Journey with the Caterpillar: A Conversation

An interview story I wrote about a travel book author and his trip to a remote area of Indonesia appears in the latest issue of Cargo Literary magazine. I connected with the author, Shivaji Das, on the website Goodreads, and I enjoyed learning about his travels, especially since I am positive I will never visit Indonesia. You can read about Shivaji’s trip here.

Working on the story made me realize how much I’ve learned about the world through books, music and movies. It’s pretty sad because although I possess a vagabond spirit, in reality I am afraid to travel far from home.

For example, I’ve never visited Ireland but I aim to go someday. Still, I feel like I’ve soaked up Irish culture by attending Irish music festivals and listening to the sounds of The Pogues, The Elders, The Chieftains, Van Morrison and U2.

I’ve also learned about Irish life by reading James Joyce’s Dubliners, Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes and the poems of W.B. Yeats. And after seeing The Quiet Man, the 1952 film directed by John Ford, I became determined to visit Ireland before I die.

The  Quiet Man, 1952.

The Quiet Man, 1952

I was enamored by the lush green landscape captured on celluloid and I loved watching the conflict play out between John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara (although my favorite character in the movie is little Michaleen, portrayed by actor Barry Fitzgerald).

Maureen O'Hara and John  Wayne

Maureen O’Hara and John Wayne

On a similar note, although I am Italian-American, I have not traveled to Italy yet and I can’t speak the language (with the exception of some Americanized profanity I picked up from my maternal grandfather Fiore). Yet I feel I have absorbed a bit of Italian culture through Italian cinema—namely The Bicycle Thief, Umberto D. and Cinema Paradiso, not to mention The Godfather trilogy.

Of course, I would prefer a more immersive travel experience—a chance to meet real Italians and real Irish people, not fictional characters. One day I would like to walk cobblestone streets in a small Irish village, visit some pubs in Dublin, sip coffee at an outdoor café in Rome or take a gondola ride in Venice, etc. But since limited finances and vacation time stand in the way of international travel, it’s good to know I can rely on literary and cinematic substitutes to give me a global perspective.