In this blog post series, I interview world travelers about objects that came home in their bags and what those objects mean to them. This week’s post features Ann Lonstein, a woman of the world and travel writer. You can read more of Ann’s work at everyjourneytraveled.wordpress.com or in her recent chapbook entitled Everything is a Journey.
Jen: Ann, you are very experienced traveler and writer. Can you talk a bit more about how the idea of “the journey” has informed your life?
Ann: I love the word journey. To me it has many meanings. A journey can be a car trip, a train ride or sailing on a boat. It can be moving from one place to another. It can be choosing a career path. Journey can mean many things. The most common meaning is to travel. Growing up in a small town in South Africa, I never went on many journeys. Yes, I rode my bike to school and all around town, but I was just living my life. I did take many trips by train going to and coming home from boarding school. They could be called journeys; I remember standing in the corridor, gazing out of the window and singing “Sentimental Journey.” Apparently, the word meant something to me when I was a fourteen years old. The journey I took that set up my life for the next 45 years was flying from Johannesburg to Boston at the age of 23 with my husband and our 8-month-old son. This was the beginning of my love of travel and my love of writing about my journeys.
Jen: Do you return to South Africa often?
Ann: In the 45 years we have lived in the United States, we have made a few trips back to South Africa to visit family. The most recent was in the summer of 2012 when we took our entire family with us. We visited a game park and saw a large variety of wild animals. We visited family in Johannesburg. We explored the Museum of Humankind, which displays ancient skeletons from the beginning of time. We flew to Cape Town where I had spent many summer holidays at the beach. Our children and grandchildren loved this city that grows around the flat-topped mountain and where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. However, we did not visit the small town I grew up in, whose one claim to fame is that it is the home of the rare Baobab tree. These are giant, prehistoric trees that look like they have been upended and the roots are branches. We used to play around them, have picnics under their shade and sit on the trunks that split and then lay on the ground. Our children have seen them on our earlier trips back.
Jen: It sounds like a magnificent trip. Did you take home any special souvenirs?
Ann: While visiting the African outdoor markets filled with art, our sons found a keepsake of the trip they knew we would love. It is a drawing on canvas of a baobab tree. Three things are unusual about it. One is the texture the canvas gives it. The second is the size; the canvas is 45” by 33”, but the picture is placed in the bottom two thirds of it and there is a large patch of white above the drawing. The third is that there is a small deer and other ethereal shapes sketched in at the bottom. When they gave it to me, it took my breath away. I have many keepsakes of journeys taken. Still Life of a Baobab is my favorite because it connects my past to my present.
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