Five places that made me: Broadcaster Richard Bangs

Richard Bangs learned the kindness of strangers in Arabia Felix.THE COLORADO RIVER IN THE GRAND CANYON
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Like many college students, I suffered my share of menial jobs: bellboy, waiter, paperboy. But when I applied for a summer job guiding the Colorado and got it, I discovered a world that spun my axis of identity to a new path and plane. The bright canyon walls arched into the clouds; tributary waterfalls spilled diamonds; the rapids were oceanic, tossing rafts like corks in a storm … everything seemed larger than life. After one trip (which led to 30 more), I was transformed … I was no longer a college student slouching towards an uncertain future …. I was a River Guide! ETHIOPIA

After graduating college, I decided to take a gap year before law school. I made my way to Ethiopia, the Tibet of Africa, with an average elevation over a mile high, and some of the lowest and highest points in the continent. I was dazzled by the landscape, wildlife and people, so different than anything I had witnessed to that point. At some point I realised I could never go back to the lifelessness and slog of law school, so I started a company, Sobek, with a mission of exploration and sharing original experiences. And I’m still pursuing that mission today. PAPUA NEW GUINEA

I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area, and took several field trips to the National Gallery, taking in a share of Matisse, Munch and Monet. But I was not prepared for the flamboyant art of New Guinea. Wherever I turned in PNG there was art, and it spoke to me as something raw, original, and brash with feeling. I’ve been collecting art from Papua New Guinea ever since. YEMEN

In Arabia Felix I learned the kindness of strangers. In a covered market in the north of Yemen near the Saudi border, I meandered down a smoky, teeming alley thick with the tintinnabulations and perfumes of Arabia … and got hopelessly lost. I asked directions from shop owners and shoppers alike, but none understood English, and I knew little Arabic. But then a bearded man with a curved knife on his belt came to me and offered me his hand. He then led me on a twisting journey out of the souk, and to the steps of my hotel. When I offered to pay him, he just smiled and nodded no. Ever since, whenever I see someone lost or directionally confused, I approach and offer assistance. NORTH KOREA

After years of trying, I finally secured permission to take a group of Americans to North Korea on tour, the first in more than 50 years. It was a leap of faith when in Beijing we were asked to put our mobile phones in a bag, to be returned upon exiting. And we were informed there would be no internet access, and no communication with the outside world. But, I went forward with 19 plucky American travellers, and we were treated like royalty as we explored the cities and stunning national parks and met people as kind and curious and happy as any in the world. It helped me assert that we are all interconnected, no matter the propaganda or spin, and that if we trust the better human nature, we can reach hands across ideologies and politics, and find the common joys of life.

Richard Bangs will lead Adventure World’s 10-day Discover Suriname small group experience, departing April 20.  See adventureworld南京夜网419论坛.

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