As Senior Program Manager at Academic Travel Abroad (ATA), I have the responsibility of visiting international destinations and inspecting all aspects of the itineraries our groups will follow. The past twelve years at ATA have given me countless opportunities to travel to and develop programs in far-flung destinations in the South Pacific, Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, Italy, Scandinavia, and Cuba , However, my recent visit to Ethiopia profoundly impacted me in a way that rarely occurs to well-seasoned travelers.
My journey followed the highland route, just like the Pacific Science Center’s itinerary. This encompasses Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Gondar, the Simien Mountains, Axum, and Lalibela. Each site I visited in these cities fascinated me and offered insight to distinct aspects of Ethiopia’s history, art, and lifestyles.
One of my favorite stops was Awaramba, a unique secular community where the people work hard to support their residents from cradle to grave. Men and women are equal, the elderly are cared for, children are not responsible for chores beyond their ability, and daily tasks are designated according to an individual’s skill.
I also enjoyed a visit to Lalibela, where the numerous rock-hewn churches are Ethiopia’s most famous site. These architectural and engineering feats are most impressive, but what also impacted me was how important these churches and the Orthodox Christian religion are to Ethiopians.
Another great surprise for me was the beautiful landscapes. The drives were never dull because there was always something new to see, whether it was extensive plains full of crops or the changing perspectives while driving through the mountains. In addition, there were always people to observe as they engaged in their daily activities—children on their way to school, people walking miles to the local market, subsistence farmers clearing crops of sorghum with ancient tools, or young boys shepherding their animals. I also kept quite busy waving back to all the people who waved to us as we drove by.
At the end of each day, I would think, “Wow, that was an amazing day.” I always enjoy my travels to other countries, but I can’t think of a time where I would consistently describe each day with such superlatives.
Academic Travel Abroad