Go With a Purpose.
A blog about connecting through places that matter.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Heritage Q&A With Kaleel Sakakeeny

Today’s post is next in our series of Q&As with people with a passion for heritage- and culture-related travel. Kaleel Sakakeeny, former family travel editor at Travel Weekly and a contributor to the award-winning Boston Parents Paper, e-Turbo News and Family Travel Forum.com, offers a unique perspective on the meaning of “heritage travel.” With an enviable travel pedigree, Kaleel’s insight is strengthened by his stints as the travel editor at Metro/Boston, as an on-air travel correspondent for Business Radio 1060, and as a travel expert for family viewers of “American Baby” at WCVB, Boston; WBZ-TV, Boston and WFX-TV, New England.

When Kaleel filed stories for National Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor or the Associated Press, he would often walk the streets of the Middle East, North Africa or Europe with an open microphone. He recorded the sounds of street life in those vibrant countries, and turned them into sound-rich Audio Postcards ® . They were broadcast internationally. Currently, he focuses his work on writing, and as the Director of Content: New Media Travel for Travel Video Postcard.

1. Where have you found inspiration and/or life-enrichment during your travels?
I would say it has less to do with the place, and more to do with interaction of people. Whether it was chatting with locals at a café or sipping wine beneath the trees in the former Yugoslavia or playing Backgammon in the Middle East, I have found that it is really more about the people than the destination.

2. Tell us about your most recent trip. What heritage or cultural sites did you visit?
Recently I traveled to the northern neck of Virginia, and a week or so before that, to San Antonio. In San Antonio, we were able to take in the Alamo and the missions, and you can still see what is left from the days of the conquistadors. In Virginia, too, it is hard to avoid historic places; I’m not just talking about Colonial Williamsburg or Fredericksburg, but also the state’s role in the Civil War was just so powerful.

3. What is your most memorable heritage or cultural travel experience?
I think I was most moved by Red Rock Canyon near Sedona, Arizona – the canyon there is a handful of so-called vortexes. When you are standing in the canyon, you can look up and see where Native Americans made their homes in the caves of the red rock…that look into true American heritage was just incredible. Other places would be Palmyra in Syria, or maybe Petra where you can feel the ancient civilizations. Being there makes you feel saturated with culture, tradition and times.

4. Where is one heritage or cultural destination you think everyone with your interest(s) should visit?
I don’t know for sure, but I think intuitively it should be Gettysburg…I remember the place only vaguely as I was just maybe 10, 12, maybe 13 years old. While I have vague images in my mind, every American should go there and stand on the hallowed ground. They should reflect on the greatness and complexity of the country. I know I should return as Gettysburg is the center of American history; it is an icon for all this country went through to become what it is today.

5. What sorts of things do you like to learn during your travels?

I like to learn how people live their lives, what their aspirations are, what their dreams are, and how they deal with disappointments; what are the visions people in a particular place or culture have for themselves and their families. I always want to meet locals as this is what makes the traveling worthwhile.

6. What does heritage travel mean to you?
I guess I think heritage travel is unfortunately a cumbersome term. It carries with it a connotation of history and it does not feel to me like an active term…a little too heavy with history I think in some respects. I wish heritage travel could be described as roots travel, or interactive history travel, or what about American roots travel? A term with something more to hold on to; just a thought.

7. What are your favorite heritage-and culture-rich destinations?
I am reluctant to pick just one – each speaks to us differently and at different times of lives in different ways. Anything that is authentic. I don’t like costume things, and I want something that speaks to me more naturally. It is like asking which child you favor the most – each is valuable and gives something. But, if I were pressed, maybe Turkey or Morocco – genetically I am cultured towards those experiences so I’d likely lean towards them.

If you would like to be featured in an upcoming Heritage Q&A, or know someone who travels with a purpose and finds meaning in heritage- and culture-related travel experiences, please contact us.

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