Travelogue: Volume One

T he SOTRU team brings you a collection of stories from the road. Host Al Letson reflects on the show and plays some of his favorite stories mixed with unheard interviews. We’ll also hear a story about a road trip that completely shifted Al’s life.


  • john

    Hey folks. I love the show, keep up the good work. I want to comment on the last segment of this episode, the story of Al’s trip to Malawi. I just get weird feelings when people make statements about Africa as a continent because it almost always seems to involve broad generalizations. Early in the segment Al says “That night felt like a first kiss. Africa became my new love. And the rest of the time I was there was like a courtship. And she seduced me slowly.” I guess I feel weird about the idea that 3.5 weeks in Malawi would enable one to proclaim love for a whole continent because it assumes that a small experience can be used to extrapolate assumptions that can be applied to the entire continent. And I feel like this reduction is fairly unique to our attitudes towards Africa. People don’t go to Sao Paulo for a month and say they’ve fallen in love with South America or spend a few weeks in Shenzhen and say they’ve fallen in love with Asia. I think we often ignore the incredible diversity of culture and landscape and all that when we talk about Africa, that our perceptions of Africa are often very reductionist.

    Anyways. I’m definitely not trying to insinuate that Al’s a bad dude or anything and I certainly don’t doubt that his experience was powerful and life-changing. But I think that the words that we use are important and I would challenge him to re-consider the way he frames his experience.


    • SOTRU

      Hi John! Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and I’m incredibly sorry it’s taken us so long to respond (for some reason we didn’t get a notification about your post). Would you mind emailing me at contact (at) stateofthereunion(dot)com and we can start a dialogue? Thank you.

  • Dear Al, I just heard the story of the trip to Malawi. Brought me to tears. I know that feeling…but it’s been years…and I miss it terribly. My experience was different than yours…but the same. Anybody who has felt anything like it will understand that. I hesitate to even describe my experience, because I feel the same way you did in the Land Rover when people were intellectualizing their experience in the prison. It’s not something I’m willing to defend or attempt to analyze. The most I am willing to say is that I simply felt “at home” for the first time in my life. Thanks for the reminder.

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