It is an old tradition that travelers send postcards to loved ones back home. With the Coronavirus putting a halt to travel and creating a near-universal sense of isolation and fear, I propose the reverse. From my home in America, I am sending digital postcards to some of the people I have met on my travels.
Each in their way has taught me we have much in common, no matter what country we call home.
To: Doreen Sekento Kumum in Maasi Mara, Kenya
Thanks once again for teaching me the very basics of stringing beads during my visit to the Karen Blixen Camp. I really enjoyed the time we spent together even though it was clear very quickly that this seemingly simple craft is a lot harder than it looks. Failing to produce anything decent, I treasure the necklace you made, which I wear often. It is not only beautiful it reminds me that with a skilled hand, it takes only bits of beauty to create a glorious whole.
To: Ana Cristina Casagrande in Sao Paulo, Brazil
While it is not at all unusual for me to get lost when bike riding in a new place, I can assure you I’ve never asked for directions and had someone offer to join me on my journey. But what a great time we had on the Rio Pinheiros trail! Do you remember how hot and tired we were when we returned to the Parque do Povo? You insisted on buying me a cold glass of coconut water from one of the many vendors. These days as we travel over uncertain terrain, you already have the secret sauce, you know how much better even a difficult ride will be if done with others.
To: Mohammed in Palmyra, Syria
Marhaba ya Mohammed,
So much has happened to your beautiful city since we met 15-years ago at the Zenobia Festival. It was cold and wet that day and you were trying to dry the skin of your rain-drenched rababah over a small propane fire. I sat next to you (if I’m being honest) to be closer to the warmth of the fire. I didn’t know you were the featured performer. “Wow, just hours in town and I’m already with the band,” I thought. The rababah never did dry out but you sounded wonderful. In spite of the destruction rained down on your city, in spite of the pandemic creating havoc across the globe, it is my hope that your voice still rings out, pure and clean and timeless.
To: Three Young Men Running, Mvurwi, Zimbabwe
I watched you sprinting across the field on the northbound side of the A12 highway. Where were you going? What event would you soon grace dressed up as you were in feathered masks and profuse ankle tassels? Your running was a performance in itself; at a steady, rhythmic pace. You were in perfect unison and breathing with unhurried breaths. I pulled over and leaped out with my camera. You graciously stopped for me and let me take your picture. We had a moment and went our separate ways. You no doubt to a fine afternoon. Me to pull out that photo again and again and wonder.
To Ron and Cathy Frew in Tumbarumba, NSW Australia
Hi Ron and Cathy,
I don’t think I’ve ever met a couple with as much energy as you. That’s not just your physical energy which you have in abundance, but also the intensity of your curiosity and the way you engage with the world around you. I knew this the instant we met. I was working on a magazine story about the search for the world’s first missing airliner. If it weren’t for your help and the museum you created, I would have been lost! Here’s to your epic dauntlessness. Fires, viruses, are nothing compared to you.
To: An Unknown Family in Rome
We never met, but have not forgotten seeing you on the path at Borghese Park. Actually, I heard you first. There was a commotion and when I turned to see what was going on, there you were. You ladies were trying to maintain control of the four-wheeled surry bike while the kids screamed with glee. Sure, there was a tinge of fear in grandma’s voice as the bike careened down the incline but it was your joyful togetherness that was contagious. For you and for all of us, best wishes for a speedy cresting of the hill and a rapid return to carefree.
Author of The New York Times bestseller, The Crash Detectives, I am also a journalist, public speaker and broadcaster specializing in aviation and travel.