Travel Diary

first page of her published travel diary
first page of her published travel diary

My paternal great-grandmother Gladys was of mostly British descent. Hailing from western Pennsylvania, she moved to New York City when she was 20 years old. There she met my great-grandfather Albert, a government arms buyer and avid antiques collector from Belgium. Within two weeks, they were married and immediately kicked off an unparalleled life of travel and adventure. By the late 1920s, they had already seen much of the world—and with an unstoppable spirit, she left her two kids (one was my grandfather) in boarding school, and embarked on her biggest solo trip to date: over a year traveling through the African Congo (coincidentally, this is where many of my maternal ancestors were from). She kept a detailed diary during her travels there (later published by my dad's cousin). The diary opens “Would I go to Africa for six months? Friend Husband posted the question. A few steps of the now-obsolete Charleston and a grin were my reply.”And thus begins a riveting and honest account of her experiences traveling through the colonized Congo of the early 20th century. Her perspective is indicative of the time: she sees the world, although compassionately, through the lens of a member of the privileged, white, upper class, and is at times flippantly racist. But nonetheless, she is a woman way ahead of her time, eschewing social mores in favor of life-affirming and personally gratifying experiences; experiences that, nearly a century later, inspire me to seek the same.

Year: 1928

– Victoria Marin

Relationship:  Grandchild of im/migrant Grandchild of im/migrant