My Deep-Sea Orbit Into a Love of Place

Travel Blog  •  Joanna Kakissis  •  07.01.09 | 1:41 PM ET

The deep, clean dive into the sea off Southwestern Greece probably sealed my lifelong attachment to the pristine in places. I was 9 years old and, until then, had only swam in chlorinated swimming pools and muddy river water in landlocked North Dakota. My father had grown up swimming in a secluded beach near the village of Kyparissia as a young orphan and had associated its salty breath and blue-green water with a wanderlust that would turn him dreamy-eyed even as a middle-aged man. To him, travel at its most elemental was about the unadorned land, enlivened by tides and breeze and hulking mountains. He described his childhood beach so lovingly that it almost sounded human.

But we travelers have not always been kind to the lands we visit or inhabit. We trash, we exploit, we frequent big-box resorts that often pollute and disfigure the land and take its culture hostage. We can’t keep doing this, of course, and still expect the places we love to stay intact. So how can we be responsible, environmentally conscious travelers without losing the spontaneity of travel itself? I’ve tried to answer that question in bits as World Hum’s ecotourism blogger during the past few months. And I’ve enjoyed the exploration, which has included both the serious (a proposed air travel levy to help developing countries deal with climate change) and the showbiz (my eco-songs list and unsuccessful plea to join the Oscars losers at the Galapagos.) I’ll keep trying to find the right balance between fun and mindfulness in my own travels (which include Bangladesh this fall), and I hope you will too.

Because that’s a main reason we travel—to discover a place so healthy, magnetic and invigorating that we want to take care of it. It’s how I first felt so long ago when my father and I plunged deep beneath the waves off his childhood beach. Even in the muted light of the sea, the seascape was clear: dunes, sea-grass hills, darting sea life, swaying plants. My father, shy and bookish and far more graceful underwater than on land, glided in elated circles around a glittery school of fish. I followed his deep-sea orbit, hugging the strange beauty around me, and wishing we never had to come up for air.

Joanna Kakissis's writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The Washington Post, among other publications. A contributor to the World Hum blog, she's currently a Ted Scripps fellow in environmental journalism at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

2 Comments for My Deep-Sea Orbit Into a Love of Place

Jon 07.01.09 | 3:25 PM ET

This is an incredibly evocative article about travel,social responsibility and memories.I have read many eco-travel related articles lately, and"My Deep-Sea Orbit into a Love of Place” sums up the thousands of words into one neat bundle.Thanks


Maureen Lopez 07.02.09 | 6:35 AM ET

Wow!! It must have been superb feeling. Well for me too beaches are always a beautiful places to relax where you forget all stresses and pains of life and became a child once again. I also like to enjoy beach vacations.


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