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November 30, 2007


Jerry Peek

Most of my travel connections have come from people I've met on the road -- especially travelers from other places who become friends, and we visit each others' home towns sometime later. But some wonderful connections have happened through searching the Internet: people who write to me about something they find on a website of mine, or by someone who I "meet" online as I'm searching for information on a common interest.

The twistiest and most interesting tale I can think of started after a big career disappointment. I decided to treat myself to a trip, and I flew off to Australia on short notice. My Continental flight home went via Guam, and the woman sitting next to me lived there. We talked all the way to Guam, then stayed in touch after we got back to our homes (I live in Arizona). Eventually I flew back to Guam for a visit. That's where the story gets good.

Our love affair didn't last. But being in that part of the world (I never would have gone to Guam otherwise!) got me fascinated with the area -- especially Yap, the islands where they've kept traditions alive. (Most famous, probably, are their big discs of stone money.) I started doing some research online, found a Kansas City newspaper article about a photographer who was by then in Los Angeles. Writing to the photographer led me to her connections on Yap, which led me to a cultural center being built by natives who wanted to preserve and share their culture. I eventually flew there, met them, and volunteered to help however I could. That turned out to be by working with them to build a website. Along the way, I met Peace Corps volunteers and photographed their school, consulted with tourism officials, and was invited to an islands-wide cultural celebration for natives only. But there's more...

Eventually it was almost time to head for home. I moved out of the hut at the cultural center, into a motel in the main town. Down the hall were two friendly German tourists, and across the hall was a Danish woman who had the same name as a famous late-19th-century artist. We all wandered around town together, met for beers once or twice, and exchanged contact info before we left. When I got a job in Prague, I got in touch, and traveled to both Germany and Denmark when I had time for a break. I hadn't asked my Danish friend about her famous name, but when I got there I found (from her amazing art collection) that she was indeed one of the artist's great-granddaughters. Walking into an art museum together, and having her show me paintings of her relatives, was quite an experience.

If I'd been traveling in a couple, or as part of a tour group, I'll bet that these serendipitous connections might never have happened. Going solo, to interesting and off-the-beaten-path places, with a schedule that's not planned down to the last minute, can lead to friendships that lead to more amazing connections. I'm glad you're writing this blog and encouraging other people to do what you have. Thanks!


I love those stories because I can totally relate. The best adventures come from talking with people. I've got the Ecuadorian taxi driver who brought his daughter to meet me later in the day, the Chilean guy on the train in Spain who invited me out to Colorado where he works in a ski resort, and on and on. Those experiences make me feel alive.
Thanks for sharing some of your stories.

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