Looking back over travel photos it is so often the faces and smiles of children that bring back the richest memories of a country’s culture and people.
From some of the most isolated regions of the planet, where deprivation is a normal part of life, the smiles of children offer hope and joy.
It is remembering these young people encountered along the way that have the most impact after all the travel I have done.
Top and above, children in the Wakhan Valley of Tajikistan. They were desperate for me to take their photo and then overcome by shyness. Travel in this remote part of the world is still quite challenging for the independent traveller. But the rewards are many.
In an even more isolated part of Tajikistan – the high Pamir region – we had stopped at a roadside house for lunch on a travel day and this little girl kept poking her head out of the kitchen to watch us. She was fascinated and scared at the same time. I asked her (and her mother) if I could take her photo, she nodded and I took just one picture.
The Fijians are famous for their friendliness but visiting this remote school near Savusavu on the Fiji island of Vanua Levu was amazing – the kids were so excited to have visitors.
These children live in a tiny village on the edge of the Okavango Delta in Botswana. It was a bit worrying seeing them clutching their cans of Coke but they were so enthusiastic about having their pictures taken I could barely click a photo before they had rushed too close.
Travelling further north in Africa, the Lubasa Children’s home is in the town of Livingstone, Zambia. The kids loved playing board games and a run on the football pitch. The little girl in the foreground is called Mercy.
Again at the Lubasa orphanage after the epic football match (never let the scoreline get in the way of a good penalty shoot-out).
In the northern Vietnam hill village of Sa Pa, this teenage girl – Vu – sells her beautiful jewellery and wears her Blue Hmong traditional costume with pride. We met a few times over the few days I was in Sa Pa. She saw me as a potential customer I’m sure but I’ll never forget her indigo-stained hands or seeing her combing her hair in the pre-dawn street.
And finally, this little Munchkin lives with her semi-nomadic parents in a yurt in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. Roly poly from all the delicious cream and yoghurt they produce from their herds. They offered the kindest spur-of-the-moment hospitality to stranded travellers. Why is it often the people who have nothing who are able to give so much?
By Natasha von Geldern