No kidding! Around the world in 150 posts

Nov 21, 2011, 06:59 IST | Aditi Sharma

Eleven-year-old Rohan Silbaugh, from Alaska, has been globetrotting with his parents since May this year. He blogs every day and is improving with each post. Aditi Sharma caught up with the young blogger on the India leg of his journey

He reports about each destination with delightful wonder, often complains about having to wake up early and finish his lessons; he is witty, inquisitive and even irreverent at times, but also grateful about the way of life back home. Reading Rohan Geographic, a blog by Rohan Silbaugh, a sixth grader from Alaska (United States) is a great way to bring a work-loaded day to an end. Travel-related blogs may be a dime a dozen but the innocent curiosity that Rohan brings to his blog makes it different. It also helps that he is usually charting unknown territory.

Rohan jumps off a sailing boat in Croatia. He says, "I got the picture
with a self timer. It took me a couple tries, but I
got it, eventually ."

Dreams of photojournalism
Rohan dreams of having his photographs published in the National Geographic Magazine some day. That's why he decided to christen his travel blog, Rohan Geographic, even before he started off on the world trip. "Last spring, my friend Ivan, my parents and I were sitting at the dinner table in Alaska when we came up with the name and idea for the blog. I was inspired by National Geographic Magazine and wanted to emulate their photojournalism, so I named my blog after the magazine," he reveals.

Patients being diagnosed and treated by the American and Indian
doctors at the Kishangarh tent slum in Rajasthan

The travel party usually includes Rohan's parents, Dr Tim Silbaugh, Dr Catherine Coward, and their photographer friend Ivan Bacon but the blog is entirely Rohan's project. "I enjoy writing but I really, really enjoy taking pictures. That's my favourite thing," he tells us, adding, "India is so interesting -- the culture, the beautiful women in saris -- all that inspires me when I take pictures. Rural India is really cool."

I enjoy writing but I really, really enjoy taking pictures. That's my
favourite thing.
- Rohan Silbaugh, travel blogger and photographer

Currently, Rohan is making his way from Jodhpur to Delhi with his parents, who are participating in the Rickshaw Rally for Health. The stop points in the rally are usually small towns and villages so Rohan gets to see the real India. He has even learnt some Hindi. "Chalo chalein means let's go, dhanyavaad is thank you and Ram Ram Sa means goodbye," he lists out his achievements, after a bit of prompting.

A ladder leans against the Great Wall of China

Blog around the world
The young blogger's journey began from Amsterdam. Then the travellers made their way through Europe and Asia (mainly China, Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal) before coming to India. All along, Rohan has been blogging, except for a brief period when there was no access to the Internet. Updating his blog is actually part of Rohan's curriculum, apart from Maths and reading.

These are the hands of a hermit living high in the mountains above
Lhasa. Rohan
was hiking nearby and the hermit invited him into his
home for tea

Dr Catherine explains, "We were planning on embarking on a year of travel for the past eight years but will have to continue with Rohan's schooling when he gets back.  So, every day he has to do Maths, reading and some writing. It's an opportunity to make sure he gets a good experience of writing so he's learning on his way."

Both Dr Catherine and Dr Tim read what Rohan writes before he puts it up on the blog but neither change anything he has written. "He is very strong willed and he doesn't let us influence him," says Rohan's mom.
Through the 150-odd blog posts that Rohan has written one can even witness the development of his writing style. The initial blogs simply list out a daily routine but lately he has turned into a keen observer and it's showing.

Worldly wisdom
Dr Tim believes that travelling and blogging is helping his son learn how to cope with a stressful situation, how to deal with being angry and still be caring. "The purpose of getting Rohan to blog while travelling was so that he would realise that the world is much smaller than people think and people are the same everywhere even though we're from different countries.

He realises that there are important things happening in the world and we're fortunate that we don't face problems like so many people he has met," Dr Tim points out For now, Rohan is most excited about reading this article in print. We know, because he has already blogged about it!

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