What Travel Writers Say

Chance Encounters - Travel Tales From Around the World,
edited by Janna Graber, World Traveler Press, 2014, $16.95

Reviewed by Mike Keenan, What Travel Writers Say

Chance Encounters -- Travel Tales From Around the World - Book Cover

Chance Encounters transports the reader to unique travel situations that produce individual epiphanies on the road, often in out of the ordinary surroundings. There are 23 chapters that involve diverse geographical settings from Paris, France to Guatemala, Albania, Germany, Mexico, Turkey, Uganda, Korea, USA, Malawi, UAE, Bhutan, Sicily, Chile, Kenya, Cambodia, Nepal and Finland.

"Travel never goes quite like we expect. Planes are late, maps are misread and unexpected detours are made. When this happens, the twisting roads of travel can lead to adventures we never imagined - and lessons we never expected to learn. Sometimes, if we're lucky, we cross paths with people who show us life from a different angle or provide kindness when it's needed most. Those we meet while traveling can change our journey, our experiences or even our lives. Come along with some of the world's top travel writers as they share their stories from around the globe."

Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III
Eiffel Tower

The Brandenburg Gate
The Brandenburg Gate

Editor Janna Graber includes a large cast of 20 writers in this undertaking, all of them compelling and able to describe vividly the exceptional experiences that affected them, often, in remarkable ways. The writing is convincing, and one moves rapidly from chapter to chapter pursuing one's own journey along the way.

For me, Gabriella Brand's wonderful piece, "The Shortcut - Japan," concerning an American woman in her late 60s trekking around the island of Shikoku, following the 1200 km pilgrimage trail known as the 88 Temples, was worth the price of admission. Brand meets a husband and wife who help her in her quest, the husband suggesting to her, "Travel is a way to exercise the body and feed the soul, no?" The answer is a resounding Yes! in all of the stories.

Margie Goldsmith, winner of multiple travel writing awards, befriends pygmies in Uganda by distributing harmonicas to them, and initiates a jungle blues that remain long after she is gone. Music is the universal language.

Kimberley Lovato shares an elevator ride in Paris that gives one pause to value each moment and seize the day! Michele Peterson takes us on an excursion to discover a natural dye process in Mexico that involves an unlikely donor, a sacred snail. Rebeca Dunn-Krahn examines the issue of trust in Turkey, trying to reclaim a lost camera lens. Sofie Couwenbergh rewrites the gift of the Magi applied to modern day USA, and C. Lill Ahrens makes us value the convenience of warmth while examining the laborious process of trying to remain warm in wintery Korea. And so it goes for 280 wonderful pages as we watch how East Berlin and West Berlin reunite, Nepal is viewed through the eyes of a child, and a wise, hip monk in Bhutan reflects on the world.

The 23 stories are a narrative pilgrimage in themselves, and at the end, one realizes how much travel impacts lives and how important it is to instill a sense of adventure in our youth if they are going to view the world in a compassionate and meaningful fashion.

I recommend this book.

Kimberley Lovato, Peter Mandel, James Michael Dorsey, Shilpa Gupta, Annia Lekka, Michele Peterson, C. Lill Ahrens, John A Kumiski, Rob Woodburn, Margie Goldsmith, Gabriella Brand, Nithin Coca, Rick Zullo, Christina Hamlett, Sofie Couwenbergh, Rebeca Dunn-Krahn, Cece Romanyshyn, Rick Neal, Bill Wasserzieher

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review, Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Geographic Traveler, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine.

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