A Lao Village Along the Mekong

The splashing of water lures me out to my stern balcony. They must be diving under the ship to fix the faulty propeller, I think. As I lean over the edge of the railing, I discover I am wrong: four Lao children are swimming gleefully around the boat on a competitive circuit, the weakest swimmer … Continue reading

Cuba: Survival with Passion

Dear Friends, I confess, I love the stories behind a revolution. They are exciting, bold, romantic, epic. They also entail struggle, pain, blood and death.  Unlike wars between nations, revolutions attempt to throw out an old system and replace it with something fresh, more just, more virtuous. Idealism runs rampant until reality sets in and … Continue reading

Sure, we’re a global power–but are we global citizens?

Dear Friends, I remember my father telling of his frustration and powerlessness during a meeting of top American officers in Saigon in the 1960s.  They discussed strategies that made no sense, they exhibited a complete ignorance of Vietnam and the Vietnamese people, they discounted advice from their fellow officers who had seen combat in this … Continue reading

Travelers and Hosts: The Best in Us

Dear Friends, Over the years, I have developed a theory: a good traveler makes the very best of friends.  In other words, if you can travel the world comfortably, adjusting good-humoredly to the unexpected, respecting other cultures, tasting new cuisines and dishes, appreciating your hosts, and remaining gracious through discomfort, then you are not only … Continue reading

Tribute to the Sands of Egypt

Dear Friends, The tale of the Egyptian Prince Tutmosis III and his encounter with the Sphinx of Giza fascinates me.  On a hunting trip in the Valley of the Gazelles some time before his reign, Tutmosis III decided to take a nap to escape the midday sun. He chose the shade below the head (the only visible … Continue reading

Never a Dull Moment

Dear Friends, When an earthquake occurred in China during students’ spring break, and an Icelandic  volcano spewed ash across European skies, and Greeks threw projectiles on Syntagma Square in Athens, several friends and professional associates asked me the same question: “Why are you in this crazy business?!” Well, it all harks back to why we … Continue reading

Language: More than a Practical Portal

  Dear Friends, One of the greatest human urges is to communicate. At an early stage, our toddlers demonstrate the frustration they feel when their meaning or intents are not understood for lack of language skills—sippy cups are thrown to the floor; food is flung from the high chair.  The message is clear: we want … Continue reading

The Beauty of Group Travel

Dear Friends, It’s been a while since my last post.  The fall was busy and marked by a trip to China in October that will go down in my mind as one of the greatest group travel experiences ever. This National Geographic journey started in Beijing and wove its way south through Xi’an, Chongqing, the Yangzi … Continue reading

Going Back: Kinsale, Ireland

Dear Friends, Having spent the first half of my life changing homes every two years, there was only one constant place in my world: Folly House, Kinsale, County Cork, Ireland. This was the house my parents bought in 1972 to allow their four daughters to escape the oppression of Algerian summers. This was the house … Continue reading

Kate Simpson on the Smithsonian Journeys blog

Below is the latest blog from Kate Simpson, President of Academic Travel Abroad as seen on the Smithsonian Journeys blog page: China: Understanding Etiquette July 1st, 2009 by Kate Simpson Kate Simpson is President of Academic Travel Abroad, where she began her career as a China Program Manager in 1998 after completing a degree in East … Continue reading