Travelers' Intercom

On our day tour in mainland China, children in an elementary school performed for us. Photos by Stephen Addison

The current COVID-19 pandemic is the most recent, and by far the worst, of a series of coronavirus outbreaks over recent decades. For multiple reasons, COVID-19 poses a high risk to me, so, like many others around the world, I’m hunkered down and not traveling. I wasn’t always so concerned.

The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic of 2002 to 2004 started in, and primarily impacted, China, especially Hong Kong. The CDC issued travel alerts for Taiwan and...


Reading the reader’s letter “Fado Experience in Lisbon” (Nov. ’20, pg. 12) reminded me of a similar experience my wife and I had in June 2018.

Instead of listening to the usual women fado performers one finds in Lisbon, we decided to visit a small university town in central Portugal called Coimbra, where fado is sung by men only, former students at the university.

It was a unique and entertaining one-hour performance, featuring two singers and two...

In Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on special occasions, Registan Square is lit at night. Photo by Nick Stooke

While my wife, Michaele, and I traveled with a group through the Five ’Stans with JMG Tours (Lauderhill, FL; 866/548-4238, in April 2017, we came across one of Central Asia’s most impressive restorations of medieval Islamic architecture: Registan Square in the city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan, along the old Silk Road.

Its three madrasas had been the hub of the Timurid Empire Renaissance. The square was a place where royal proclamations were read and...

Inbound kestrel. Photos by Donna Pyle

ITN is temporarily accepting brief write-ups about the US. Information on independent travel. cultural and traditional sites and sources of handmade crafts plus little-known natural wonders are welcome. Avoid touting commercial theme parks, casinos or highly publicized touristy sites.

Email or write to Travelers’ Intercom USA, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818.


Back in the 1990s, I was given a copy of the old WPA (...


If any travelers are like me and like to help their fellow man by donating blood when they can, a change in blood bank policies is worth noting.

In the past, after traveling to a malaria-infected country, any blood donor would be deferred from donating for one year. I discovered recently that, after someone travels to a malaria-infected country, donation is now allowed after only three months’ deferral.

Please check with your local blood donation center to see if you can...


Here is a new pastime I use to help counter the COVID-induced travel doldrums. I grab my newly arrived copy of “Europe by Rail” (authored by Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries), randomly select a page and begin an armchair train journey.

I just turned to page 266, “Route 29 Maritime Cities.” The route takes me from Amsterdam to Oslo the slow way, via train, with complete information about frequency and distances of trains for nine stops along the way. For example...

This banyan tree in the botanical garden El-Hamma Jardin d’Essai was used by Johnny Weissmuller in at least one of his 1930s Tarzan movies — Algiers.

As part of my continuing quest to “see the world,” during four trips taken from July 2018 to March 2020, I visited the many countries in Western and Central Africa that I had previously missed, leaving only the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

Except for being one of 10 members on a group tour of Niger and Burkina Faso (organized by UK-based Lupine Travel [phone +44 1942 497 209,]), I planned and arranged all of these trips myself. Based on what...

A few of my souvenir masks, now wearing masks, collected worldwide. Photos by Donna Judd

In the past 25 years, I’ve collected about 50 masks from six continents.

The first mask cost me about $10 in Kenya in 1995, while my brother splurged on a $40 one. As we continued collecting, our unofficial guidelines became that a mask had to be bought in the country of origin and cost less than $40. However, I quickly blew past that second stipulation as I gathered masks of camel bone, gourd, ceramic, turtle shell, bamboo, seashells, feathers, fused sand, blown glass, woven...