The Journey Measured in Friends

Last night, I travelled the world. From my chair on the beach in the Dominican Republic, I visited Ireland, Madrid, London, Canada, Argentina, Italy, and Uganda. I learned about political unrest, national dishes, international aid, and family dynamics. I became aware of fascinating differences and humbling similarities, all from people I had just met.

When travelling, I find that I share more of myself—in ways I haven’t with even my closest friends. I have listened more intently to stories that inspired and stories that broke my heart. I have rediscovered a desire to deeply know people, and have been moved by their desire to deeply know me. I’ve crammed an entire relationship into a weekend and I’ve fallen in love.

In just a small step-up from the “Fight Club”-single serving airplane friends, why are travel relationships so powerful? What makes people share, listen, laugh, dance, so much easier than in their ‘regular’ lives?

Perhaps it is a sense of urgency that makes travel relationships so powerful. If you’re lucky, you might have a few days—though too often,  even less time—to discover everything you could want to know about a person.

Maybe, it’s being far from home. Being outside of our normal communities and comfort zones makes us vulnerable. We let go of reservations and ask or share whatever is on our mind. It seems as though the notion of travel, a little like college, gives us a clean slate. We can be whoever we’d like to be.

I think travel is a risk, and it opens you up to taking risks on people too.

This morning, the good-byes seemed as though we were parting with childhood friends. Travel had turned singleserving friends into partners in adventure. In a rare moment of vulnerability, these good-byes made me choke up.… Read more

Sex Tourism in the Dominican Republic: Asking the right questions

As I fumbled with my fancy new camera trying to sneak a picture of a 200 pound, 50+ year-old white man holding a teen Dominican girl, the “uh-oh feeling” reiterated to me that all you need to know, you learned in kindergarden. With that simple feeling, I struggled to believe in this relationship, or the pretense of one.

It is very easy to say, “it’s none of my/our business,” “it’s every woman’s choice,” or “there will always be a demand and it’s a way to generate income.” However, the slippery slopes that are those arguments often overlook the complexities of the sex industry.

The Dominican Republic is statistically the 4th largest exporter of prostitutes in the world behind Brazil, Thailand and the Philippines, and ranks in the top two for sex tourism.² While laws prohibit sex with those under age 18, prostitution is neither illegal nor legal in the Dominican Republic. And although it is practiced openly and widely accepted as legal by police, the legal gray area leaves women powerless.” ¹ An article on the Dominican Republic’s DR1 website, ironically framed by wet t-shirts and ads for Dominican Cupid, describes the high prostitution rates, criticizes the ‘choices’ of these women, and describes many of the causes of these staggering statistics in the tropical paradise.

First and foremost, the Dominican Republic suffers from a very high poverty rate. Over 25% of the Dominican population is said to be living below the poverty line. Educational standards are very low and the majority of people living in the campo (countryside) stop attending school at a young age. The adult literacy rate is a low 87.8 percent. For most, there is little or no opportunity. Unemployment is at a staggering 17% and many, who do have jobs, work for very

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We aught to saunter reverently. An idea from the great John Muir

On a Sierra Club Outing, author Albert Palmer tells of a conversation he had with John Muir on the trail. He asked Muir, “someone told me you did not approve of the word “hike.” Is that so?” His blue eyes flashed, and with his Scotch accent he replied:

“I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”

Join Onwards for a trip and saunter reverently through mountains, oceans, waterfalls, rainforest, and more.

– John Muir, as quoted by Albert W. Palmer, The Mountain Trail and its Message (1911) pages 27-28 – excerpted in A Parable of Sauntering .… Read more