How it began
My academic background is political theory, in which field I have a Master's. My ethnic background is Irish-American. Put those two together and you get, in my case, a great interest in Irish politics and history. I studied Irish history for many years and finally went to Ireland for the first time in 1978. I went back 17 times. Finally my Aunt said to me, "You know there are other countries in the world besides Ireland." So I sat down and made a list of top priority countries I wanted to see and began to travel the world. When I worked, I would sometimes go on two trips a year. Usually only one country at a time so I could really get to know it better.
Because my interests still are history and politics, I am sort of a serious traveler. I have been to India twice, after several years of studying its history of colonial oppression. I went to Russia some years ago after the fall of Communism and bought an icon of the last Tsar on the streets of Moscow. Who ever thought that would happen!
One of my favorite regions in the entire world is Eastern Europe. The spirit of the people is astounding. Their appreciation of freedom is heart-breaking. In July 2009, I will be traveling alone to Estonia, a little country with much courage and heart. For those of you who want to see an inspiring documentary of this country, check out "The Singing Revolution."
I try and stay away from tourist traps and I prefer to walk around on my own and talk to the people. Looking back, I have sometimes put myself at risk, like when I hired a private guide to go alone down an Asian river to land on one of the outlaying islands of Laos on Christmas Day, or when I walked the streets of Cairo alone to talk to folks on the street. Another time in Morocco, I had gone into a shop looking for a copy of the Koran and the merchant was so impressed that an American had that intesest, that he invited me to go out on the desert with him the next day, alone. When I travel, I meet people with an open heart and an open mind and so far, I have not been hurt by it.