As a young kid, I spent countless hours scanning my parents’ bookshelves, flipping through pages in search of pictures and ignoring nearly everything else. I wanted to be transported out of rural eastern Ontario to somewhere — anywhere, please! — fantastical, and the seemingly endless lines of text in most of mum and dad’s books couldn’t take a boy who had just started learning to read far enough away. I say “ignoring nearly everything else” because there was an exception. Among all those books I disregarded, there was one I kept returning to: Where the Bong Tree Grows, American writer James Ramsey Ullman’s 1963 South Pacific travelogue. What drew me in was the illustrated map that extended across the inside front cover and first page. What kind of name was Bora Bora, anyway? And could you really take a Solent Flying Boat — whatever that was — from Samoa to Tahiti? Might I one day paddle an outrigger canoe around the Austral Islands? Where the Bong Tree Grows was my initial brush with the life-changing potential of travel, and I thought of it before assigning the first feature for this issue, Stephen Smith’s tale of island hopping in Tahiti. Ullman’s book may have exercised some influence on my unconscious because three of the other four features in these pages also cover destinations that are, arguably, far-flung, or at the very least on the geographic periphery of something: Bonaire, the Florida Keys and Canada’s East Coast. Whatever the location of these and the other stories in this issue — be it British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, Japan, Lima’s bohemian quarter, California or Istanbul — I hope they have the same effect on you as Where the Bong Tree Grows had on me.
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