The following affordable travel ideas were submitted by readers.
During MOTHER EARTH NEWS' 1979 tour of the Soviet Union, one of our participants—who was on his first trip to that country—was nevertheless able to line up, in advance, people to visit all across the USSR. Their common ground was a knowledge of the international language, Esperanto.
Now, another reader—Joseph F. Conroy—has written to tell us more about the worldwide community of Esperantists, perhaps the planet's first culture in which no one group dominates another linguistically.
"Esperanto," Joseph explains, "was invented in Poland almost 100 years ago. It's designed to be easy to learn, so there are no troublesome verb conjugations and no exceptions to the rules ...and since each letter has only one sound, spelling and reading are a snap to master. What's more, English speakers will quickly recognize most of the words.
"What does all this have to do with travel? Well, since there's no Esperanto land, we Esperantists have to search one another out. One way to do this is to offer bed and board to those from other parts, and—in our circles—other parts' can be just about anywhere in the world!
"For example, in 1980 I obtained a list of names and addresses—it's available to all Esperanto speakers—called Pasporta Servo. Each person on it was ready to put me up for a couple of nights in return for a few dollars and some good conversation. Additionally, all the Esperantists I stayed with in France, Germany, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Spain, and England—were eager to show off their local areas, so I got to see and do things far from the usual tourist routes, and not once did I have a language problem!
"This year, I'm visiting the People's Republic of China at the invitation of the Peking Esperanto Club, and I look forward to speaking without the need of translators and without having to undertake the long, arduous, and perhaps futile study of Chinese. As opposed to the time required to master that tongue, it takes only about a half-hour of daily practice, for a month, to learn to speak basic Esperanto. That's not much of an investment in time to 'purchase' freedom to go anywhere in the world and find friends." For more information about learning the language or local groups in your area contact Esperanto USA.
Back in 1906, Arkansas farmer John Huddleston was working his fields near the Little Missouri River when he saw a glittering stone roll from his plowshare. That pebble, as it turned out, was the first diamond to be found in what is now the Crater of Diamonds State Park, the only mine in North America that yields the precious gems in quantity. There, for an entrance fee of $2.00 for adults and $1.00 for children, you can search for diamonds and more than 100 other types of unusual stones and minerals, including opals, agates, garnets, amethysts, quartz, calcite, and barite. Whatever you find is yours to keep—no matter what the value—and a park geologist will also weigh and certify your stones free of charge. Any "lucky strikes" you might make probably won't compete with the 40.23-carat "Uncle Sam" diamond unearthed there in 1924, but visitors do report an average of 200 diamond finds a year. Park officials note that many discoveries are likely not disclosed. (Just last September, a group of six people found 110 diamonds!)
This paradise for rockhounds—located two miles southwest of Murfreesboro on State Highway 301—also offers modern campsites, an information center, a gift/ rock shop, a cafe, and a picnic area. For further information, contact Crater of Diamonds State Park.