It is the fondness of repeating the same stories, the excitement of reliving them, that leads me back to places I’ve been. It is always easier to tell the same stories than explain why something happened the way it did. The most memorable stories are usually about close calls and hardship. I feel we’ve been lucky…to have traveled when it was much safer than it is today…to have gone through some of the world’s hottest spots. But, such was our luck, we were always taken care of by the people we encountered. Danger, however, was sometimes there, and it may have been near more often than we realized.
Whatever the risks were, they were not of the nature that kept us from going anywhere. Hostility, threats, the possibility of violence if you like, had us retreat a time or two. There was always that gut feeling attached to it. We always knew when we were in the wrong place; we could immediately sense it. And even when a drunken soldier in a food shop in Jolo (in the Sulus) confronted us, there was something instinctual that told us how to handle it.
There were the police, the police of the police in Djakarta, with their machine guns placed on top of buildings. There was the tank, stationed in the forested no-man’s-land between Malaysia and Thailand, and armed solders who accompanied our bus through another kind of no-man’s-land on the road between Udon Thani and Chiang Mai…and other times when dealing with the unknown, such as the fear of tigers in Sumatra, and not knowing if we would make it to a safe place before dark. There was a stranger who attached himself to us in Communist Bulgaria and the whole time railed against his government: were we being set up? These were incidents when at the very least we felt less than secure, but were we really ever in danger? Our imaginations were always active: the idea that machine-guns, a tank, and armed soldiers (not to mention the machine guns and sandbags around Vientiane) foretold the possibility of danger. And there was opposite feelings about remote places, the most remote, and the more remote the place the safer we felt because of the kind of welcome that we always received. We were always well taken care of.