After writing a letter to the editor in response to “Travels with Mom and Dad,” a 1992 New York Times article, and seeing it published in the Times, Roz Labow got the idea to write a book about her family’s travels across the globe.
Now, 25 years later, she has published Travels with Stanley: Don’t Step on the Garlic which documents her and husband Stanley’s adventures in 129 countries along with some of their rather unconventional travel rules such as no major tourist attractions, carry-on luggage only, and no reservations.
“We always have somewhere to go when we land, but the rest is up in the air,” said Roz. “We have never slept in a car.”
The book was a labour of love for Roz, a retired University of Ottawa biochemistry professor and researcher, who spent a year pouring over volumes of trip diaries that told the stories of 55 years of travel with her husband, an Ottawa plastic surgeon, and sons Brian and Daniel.
Organized for the most part like the chapters found in a travel book, Travels with Stanley is divided into sections about “getting around” and “getting there,” but also includes sections where stories from many places are lumped together. For example, in Chapter 9, “Encounters with Wildlife,” she recounts what she calls “the most popular story… the crocodile story.”
While visiting Impalila Island, Namibia, the Labows were on a boat when they heard screaming from across the river and saw a little girl in the jaws of a crocodile. Their guide trapped the croc with the boat while Stan beat its snout with his fist. When the croc finally let the girl go, she was in need of serious medical attention which the Labows took care of as best they could with what was at their disposal.
Other Roz favorites include a visit to a penguin sanctuary in Argentina and the Barcelona taxi story, but it was their encounter with the mountain gorillas of Rwanda that to this day remains her number one experience.
The subtitle of the book, “Don’t Step on the Garlic,” is “an allegory of cultural sensitivity,” according to the author, and comes from a trip to Indonesia where they were visiting rice patties and were told not to step on the garlic. “It’s about what’s important to people where they are.”
But before there was a book there was the cover picture: a well-worn pair of Mephisto shoes. “They are the pair that Stanley has worn on many trips; they are the most comfortable shoes. I took the picture long ago and said that would be the cover of the book I would write one day.”
Roz will speak about her book at the Soloway Jewish Community Centre (SJCC) on Sunday, October 29, 10:30 am. Travels with Stanley will be available for $22 and proceeds from book sales will benefit the SJCC Fitness Department.