I've written a number of essays about travels that have remained unpublished because I ran out of steam. One needs to have an enormous amount of faith and confidence in their work in order to make it through the whole process of tedious manuscript revision dozens of times over, and then stomach the lengthy solicitation process. With new travels and new territory to cover, I can't always keep up the same energy for the past. Here you will find (1) essays that never quite made it to the final stages, and yet I have a certain fondness for them, (2) a few essays written for other peoples' travel blogs that have since been discontinued, (3) essays I originally wrote as chapters for an ethnographic documentary on a Chinese village ... the project, a book, didn't quite pan out, so I've given some chapters exposure here on my blog (where I can also include a lot of photos). To read my published essays, see my writing website HERE or by pressing the pretty blue "Literary SKJ" button above.
Go HERE to be taken directly to an archive only of ethnographic essays about the traditional Chinese peasant village. Below they are mixed in with other travel essays.
The Tiny Woman location Greece. A woman whose name I never knew yet particularly touched me while volunteering at a refugee camp.
The Orange Road location Chile. Memories of me and my dad backpacking in Torres Del Paine, Chile, and looking for meaning in his last days in the Alaskan wilderness.
Waking Death: A Chinese Wedding and Traditional Marriage Customs location: China. From my experiences documenting non-material traditions in a Chinese peasant village. A wedding was staged for us to witness.
To Hell and Back: Lessons Learned from Being Sick Abroad location All Over! Five tales of being sick abroad, in Peru, China, South Africa, Slovakia and Uganda. The misery, the pain, and tips for how you can avoid a similar hell.
Tofu for String Quartet location: China. This essay won an "honorable mention" at the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference, but I haven't followed up to see it published. (again with the steam issue) It's a piece I particularly like, though. I witnessed the traditional method of making tofu in a Chinese peasant village -- a process I had absolutely no clue about until I experienced it!
What Travel Has Taught Me: Empathy, Tolerance, Global Citizenship location Everywhere! I guess you could consider this the Cliff Notes or Reader's Digest Condensed version of my travel biography -- some of the most influential trips and experiences I've had that have shaped my worldview.
The Loveliest Day: Special Moments in a Chinese Peasant Village location China. I share with you one of the very best days of my life, full of culture, scenery, camaraderie, and a little bit of mystery and magic.
Things People Told Me: Stories and Conversations in African Landscapes location Southern Africa. A collection of some memorable conversations in vignettes that took place amid the amazing scenery and wildlife of southern Africa ... it was hard to know when I could trust what people said.
The Eve of Battle: Traditional Village Lands Changing on China's Loess Plateau location China. The land of China's Loess Plateau is changing, succumbing to desertification, and pushing the traditional cave-home villages from its belly into the winds of modernity, down a path with no ancestors.
Things I Keep - Observations in Guatemala location Guatemala. Some of the scenes I observe while traveling will lose their value to me if I try to explain my emotional reaction to them.
Scorpion ... harvesting little monsters while a Chinese village sleeps location China. I go for a walk at night in the Chinese village at a time when villagers are out harvesting scorpions using sticks and jars, and the air is as crisp and smooth as glass.
Vignette of an Old Woman location: China. I met a peasant woman with bound feet, the last generation of women to suffer this monstrosity. She was a paper cutter and a special soul.
Approaching David location: Italy. My unexpected reaction to the famous statue in Florence, Italy.
At Night in the Loo location around the world. I've had to use an outdoor loo in the middle of the night in various places all over the world. While it's tough to drag myself out of bed, inevitably there is the glorious silver lining of the spectacular night skies and the clarity of thought that comes with them.
My Only Prayer location China. First place winner in the Spiritual category of the WanderWomen Write Travel Writing Contest. Trying to take a warm shower at a hostel near the Labrang Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in Xiahe, China, provides perspective on the wants and needs of pilgrims who come to the monastery to have their prayers heard. (so contrary to the intro paragraph, this one was published)
Amantani location: Peru. A night I spent on Amantani Island in the middle of the Peruvian side of Lake Titikaka. A night of dancing and unbelievable stars. (and a bit of Cusquena)
The Earthen Heart: Traditional Farming in a Chinese Village location China. Written from my personal experiences staying in a small village, a look at traditional farming methods in northern China and the history behind some of practices used today and the evolution from the Cultural Revolution.
The World Inside: Blind Musicians in China location: China. location: China. I witnessed the performance of a traditional blind musician. Influenced by the movie, Life on a String, the experience caused me to ponder our inner worlds, and the world inside of me, in particular ... does it match what is on the outside?
Passenger location: Ireland. The strange little world I fall into as a passenger while my husband drives the rental cars on our sightseeing journeys.
Dragons, Land and Rain Gods: The Role of the Temple in Rural Chinese Village Life location China. The village temple in Dang Jiashan is dedicated to the Holy Mother of the 9th Heaven, villagers come to beseech her goodwill. I have my fortune told in the temple and we attend a local village's celebration.
The Warmth of Hospitality in Rural China location China. Experiencing the amazing hospitality of villagers in Dang Jiashan village, where people who have the least give the most, and the unforeseen conundrums this presented.
A Childhood Far From My Own: Growing Up in the Peasant Villages of Northern China location China. The children I spent time with in Dang Jiashan have childhoods so far removed from my own experiences in America; they are interesting, hard-working, delightful young people to be around.
I Think They're Saying They Want to Take Us for a Ride location Brazil. A life-changing afternoon in a fishing village when I discover the freedom in just saying, "Yes ... what the hell!"
Archipelago of Eve location Brazil. My personal experiences living in a village in Brazil meet fables of Biblical characters in this metaphorical piece. This is more of my creative nonfiction/literary essay style but belongs in this category of unpublished travel tales.
Riding with Rigas location: Greece. Erik and I spent a few adventurous days riding motorcycles with crazy friends in Greece. This is about the only essay I've had published as a straight-forward narrative sans my typical weird metaphorical platforms, and it was published in Prick of the Spindle. I added some photos and present to you here at SKJtravel.
Sketches of the Farm: Memoirs and Heritage in Cozad, Nebraska location Nebraska. Not a travel essay, but a small book about my time spent on my grandparents' farm. My adolescent memories, and my grandma's memories from the 1930s and beyond, from dryland farming during the Dust Bowl era all the way to the 1990s. It is actually relevant here on my travel blog because my time spent on the farm really made me into the person I am now, with the spirit and confidence to travel the world.