They were a scene in motion, the four of them pinballing through airports and slogging into the muddy backwaters of Papua New Guinea. The ex-lineman with Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit sticking out of his back pocket. The Dominican from Hialeah with an ascot, a ‘fro and a ukulele. The loud, street-smart pansexual with wild black curls. The philosophical one with the boyish good looks carrying all the cameras.
The four FIU students had never met until they signed up to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Papua New Guinea alongside one of academia’s most esteemed anthropologists, Tudor Parfitt. It could have gone very badly – as anyone who has traveled with strangers knows. On this trip, though, the mix was just right. It helped that each of the four is wise in the ways of making travel meaningful. They knew when to just listen and observe and when to ask questions. They brought an unusual openness to new experiences.
None of the four students had ever traveled so far or to a place that felt so utterly foreign. Few people have. They learned something about the wider world, but they also learned something about themselves. Of course, that’s precisely why the professor wanted to bring students on the journey.
What follows is a snapshot of each student’s journey told in their own words, taken from their journals and interviews. Four unique perspectives. One life-altering trip.