“We wanted to go to hot, intense places together, to cities where open markets breathed that sweaty, fish-gutty, trash-burning smell that cling to travelers’ memories forever. We had each whiffed it before, this odor of deep travel, but it was something else to embark as husband and wife to seek it together.”
Joshua Berman had already clocked adventures in developing countries when he met his bride-to-be, Sutay, a registered nurse and doula. From his Peace Corp service in Nicaragua to ten years spent in Central America, by 2004 he had become a well-published freelance travel writer. Sutay was also no stranger to the trials of rugged back country travel—she too had served in the Peace Corp, in a rural village of The Gambia where conditions were primitive at best. Both loved the excitement and surprises that come from exploring the world.
They married in 2004. Rather than spending for an elaborate wedding and honeymoon, they agreed they would travel, volunteering along the way and exploring remote regions that called to them. In 2005 they set out on a wild sixteen months of travel, including some territories considered dangerous today. From Pakistan to India, from Ghana to The Gambia, and many places along the way, the couple experienced life-changing adventures, illness, exhaustion, and saw each other under both the worst and best conditions. Crocodile Love: Travel Tales from an Extended Honeymoon (Tranquilo Travel Publishing 2015) is the tale of their 16-month, 16-country honeymoon. Joshua Berman writes well and he turned “hundreds of thousands of words—blog posts, journal entries, and published articles—” into a page turner!
For more than two decades, I traveled (often solo) to many developing countries and remote regions. I know well the experience of sleeping in the “best” lodging in town and leaving the lights on all night to keep the cockroaches at bay, a chair jammed under the door knob for security, of being places where there was no phone service, fax machines were turned on only once a day, if that, and having no way to be found in an emergency. I loved it and wouldn’t trade those memories for anything.
Now I enjoy my comforts when I travel—but when I find a book like Berman’s that carries me vividly away to places I never made it to and helps me experience once again the thrill of the unexpected, the arrangements gone wrong that lead to something wondrous, and, as an added delight, the story of a couple who experience it together, I am hooked!
If you, too, love armchair travel, this book lets you be there, while sipping a lovely mojito with your feet up. A few highlights:
- Travel in Pakistan to explore Sutay’s unique family legacy there, with some very dicey adventures along the way.
- Life as a volunteer for three months on a tea plantation in India and two months with the Planned Parenthood Association of Ghana.
- Unique experiences with new friends during local celebrations of some of the world’s great religions.
- Sutay’s reunion with those she lived among as a Peace Corp volunteer in a remote mud-hut Gambian village, where she was given her now officially adopted name, Sutay, and ten years later is still well-remembered.
Of course this short list does not begin to touch on all of the details that are a part of what is essentially a love story, one that celebrates the world and its peoples along with a young couple’s union. It’s a brave story, too, because extended travel lets us see the worst as well as the best of our partners. To risk that with open arms and have the relationship rise to the challenge is more than a good start to a marriage—it’s a solid foundation.
For those in Colorado, there will be a book launch on February 18th, 7 p.m., at Boulder’s Innisfree Poetry Bookstore & Café
NOTE: All photos courtesy of Joshua Berman.
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