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Author’s Travel Memoir Detours Unexpectedly

By Robin Pierson, Special to the Independent

Ed Kaufman and his family don’t really go on vacations. Instead, they take global adventures that have allowed each of them to expand individually while forming connections with a diverse array of indigenous people and to each other along the way.

Over the last decade on trips to remote corners of the globe, including Rwanda, Ethiopia, Tibet and Papua New Guinea, Kaufman, a psychiatrist, became a writer. His wife, Karen Redding, a psychoanalyst and clinical social worker, became an accomplished photographer, and their son Adam has grown into an individuated, confident adolescent with an interest in filming.

Kaufman has compiled stories about his families’ transformative travels in “From Monks to Mountain Gorillas.” A reception and book signing will be held this Sunday, September 18, from 5-7 p.m. at Laguna Beach Books, located at 1200 S. Coast Highway, Laguna Beach.

Ten years ago, on a safari to Africa when Adam was 7, Kaufman realized that the family could travel to potentially dangerous locales safely. The realization led him to begin writing about the trip in the hope that he could show others that they there was a world of family vacation options beyond Hawaii.

Part memoir, part travelogue, Kaufman, who ended up earning a MFA from Antioch University, said the experience of writing his book “gave me more insights about myself than six years of training in psychoanalysis.”

Face to face with wild animals, extreme poverty, locals smeared with mud and feathers, Kaufman said he learned to “slow down, look and remember, becoming more observant” and to translate his experiences from the “individual to the universal.” The original title for the book was “Adventure Travels for the Cautious Family,” “because that is what we are,” Kaufman said. Their successful travels, he said, have made them braver.
On their last trip to Indonesia, ending in Bali, Kaufman described a simple, family experience that will be etched into his memory as vividly as his close encounters with wild animals and painted tribes people.  Adam, after surfing “the biggest waves in his life,” lay down in a small bed in the room where his parents slept, a sweet moment of connection worth remembering.

Robin Pierson is a Laguna Beach writer.

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