Travelfish #410: This is what it means when people say they love to travel

Who doesn’t?

Hi all,

Sorry, a day late, I needed a break—don’t we all!

In case you missed it in all the madness of the US election last week, we published our latest long read. The story is by a Malaysia–based author on the UNESCO Heritage site in Lenggong, Perak State. Our long reads are entirely funded by Travelfish supporters—thank you!

On pay to read Couchfish I’ve been going on about Vietnam’s Mekong Delta. I started off with a wrap on 150 days of writing Couchfish—that went fast! Since then I’ve covered a bad tattoo in Rach Gia, the biggest wetlands outside of the Amazon, a trip to the southern extremity of the country and a dire bird park.

On free to read Couchfish, I wrote about single serving friends—this one has proved to be very popular—thank you for all the kind comments.

As always, the photos in today’s newsletter are all from the last week of Couchfish issues.

Over on David’s Thai Island Times there is his regular Thai island news wrap, and then an exhaustive (in a good way!) look at the Butang archipelago.

Good travels!


This is what it means when people say they love to travel

“This is what it means when people say they love to travel,” I thought. My head was full of the sound of languages I didn’t know. I had seen the faces of hundreds of bodhisattvas on temple walls. I knew the thrill of seeing a truck slow down to pick us up. I had let the magnetic pull of adventure take me and in return I had fallen in love with everything strange and beautiful and unknown, with the sheer joy of discovering anything new.”

So writes Pam Mandel in her first novel, The Same River Twice: A memoir of dirtbag backpackers, bomb shelters, and bad travel. I finished it the other morning in my hammock. Who can not identify with the above quote?

The novel is not Southeast Asia focused. Pam turns back west after touching on the Subcontinent, but still you should read it. If you’re a traveller, read it. It is available at all the usual online booksellers, though try to support a local bookstore if you can. It is far more than a travel diary, it is a brave and engaging read.

A lifetime ago, I was in Nepal, in Pokhara to be specific. If you’re nor familiar with Pokhara, it has a big lake and a portion of the Himalayas reflect onto it. My friends and I would rent a paddle boat at dawn, row out, and watch sunrise with the peaks reflecting.

Once done with paddling and gazing at peaks, I trekked to Annapurna Sanctuary to be surrounded by them. The utter majesty of basecamp is mind blowing. I’d go back there tomorrow.

I was there in November back then, so it wasn’t snowed in. Once I settled in, I went for a wander. I followed a trail for a spell, eventually there wasn’t another human in sight—or so I thought. I had these cheap binoculars, and once I sat, I trained them on a distant ridge.

I could see six or seven people coming down. Through my binocs, they were tiny—ant–like—I couldn’t make out faces, but it looked like slow going.

Later, I put the binoculars down and sat. Between me and the folks on the hill, there was a glacier. Once I closed my eyes, and listened, I could hear it rumbling. At the time I didn’t understand, but that night someone’s porter explained the sound was the glacier moving.

I’ve a self–portrait in a shoe box somewhere of me sitting on a rock, listening to a glacier grind mix. If you were to look at the photo, it doesn’t give away much. A pic of an underweight (thanks India) guy with bad fashion sense sitting on a boulder. There are some big peaks behind him.

When I sat there, and set up my Minolta XG–M to take the photo, I’d never felt smaller in my life. It was, as a pretty naive twenty something, a long way from Sydney.

This was in 1993, so, my god, 27 years ago. Yet, if I close my eyes, I can remember it as clear as day. Including my fashion sense.

Back to Pam’s book. She’s in northern India with her deadbeat, abusive British boyfriend. They’re doing a trek in northern India, through snow and cold stuff. Their stove breaks, and Pam goes looking for a solution. She takes her food, finds a village house, and (with no local language), gestures if she can use their open fire to cook.

Of course the local woman lets her in to cook. This is early 80s and Pam is, I think, just shy of 20. While she cooks, the two of them sit across from each other and don’t say a word. Food cooked, Pam says thank you, and leaves.

I saw Pam revisit this scene in a video the other day. She’s talking about something she experienced almost forty years ago, yet spoke about it like it was yesterday.

These are the experiences that make people love travel—and they stay with us forever.

Good travels


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A great long read—on a whole bunch of things.

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Karma bites.

Something to read

The Same River Twice: A memoir of dirtbag backpackers, bomb shelters, and bad travel

“With no guidance and no particular plan, utterly unprepared for what lies ahead, Mandel says yes to everything and everyone, embarking on an adventure across three continents and thousands of miles, from a cold water London flat to rural Pakistan, from the Nile River Delta to the snowy peaks of Ladakh and finally, back home to California, determined to shape a life that is truly hers.”

Photo of the week

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Travel light!

Stuart & the Travelfish team