A girl named Sue


rom time to time, I discover that some industry colleague has what we may call a nonstandard travel history, perhaps of youthful global jaunts or lengthy sojourns in Third World countries.

Giants president Sue Shapiro is one of those colleagues. She got my attention when she announced, "I've been to Burma, too."

I soon learned quite a bit more about an intrepid traveler whose travel experiences are more than just interesting.

Imagine, if you can, a car tooling around Morocco, taking what seems a reasonable turn onto a road straight across a patch of desert. After some miles, the road turns to dirt, and soon after it disappears, but the desert does not.

Sue is in that car with a friend, both unsure of the next move. Along comes a man seated atop his loping camel.

With lots of sign language and frantic looks, Sue and friend "explain" the problem. So, they finish their journey across the desert with the Moroccan in their car as guide. The camel keeps loping, right behind the car all the way.

Burma was part of a different trip, a mid-'70s around-the-world journey that included about two dozen stops, most of them in Asia.

Sue left her job as a history teacher and part-time travel agent and joined a male friend for the six-month adventure.

The pair stayed at a good hotel in about every fourth or fifth city, Sue said. She particularly remembers the arrival at the Bangkok Inter-Continental.

She said they couldn't wait for the bellman to get lost so they could run to the bathroom -- and get reacquainted with hot, running water.

She remembers being invited to a private home for dinner in Tehran, attending Yom Kippur services in Rangoon, being stoned over a short-sleeved shirt in Kabul, traveling by public bus from Kabul to Peshawar. And there was the day the pair meant to complain about the local driver whose Mount Everest trip was a ripoff; they gave that up when they found their nemesis socializing with the police outside the Kathmandu station.

After months of collecting such memories, Sue returned to New York and the travel agency where she eventually planned and led tours, then joined friends as an owner and operator of a hotel on Fire Island ("Never again," she said).

Giants came next, and that was 21 years ago.

So, I asked, where does the nonstandard travel fit into her life now?

She said she is "still as passionate about the value of travel to me and others" for the ways it "enhances us as human beings."

I figure it also puts into proper perspective any hassles associated with trips on a domestic airline.


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