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Welcome to

the observer effect

a podcast of travel stories

 

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Home


Welcome to

the observer effect

a podcast of travel stories

 

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Stories of change

This podcast documents my encounters overseas. In each episode, a stranger tells me the story of how travel has changed them. I want to capture the warmth of conversations between travelers and the insights we take from new places. I am curious how listening changes us too, how to get better at it, and how listening affects the listened to—in other words, the observer effect.

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Mr. Book

Just before I left Hsipaw, Burma, Mr. Book invited me to visit his 94-year-old teacher. Sao Myo Cit welcomed us into her bamboo house and explained that in 1953 she won a fellowship—the only that year—to study in London and afterwards decided to devote her entire career to the students back in her village, like Mr. Book, who sat next to me with his chin in his palms, beaming. She spoke with eyes closed, and I studied her wrinkles, imagining her youth abroad. She still teaches now, but for free.

As we listened, a toddler came up the steps and knelt behind her with a small chocolate. Then another arrived silently with a pear. Another brought a tamarind, until there were a dozen. Finally, she interrupted her story to say, “Excuse me. I have to bless these children.” I witnessed the gift that passes between the experienced and the inexperienced, and since then, not only do I want to be a 94-year-old teacher but I try harder to listen and understand how encounters like these shape us.

Of all the books on the shelf in his shop, Mr. Book plucked one to urge me to read—W. Somerset Maugham’s The Summing Up.

Episode 51: The Summing up

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Featured Episodes


"I came back from each of my journeys a little different ...

 

Featured Episodes


"I came back from each of my journeys a little different ...

 

FEATURED EPISODES

42 KENYA

WHERE ANNA KIDNAPPED A BABY

35 ATHENS

WHERE FREUD LED US ASTRAY

75 IRAQ

WHERE TRAVIS FELT A TUG ON HIS JACKET

89 SAHARA

WHERE ILHAM SLID DOWN A DUNE

70 CHICAGO LIVE SHOW

WHERE ANNE TOOK OFF HER HIJAB

47 SYRIA

WHERE BINTA MET AN OLD MAN

30 NORWAY

WHERE ORRY WENT IN SEARCH OF DEEP WINTER

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Latest Episode


"... it never occurred to me that my new experiences were having an effect on me, and it was not till long afterwards that I saw how they had formed my character. In contact with all these strange people I lost the smoothness I had acquired when, leading the humdrum life ... I was one of the stones in a bag. I got back my jagged edges. I was at last myself."

—W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM, The Summing up

Latest Episode


"... it never occurred to me that my new experiences were having an effect on me, and it was not till long afterwards that I saw how they had formed my character. In contact with all these strange people I lost the smoothness I had acquired when, leading the humdrum life ... I was one of the stones in a bag. I got back my jagged edges. I was at last myself."

—W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM, The Summing up

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Any careful word may suggest a route out of which much, or all, will develop.
— Annie Dillard