When Travel Isn’t a Choice Redux: Following Migration through Niger

I was reminded yesterday of the story about the Sri Lankan handball team when I stumbled (just stumbled, not StumbleUpon — and I wonder why I feel like language is being hijacked) across this photo slideshow of migrants making the journey through Niger, trying to reach Europe.

Italian photographer Alfredo Bini followed a group of migrants as they made the desperate trip from all over West Africa. “Desperate” because the conditions are harrowing: thirst, hunger, raids by armed bandits, and the risk of ending up working in garbage heaps or thrown in a Libyan prison, all for the slim opportunity of landing destitute and lost in countries I’ve written piles of lightweight if thoughtful travel articles about: France, Italy, Britain.

The photos are gorgeous, evocative, and sometimes heartrending. An oral essay or audio aspect would have made them even more riveting — words and pictures go so well together in cases like this — but each photo (they do have caption descriptions) tells a long story all on its own, of a person, a place, and a journey. And they left me with strange conflicting feelings: empathy and pity and a desire to save the world being utmost, but clashing oddly with the desire to see the place that the photos illustrated. The complex thirst of wanderlust.

Like the Sri Lankan handball team, this photo slideshow is a reminder not to take our love of travel for granted. Some people don’t have a choice; some people are ‘traveling’ just to survive.

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