An Armchair Traveler Longs to Hit the Road

I’ve been an armchair traveler these days. It started a few weeks ago when I waved good-bye, electronically, of course, to Maren Beck as she left for Xam Tai, Laos. She was off to lead a small group of textile enthusiasts through the hill tribe villages of Vietnam and Laos. Maren, co-author of Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos, has known the textile artisans of these villages for over a decade as she and husband Josh (and co-author) travel there often to buy textiles for their fair trade business Above the Fray. What better way to experience silk spinning and weaving, natural dyeing, and the culture of a place than with seasoned travelers who take you to visit their longtime friends. And all the better if they can teach you to reel silk and weave cotton! I’ve been enjoying the pictures Maren has been posting of their journey. On this particular cold and snowy Colorado day, I’m imagining myself in warm and lush Houaphon Province, watching Seuk reel silk and toasting the day with Beer Lao. If you share my fantasy, have heart. Maren will be leading another trip in October and more in 2020.

Seuk reeling silk from the steaming water in the reeling pot. Photo by Joe Coca from Silk Weavers of Hill Tribe Laos by Maren Beck and Joshua

Then just last week authors Mary Anne Wise and Cheryl Conway began leading the 8th Multicolores Rug-Hooking Tour. They’ve developed a brilliant idea for textile travel: They pair North American rug hookers (or those who want to learn to hook the Maya way!) with an artist from the Multicolores rug-hooking cooperative. The duos spend ten days traveling in Guatemala learning from each other, shopping textile markets together, and nurturing a new friendship along the way. Mary Anne has been sending pictures and videos and stories, updating us on the lives of these Maya women as the trip progresses. You can follow along on their Facebook page and join me in my armchair traveler pursuits. These photos and stories take me back to happy days of zooming through the Guatemala highlands with Mary Anne and Cheryl to visit the Multicolores artists. Wish I were on the tour to catch up with everyone and congratulate them on their continued success. You can learn more about Multicolores and the rug-hooking tours in Mary Anne and Cheryl’s book Rug Money: How a Group of Maya Women Changed Their Lives through Art and Innovation.

armchair traveler
Left: Rug-hooking artist Bartola autographs a copy of Rug Money for her North American rug-hooking buddy on the 2019 tour. Right: Nicholasa and her North American buddy exchange gifts during this year’s tour. Photos by Mary Anne Wise.

And now author Cynthia LeCount Samaké has just departed for Bolivia to lead yet another Behind the Scenes textile travel tour. I sure did want to tag along with her on that trip as she expertly navigates the streets of Oruro, guiding her band of travelers through the textile and costume extravaganza of Carnival. Check out the details of Carnival and Anata Andina in her new book A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia, and you’ll want to make the trip, too.

Armchair traveler
Celebrants in the Anata Andina festival in Oruro, Bolivia. Anata Andina is an indigenous celebration held before Carnival. Photo by Cynthia LeCount Samake from her book A Textile Traveler’s Guide to Peru and Bolivia.

Susan Schaefer Davis, author of Women Artisans of Morocco, is gearing up for more tours to Morocco this spring, one of them is a second ClothRoads/Thrums Books tour where travelers are able to visit the artisans featured in her book.

armchair traveler
Weaver Aicha Duca with Susan Schaefer Davis in Morocco. Photo by Joe Coca from Women Artisans of Morocco.

They’re hard to keep track of, our authors. They flit about the globe guiding, teaching, collecting, learning, changing lives. I long to hit the road with them and meet their textile friends along the way. In the meantime, it’s the armchair for me–and a few really good books.

—Karen Brock

Thrums Books—supporting your textile travel adventures, at home or around the world.

Travel guides

Malcare WordPress Security