|New Year Message
by Michael Palin on 10 January 2005 5:42pm
|For all travellers the new year was tainted by the final events of the old year. A hugely powerful Indian Ocean earthquake resulted in an unfamiliar word entering the global consciousness and dominating the headlines as 2005 began.
A tsunami, (from the Japanese tsu, harbour, and nami, wave), sped across the ocean and inundated coastal areas with devastating force. As I write the death toll is 160,000.
The scale of the disaster has shocked everyone and I'm sure there will be those who frequent this site who may well have lost friends or family. My thoughts and those of all at Palin's Travels are with you, as they are with the families and friends of thousands of others we don't know, but whose lives will never be the same again.
Nothing we can do will turn the clock back and restore life and livelihood to the way it was before the waves struck, but we can do everything possible to alleviate future suffering in the devastated areas.
Many of you have already given to the relief effort and we're setting up links with various organisations via this site. Please don't stop helping, just because the tsunami story is no longer on the front page. We owe it to all of those whose lives have been destroyed, not to forget.
There was certainly no evidence of "compassion fatigue" in the heartening response of ordinary people to the tragedy, and I hope this might be an indication that many people are restless and uncomfortable with the amount of stuff we are asked to consume and feel much happier giving some of their hard-earned income to people in need rather than boosting the profits of those in very little need at all.
Need before greed sounds a bit like an advertising slogan but I have the feeling it's something that sums up what many of us really believe.
I personally favour some of the smaller charities where I can see my money being spent in an area of need with which I can understand and identity.
Farm Africa, Motivation and LEPRA all come into this category, but I've also seen the work done by Oxfam in providing fresh drinking water to villages in Africa and was hugely impressed.
I find the best way to give is to commit to putting something aside on a consistent and regular basis. Making giving a habit rather than a one-off reaction.
Whatever, the generosity of the tsunami appeal contributions, is a ray of light in a dark start to the New Year.
It will be interesting to hear your thoughts, ideas and experiences of the disaster. There have been suggestions, for instance that coastline protected by mangrove trees suffered less from the tsunami than areas where the mangrove had been pulled up to create tourist facilities. Yet the economies of many of the countries hit by the disaster depend on tourism. How far should we go in adapting the natural world to the artificial requirements of tourists. Food for thought. What do Palin's Travellers think ?
On the home front I am still reeling from the enthusiastic reactions to Himalaya, which make it a very hard act to follow. So many things have to be right, the place, the crew, health and physical stamina, commitment to a long and sometimes arduous slog. When we are making the series and putting the books together there isn't much time for a life outside travelling, and that's what I intend to have for the foreseeable future.
Of course I shall be looking at maps, and reading books and timetables as avidly as I ever did before, but for a while at least they will lead me on a few trips of my own. Into Europe, for instance. I'm aware that in the last four years I've largely seen Europe from 30,000 feet up on dark mornings in planes returning from Africa or the Far East. It's time for me to stop vaulting over my own continent.
So that's one New Year resolution. The other resolution? Not to make any resolutions.
Michael Palin, London
January 10, 2005