Across Continents

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Stars and Stripes

November 25th, 2010

Some nations seem much more pre-disposed to travel overseas than others. The Germans for example. Or Australians. Sometimes wonder who’s left at home. Especially with the panto season looming. But the Americans? Or, to be more precise so as not to offend French Canadians, US citizens. You’d be surprised. Or at least, I was. Especially given their popularity, or lack of it, in some parts of the world.

If your perception of an American abroad is a retired couple in golfing attire, you’d also be quite wrong. Dare say you do encounter them. Just as you could probably find an Englishman eating fish and chips sat in a deck chair on a windswept beach. Try Blackpool. But not the norm.

In fact, the Americans I’ve met, sometimes stayed with on the road, have been very friendly, hospitable folk. But more than that. Really very interesting people, with character, depth. A pleasure to sit and chat with. Austin in Tbilisi. Recently ventured into Northern Iraq. Esther back in Bishkek. Upped sticks one day from Florida to Kyrgyzstan in spring. That’s a drop of about forty degrees.

More recently, Jesse I’d met in Xi’an. He’d decided to leave work and study Chinese in Taiwan. To add to the French and Spanish he seemed to have a pretty fluent grasp of. More languages than I know words of Mandarin.

Travel, especially off the usual tourist trails, does act as something of a filter. Deterring those who prefer Western familiarity. Encouraging the more adventurous. So perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised by some the characters I’ve met. But intriguing nevertheless. Still, bet you’ll find more Brits or Germans than Americans in Iran. For now.


Germanic endeavours

September 15th, 2010

German travellers - web

Parked up for the night, it was their map that’d caught my eye. Annotated to show the countries they’d visited, the plan to visit them all. Few remained. A smattering in central Africa. And a few European nations, saved for the end.

We’d started with apologies. My genuinely terrible lack of German. Their unassailable belief that their English was poor. An entirely baseless assertion. Edelgard and Gerd were spending a few months exploring China, having first travelled across Russia and into Mongolia.

Invited to join them for a drink, we chatted at length. Shared curiosity as to exactly who our fellow travellers were. Similar experiences on the road. Bureaucracy. Perceptions of every day life in China. And some invaluable insight into what lay ahead across the Gobi desert. Frequent dust storms. Chaotic roads.

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