When I met Maria Coffey at a cozy coffee shop in Victoria I asked her what quote had stuck with her throughout her travels and she mentioned a phrase by Pico Iyer that began with “we travel most when we stumble.” And that phrase has since stuck with me. It rang true from my own travel experiences—coming across the unexpected, the unplanned and often the uncomfortable event that turns a trip into an experience that transforms how we see ourselves and the world. I contacted Maria again when she was kayaking through Laos, and travelling through Cambodia, talking about how affected she was by the poverty there. She also talked about how the air in every place she’d been to was so different; just breathing was a new experience.
I spent a year in Ho Chi Minh City and I was overwhelmed at first by the noise and chaos of the place; I’d never lived in a third-world country before and witnessing the poverty was a shock. On one of my first nights in Saigon I was robbed by my cab driver; he just leaned over and grabbed all the money out of my wallet like it was candy. I was in shock and I yelled at him as he drove away down the skinny little alley I lived on. I felt helpless. I had stumbled; my adventure had truly begun. Travel opens you up, stirs you around, throws you off balance. When I came home I had difficulty translating my experiences into words that really portrayed what it was like; a few entertaining anecdotes did not suffice. The exceptional women in this issue helped, they were in the corner with me, nodding with understanding, offering a tissue or a warm meal when I needed it.
In choosing the pieces for this issue, I learned the many ways in which stumbling can occur. In Shoilee Khan’s “Go Light, Go Easy,” a young couple pursue a dream and leave their home in Bangladesh for a new life in Germany; in Tanaz Bhathena’s “Windows,” a lonely housewife makes a connection across language and cultural barriers. A free spirit becomes unexpectedly tethered in Ayelet Tsabari’s “The Marrying Kind” and Kimberly Alcock follows the paths of several young women to whom leaving home is a necessity, at the risk of their own spiritual and physical survival. Angela Long writes from a rustic cabin on the Queen Charlotte Islands; Heather Ramsay finds herself at a crossroads while travelling through Australia. In Ingrid Keenan’s “Permission” we see how even a weekend trip away can transform the way we see ourselves and those around us. Charlotte Gill talks about how the openness that can bring new and magical experiences can also lead to suddenly treacherous paths. She knows; she has stumbled too.
The talented poets in this issue explore the confusion and anxiety that often accompanies journeys, as with Nikki Vogel’s “The Cartographer,” Jennifer Houle’s “Business Class” and Joanna Lilley’s “Plain Sailing.” Sue Chenette captures the feeling of displacement beautifully “In Portobello Market” as does Louise Howerow’s “After a Long Day Hiking, We Rest”. Chantal Gibson explores friendship in Japan in “Yumi and Yoko (with Love)” and Rebecca Widdicombe falls in love with great passion in “Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.” Genevieve Mackay’s “The Birthday Present” takes us to the painful end of an explorer’s journey in the Arctic.
In choosing the art, I was looking for pieces that gave a sense of openness and exploration. Nadia Baker’s unique “Ladies of the Galaxy” look like meditative dolls floating in space, indeed exploring galaxies. Taralee Guild’s sleek and stylish Airstreams definitely fit the bill; portable homes, ready to go. And Estzer Burghardt’s “A Wooly Saga of Creek” I chose for the cover because of its wonderful colours and sense that you want to go down that stream.
So maybe we travel in order to stumble. Again, in the words of Pico Iyer: “We travel first to lose ourselves; and then we travel to find ourselves.” Maybe stumbling is the losing; the letting go of what we brought with us in order to see with fresh eyes, feel the world with new skin. But first we must pack, which Molly Beer does in her delightful piece. It can be the most challenging aspect of travel—along with the delicious nerve-wracking anticipation that accompanies all travel.
I hope you enjoy this issue as much as I did putting it together. It includes brave, adventurous women—there are so many! And it will be read by them, and hopefully inspire a little travelling and stumbling of your own.
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