Exploring IndoChina, working in Hong Kong, interviewing Aung San Suu Kyi, a OSCE election observer in Azerbaijan, visiting Madagascar, on assignment in Benin, practicing pidgin Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, researching German emigration to Brazil, meeting with Letitia Baldrige in Washington, D.C., — Sabine Ludwig is one of those people who must be asked where she has not yet been in this world, while where she has been, evokes as much magical possibility as the Trans-Siberian Railroad journey that took her across 15 time zones, from Beijing to Moscow.
Ludwig is a freelance journalist, photographer and professional editor, who fell in love with the idea of exploring new cultures and from an early age, saved and planned to make travel possible. For years, she only shared her travel stories with a small group of friends and family. But over time, she noticed a growing trend of questions from these informal gatherings. Who are those refugee children? What is that Indian farmer doing? What’s the story behind the woman carrying a basket of clothing?
The growing level of interest eventually pushed her to discover whether she could present her stories and photos on a bigger stage. Hours of trip planning, thousands of miles and hundreds of pictures later, she is now the author of three books that chronicle her anecdotes to the general armchair-traveling world.
Wanderings in Cuba is her most recent publication. Ludwig first traveled to that country shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 to assess daily life for those now cut adrift from Soviet aid infusions. In 2006, she traveled to Cuba again when Fidel Castro announced his resignation due to health concerns. She wanted to document not only the segue of power between Castro and his brother Raul, but to also record the sights, tastes and smells of a country that had not yet submitted to tourism’s generic grip. A small excerpt of photos documenting sights in Havana, Santa Clara and Trinidad, can be found here at this link.
The miles of travel have also granted Ludwig a heightened response to various environmental, social and cultural concerns facing Third World countries. Climate Change and Development Politics, is a new book scheduled for release in 2009, while a collaboration on the increased spreading of AIDS in Africa, was published in 2007. In her spare time, Ludwig also highlights the struggles of an animal rescue operations center in Sri Lanka that works to save abused and abandoned animals. She tag teams these efforts closer to home for an organization placing unwanted Hungarian Vizsla dogs.
A fourth travelogue, Wanderings in Alaska, will document a recently completed, month-long road trip along the Alaskan Highway. This book is specifically geared toward filling a significant void in European travel bookstores. Ludwig comments that most Europeans see a visit to Alaska as the same as a visit to Mars: it’s exotic, incredible, and almost impossible to do. Consequently, it is difficult to find information on Alaskan travel experiences and the few bookstores that do carry such books, sell out quickly to readers irresistibly lured toward the siren calls of the Yukon gold rush and Alaska’s overall wilderness beauty.
Yet fascinating travel narratives don’t just involve exotic locales or interesting food choices. One of Ludwig’s most enjoyable writing projects has been a rendition of her local history called, “We Children of the 1960s-1970s,” a generational documentary of children coming of age in her hometown of Wuerzburg, Germany. It was a unique opportunity to travel back in time with old journals uncovering long-lost scents, noises and tastes of her own happy childhood. The project was all the more poignant, given the number of trips that frequently take her so far away from home. Yes, the comforts and warm familiarity of home and friends.
Travel is a lot more wearing than many writers admit. Missed travel connections, corrupt customs officials, dingy hotels, questionable food, needing medical help in a country where one is merely pidgin-fluent in the local language…For the frustrated and lonely traveler, these experiences tend to paint the idea of home in a Thomas Kinkade light.
But here’s the funny thing about travel. One day may have everything going wrong while the next day has an appointment scheduled with serendipity, as in ‘The Tale of Kim’.
In the late 1990’s, Ludwig and her husband, Enric were completing a 2-year assignment in Benin, Africa, when they met a man looking to give away his dog. King was a handsome and well-behaved Weimaraner whose owner simply didn’t want the hassle of bringing him back to Europe. King was given a home, was rechristened Kim, and eventually moved back to Germany with his new family where he earned his keep as the captivating model in one of Ludwig’s award-winning photo exhibitions, “Kim, a Dog for All Purposes”.
At this time, Ludwig will not be stopping her travels any time soon, although work and writing responsibilities should keep her local for a few months yet. At least not until the world map on her study wall reminds her once again, where she still hasn’t been….East Africa, Greenland, Borneo, Philippines, Japan, Korea, Northern India, Central Asia and finally, the North & South Poles.
Although there is still that possibility of hooking up with friends at New Years to travel north through Tanzania up the eastern African coast to Ethiopia.