges are offset by the warmth and friendship that was found along the way as well as some amazing experiences.

    As a wise man said to her, “Africa will change you, whether you want it to or not.”

Bread From the Sky is the true story of my two years in Togo as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

It’s now available as an e-book on Amazon, Amazon UK and Smashwords.

Interviews and Reviews

In connection with the review of Travels in Ghana, I was recently interviewed on a book reviewer’s website. Syria Says is a newly-launched website featuring indie author book reviews. The review is on the home page and also appears on the Amazon page. The interview appears on this page.

Juniper Grove, another book reviewer site, recently posted a very nice review, also. That review can be seen here.

I’ve recently taken advantage of the popularity of e-books and massaged my Travels in Ghana website into one. The blog will remain, as it’s the best place to host so many photos. But an e-book is a much friendlier format for new readers than having to page through 117 posts on the web.

This would have been unthinkable a few years ago. Now it’s not only possible, it’s easy and doesn’t cost anything other than your time. I’ve added new material that has never appeared on the website.

Travels in Ghana is a travelogue of a road trip in 2009. From Accra to the painted village of Sirigu, the people, the adventures and the sights are described. There are insights and explanations of Ghanaian customs, culture, cuisine and daily life. Among the places visited are the slave castle at Elmina, the stilt village of Nzulezu, Mole National Park, Sirigu and an unexpected find at Bolgatanga.

Travels in Ghana is currently available for $2.99 on Smashwords and is also available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.

There’s too much time between now and the trip to India to obsess over details or to get anything further accomplished. All that’s left for the moment is to glance at the itinerary from time to time and smack my lips.

But the calm waters above give no hint of the turbulence deep within the murky lake of my brain. I’m making giant waves of progress with the manuscript of my Togo memoir. Years ago I opened a blog and put up a few posts based on journal entries. The blog title is A Handful of Memories, also the working title of the memoir.

I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo a dozen years ago, and the blog was where I dropped an occasional memory from time to time when the muse whacked me over the head. The time has finally come when I could look at my handwritten journals and mold them into something substantial.  Planning the India trip has been the catalyst.

It’s like eating your vegetables before being allowed dessert or finishing your homework before watching TV.  India will be such a kaleidoscope that I wanted to have a clean slate so I could work on the India travel notes after I return without anything else competing for my attention. This was such irrefutable logic that I took off my cloak of procrastination — which is something like a cloak of invisibility — and got to work on the Togo manuscript.

The more I worked on it, the more memories surfaced which hadn’t been originally recorded.  A Handful of Memories no longer works as a title and Three Gunny Sackfuls of Memories isn’t tremendously appealing, but I’m too paranoid to reveal the new one until closer to publication. Publication is expected before I leave for India. If all goes well, I’ll have it available as an e-book in January 2011.

One of the reasons I bought a Kindle was so that I wouldn’t have to schlep around travel guides on vacation any more. Electronic travel guides are easy to find on Amazon, and even though some of them don’t have photos, they’re still a lot better than lugging around a paper version.

Another good use of the Kindle is to carry all those pieces of paper I tend to bring with me on a trip: a copy of my itinerary, some pages from the internet that weren’t in the guide book. These items can easily be converted to a Kindle readable format, either by emailing them to Amazon or by doing it yourself with the free Mobipocket Creator software.

While planning for next year’s trip to India, I found much more information on the specific places I was going on the internet than in the guidebook. So I made my own guidebook.

I copied the collected information from the internet, including photos and URLs, and pasted it into html documents. If you don’t know html, you can also paste the information in a text document. I wanted to add links so I’d have a linkable table of contents, and I’m more familiar with how to do that in html than in Word.

I arranged the information in the same order as my itinerary. Then I converted it, using the Mobipocket Creator. Using the USB cord, I transferred a copy onto my Kindle. I now had an extremely useful, very personalized travel guide rather than a sheaf of paper I would have otherwise printed from websites.

Where the electronic travel guide I purchased is very general, my personalized travel guide is very specific on the cities I’ll be visiting and the sights I’ll be seeing. There’s also a wealth of information on places to shop and other tips that I gathered from online travel forums which don’t exist in the guidebook. Having it arranged in my itinerary order is useful beyond description. I included the URLs where I found the information as headings to the relevant paragraphs so that I could go back to the website for further reading if I wanted to.

Best of all, I also have photos of most of the places I’ll see on the personalized Kindle guide. Even though they’re displayed in black and white, it’s still very helpful, not to mention exciting, to have a preview of the wonders that await me on my trip. The electronic guide that I bought has NO photos!

Although the Kindle’s capacity for carrying books leaves me without any worries for something to read while on the flight, I decided to add bits of history to the end of my personalized guide and whatever else I found on India that caught my fancy.

I did the same thing when I was looking for a guide to Indian cuisine.  I couldn’t find a book or encyclopedia on the subject, so I decided to compile information on Indian cuisine from the web. I found one website that had a glossary of Indian food terms, which was what I was most interested in! I even found several websites that had articles on Rajasthani cuisine, which is the state in northern India where I’ll be spending most of my time. This is going to be a great way to learn more about what’s on the menu before I get there.

I now have terrific resource guides with extra reading material which I can pore over on my flight and less weight to carry in my bag. While on the trip, I can make notes on the Kindle as to which pieces of information were most valuable and also make notes for updates. The time spent putting together a personalized Kindle travel guide was definitely worthwhile. I might not have to buy travel guides ever again.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.