Far From Home: Father-Daughter Travel Adventures

Edited by Wendy Knight (Seal Press)

EXCERPT From “Loo Paper and Coke” by Alexandra Fuller, adapted from her fabulous memoir Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight.

DAD TAKES VANESSA AND ME with him while he’s out looking for stray wild cattle and fencing the vast, unfenced ranch.  We drive for two days to reach this particular herd.  Dad is in the front, smoking, alone with his thoughts.  Vanessa and I are in the back of the Land Rover with the dogs and the African laborers, bumping with our skinny bottoms on the spare tire and singing against the loud scream of the diesel engine cutting through roadless land, “If you think Ah’m sexy and you want my body…”  The Africans are crouched, quiet, gently rocking with the sway of the Land Rover.  We travel for two days like this, blowing out tires on camel thorns, climbing over fallen trees, churning through dried-out flash-flood riverbeds.

“Come on,” Dad shouts, “everybody getoutandpush!”

EXCERPT from “The Crucible of Adventure,” by moi

Zoe, atop an elephant in Chitwan National Park, Nepal

AS THE SUPERHEATED NIGHT in Borneo wore on, Zoe became increasingly freaked out by the tropical menaces, including monster beetles we had seen crawling around the bathroom, intermittent power failures, and the general oppressiveness of the jungle humidity.  I realized the irony:  By showing Zoe the diversity of the natural world, I had inadvertently helped make her increasingly fearful of it.

That irony nagged at me, since I felt acutely that the challenge of getting American children to connect with the natural world had become so much more imposing — even in the single generation that had passed since I was a kid.  It made me feel like an old curmudgeon, but I was certain that Zoe’s generation had a higher hurdle to clear to be engaged in any part of the world not attached to a joystick.  I’d read all about the pitfalls of raising MTV-generation children — of our kids’ shorter attention spans and increasingly demanding requirements for fast-paced entertainment.  Teachers bemoan the challenge of keeping students on task when they’re accustomed to flashing images that change three times per second

It was possible, I realized, that Zoe would come to love the natural world on her own. Frankly, I don’t remember my parents pointing out particularly beautiful sunsets or robins’ nests to me when I was a child, and I grew up to be a bona fide tree-hugger…

Zoe and park ranger in Tanzania