Voyages to Unknown Destinations: Minsk, DPRK and Tbilisi

Travelling to unknown destinations like Minsk and the DPRK adds something to my life.

It is not often that I wake in the morning with a train ticket bound for a curious destination. I remember such a day some eight years ago when I boarded a train in Minsk bound for Odessa. As I recall, the train was fine, and the ticket looked more like a share certificate than a transportation voucher.

Minsk, Unknown Destination
Minsk to Kiev

Anyhow, this morning I am in Beijing, and this evening will travel overnight to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, more properly known (here) as the DPRK: the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea.

I am not sure whether it is a Republic of Democratic Peoples, or simply a Democratic Republic of People; only time will tell. It is, however, exciting.

I am here in search of new and exciting places for my clients and readers to explore, and although I have been unquestionably sluggish in writing over these past few weeks, it is not from a lack of stories, ideas or any reason other than idleness. Writing is not always easy, and once one takes a break, like exercise, it is hard to start up again.

Since we last spoke, so to speak, I have been back to The Guyanas, to Georgia and to Northern Scotland. New ideas are tumbling out all of the time, and a couple are rather interesting. Ideas are always fun, and my friend Cameron Taylor and I have had many over the years; usually they do not progress beyond the second bottle, but every so often they turn into business.

Omalo, Tusheti, Unknown Destinations
A remote Tushetian Village

One, a symposium called The Traditional Way to the Future, is such an idea. Transmogrified from the bar-idea stage to reality and public launch, this meeting will prove to be rather interesting. We will be looking at a number of unrelated disciplines ranging from Medicine, Wine Making, Justice, Engineering and others, where old and ancient knowledge is being incorporated into contemporary research.

It is simply a practical exercise in the old adage that “those who forget history are condemned to repeat it”, and will seek to bring practitioners together in a single forum to look at the power of our cumulative history.

This program, in conjunction with our colleagues from Living Roots, Ia Tabagari and John Wurderman, will take place in Tbilisi, Georgia in November 2015.

Two months earlier Cameron and I began working on a second project in Scotland that will highlight the history of two of the founders of the Canadian Pacific Railway whose roots are in Forres and Dufftown, two small communities in the country of Moray. The program, to be marketed to retirees of the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway), promises to bring the deep connections between the regions and the growth of the Canadian Dream, to light.

Which brings me to the DPRK.

For some reason unknown to me, from time to time an unseen hand plucks me away from my sensible life and points me in the direction of the completely unknown. This is actually getting harder, but this month the Unseen Hand has directed me to visit the Hermit Kingdom, and I am excited. I will, of course, be writing in considerably more detail about the visit in the next week or so, but as a start to 2014’s odd destinations, this one is a winner.


Also on the agenda are visits to Adak in May, and in July to the remote island of St. Helena. The Unseen Hand is really having its way with me.

For now, however, it is a sunny morning in Beijing, and I have to pack for the train!