Holiday Giving With a Travel Theme

"Holiday Giving With a Travel Theme" appears at Suite where it was originally published with links.

Holiday Giving With a Travel Theme

We feasted on the kindness of strangers

The clear Guatemala night sky revealed an unfamiliar starscape. A rickety porch roof sheltered us from the expected summer thunderstorm. We shared a can of cold refried beans in silence. The silence, we told ourselves, was a courtesy to the peasant farmer who slept with his family one thin wall away. But all three of us knew better than that. Ours was the stunned silence of teens recovering from an encounter, at gunpoint, with a military patrol that had followed our progress on this weekend jungle trek. Somehow my companions had convinced them we were not guerrillas. Somehow we had telescoped the polarities of travel into one day - danger and the redeeming stranger. How would we pay forward that debt to the peasant farmer?

Practicing kindness on the road

I was drawn to the new book by Lonely Planet Press The Kindness of Strangers. The project began with a contest calling for people�s travel stories. The result is an offering more than 25 stories of kindness-on-the-road by professional and amateur travel writers. There is a preface by the Dalai Lama who epitomizes a kindness-on-the-road philosophy. You can find an online interview with the editor, Don George, that will give you the flavor of the book.

I spotted another travel book with a theme of generosity - Volunteer Vacations: Short-Term Adventures That Will Benefit You and Others. And I discovered online one person�s reflections on volunteering with a disability. Watch for an article going into more depth on this topic in the Suite 101 Travel & Disability section in 2004. Also, check out Wheels for Humanity, an organization with a mission to place wheelchairs left unused or abandoned in the United States with the disabled poor in developing countries. They are looking for volunteers.

Travel as a gift - Returning the kindness

For years my father has wanted to take a small ship cruise to Alaska. Small ships are the best way to get in where the larger ships can't go. This year my wife and I are inviting him and a guest of his choosing to take the trip with us.

In planning this trip, as well as researching articles for Suite 101, I have found the staff at Small Ship Cruises to be responsive and knowledgeable. I recommend them if you plan a cruise to Alaska.

Random acts of kindness

In the coming year I intend to take time to give something back. There is a theme in my New Year's resolutions - generosity directed toward the disabled community at large.

  • I will complete the survey for people with disabilities about their experiences in using different types of telecommunications products.

  • When I set up an independent web site with my Web Log I will treat visitors to the timely news summaries I have been enjoying from Inclusion Daily Express. Their editor, David Reynolds, collects, reviews, and provides original writing on the current news affecting people with disabilities.

  • I will participate in RERC Survey on the Use of Medical Equipment.

  • In this column over the coming year I will introduce readers to several travelers with disabilities through a series of interviews.

Be kind to yourself, too

With the chilly weather I'm likely to settle in for vacation planning fantasies from the comfort of home. Wheelchair travel fades to armchair travel for the time being.

The classic magazine for active wheelchair users is Sports 'n Spokes. It doesn�t include travel articles per se' but you can still get a great rush imagining yourself water-skiing on the international circuit, playing professional wheelchair basketball, mastering wheelchair hockey, quad rugby, snow skiing or fencing. I like National Geographic's Adventure magazine for generating travel ideas but it doesn't quite let me �be there�. It lacks the information on accessibility that I expect from a quality travel magazine. So, for those with Multiple Sclerosis I recommend the quarterly magazine InsideMS, written entirely by people with MS. InsideMS has a format that is easy to read and has a regular travel section. For those with spinal cord injuries I recommend the monthly magazine New Mobility. New Mobility is the flagship publication when it comes to portraying people with mobility disabilities as actively engaged in living. Its occasional travel features bring me to places I never would have thought of visiting.

Music too can transport me back to places I've been - or feed my imagination about places I'm going to explore. CDs from places I've visited or plan to visit make up a whole subsection of my CD collection. But there�' one song in particular that has been playing in my imagination throughout this article. It evokes some of the themes that appeal to us travelers: freedom, memories, stories, and encounters that open define lives.

I thank you for the music
And your stories of the road
I thank you for the freedom
When it came my time to go
I thank you for the kindness
And the times when you got tough
And papa I don't think I said
" I love you" near enough.

By Dan Fogelberg

Come to think of it, I�m going to bring a copy of Dan Fogelberg�s The Innocent Age CD along on the Alaska cruise!

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