This is to be my last travel column. My first was written for this newspaper in January 1983. I made some commitments to you, the readers, in that first column: "I should like to offer reasonably accurate descriptions, always keeping an eye out for the absurd, of what one might find when traveling abroad . . . We shall, therefore, attempt to explore and travel in this column inflicting critical comment on airlines, hotels, restaurants and ground operators who fail to measure up, and comment favorably on those who do."
This format, I believe, met with general acceptance by you, the readers. There were some who took issue with me on my irreverent observations, but a writer may occasionally annoy somebody, otherwise there is little point in writing a personal column.It was a remarkable experience to be able to write about what I had seen around the world and have it published each week in a newspaper.
All of that travel and all that writing taught me something very important about myself. I am grateful to the Deseret News for the 400-plus columns they were kind enough to print. I have enough now to fill a book, and I may do that.
In recording my journeys abroad I found myself writing as much about the means of travel as I did the destination itself. I always had a great weakness for small cargo ships and exotic trains. I appreciated the reader's patience with this peculiar fascination of mine about such trains as the Blue Train of South Africa, the New Delhi Mail, the Indian Pacific of Australia, the Bangkok/Singapore Express, the Iron Snake of Kenya, and the Great Ghan of central Australia. However, had it not been for these railways and the small cargo vessels I boarded, neither the reader nor I would have met that strange and diverse collection of fellow travelers who temporarily let us into their unique lives. I recall with some fondness my encounter with a proper Hindu gentleman on a train in Southeast Asia. After I had killed all the mosquitos and cockroaches in our compartment, he gave me a reproachable look and commented in a gentle voice, "Are you aware that one of these poor, assassinated creatures might well be my grandfather in another incarnation?" Such wondrous people made every journey memorable.
I want to thank you, the readers of this column, for your many kind letters and comments to me over the past eight years. (A dear friend in London once told me that I would never be a great writer because I was "neither Irish nor dead!")
It is important to me that I also thank Bill Smart, who was an extraordinary editor and general manager of the Deseret News, who encouraged me to write this column, plus Katie Clayton, Carma Wadley and Don Woodward for their kind suggestions and good humor over the years.
I feel extremely lucky to have known so many good people and to have seen so many remarkable places in this world.