KENAI — Some central Kenai Peninsula residents got a taste of the ancient Silk Road from right in their back yard when one of their own shared stories from her recent visit.
Kenai resident Sammy Crawford, who said she grew up interested in reading and learning about the world, regaled an audience at the Joyce K. Carver Memorial Library on Friday with tales from her trip along a portion of the Silk Road, a network of ancient trading routes that connected countries in Europe and Asia.
Co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Central Kenai Peninsula, the event was packed and left standing room only. Crawford described the architecture, cultures and histories of the countries she and a friend traveled through on the trip: Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Iran.
Crawford began travelling “from an armchair,” she told the crowd, when she learned about far off places through books as a child. She has since traveled with a close friend, with whom she recently decided to take the pre-arranged trip to the Silk Road with through a larger travel agency.
“We talked about the ‘Stans’ for a long time, you know probably the last five or six years, and said, ‘You know, we really should see the ‘Stans’, let’s do it while we can,’” Crawford said.
She gave brief histories for each country she visited during Friday’s presentation, before going into other details like the stories behind certain buildings or how people dressed or shopped.
Though Crawford said she did plenty of research before and during her trip, some things still surprised her. This was especially true of the hospitality she was met with as an American in some of the countries, like Iran.
Craword said people thinking about traveling to other parts of the world should not hold back for fear of not being safe.
“The friendliness of people, their warmth, and so excited to have Americans there,” she said of her big takeaways from her travels. “And the safety. I’ve never felt safer.”
Those who came to hear Crawford speak were curious about many subjects, from her itinerary and the food she ate to how many English speakers she met and whether people in the countries she visited were worried about global warming.
Crawford said booking trips through travel agencies and going with groups can take away some the stress that comes with coordinating a trip through multiple countries.
“I’m allergic to tours,” she said. “But, on this one, I would do it.”
And Crawford isn’t done yet — she already has her next destination planned: Azerbaijan.
“Travel’s the most wonderful thing in the world, because you can travel through your armchair like I did when I was young, or you can actually go and experience it,” she said. “You can talk about it, but it’s different when you’re actually there and having that firsthand experience is just absolutely wonderful.”
• Megan Pacer is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.