By KELSEY HAMMON |
June 20, 2021 at 5:45 a.m.
Joshua Berman’s (Nicaragua 1998-2000) career as a writer has been anything but a 9-to-5 desk job.
He’s tasted boa constrictor, climbed narrow mountain highways, sat in the back of a truck as he sped by volcanoes in Nicaragua, and blistered his feet on the Colorado Trail. Before he zoned in on writing about Colorado, he used his career to explore the globe and feed his passion for writing and exploring. His excursions today include passing that sense of adventure down to his three daughters, while teaching them how to respect and revel in the nature around them.
Berman is an author of six travel books, a Denver Post columnist, an all-around expert adventurer, Longmont resident, and a “tranquilo (calm) traveler.” He uses this term to call on explorers like himself to remain open-minded and inquisitive, as they take in their new surroundings, even when travel plans don’t go as expected.
Traveling to another country is expensive and time consuming. Berman said his trick to seeing the world was to find employers that would allow him to travel and explore as part of his job. Blending that with a lifelong love for writing just made sense, he said.
One of his greatest adventures was working in Nicaragua for 2½ years with the Peace Corps, when he was an environmental education volunteer and the editor of the Peace Corps’ publication for volunteers and staff. The experience led to Berman co-authoring the first guide book to Nicaragua [Moon Handbooks Nicaragua with Randy Wood] in 2001.
“There were no other comprehensive guidebooks there so that was our excuse to stay down there and write a 450page-book about the country and everything we had learned about it,” Berman said. “From then on, I was in the travel-writing world.”
It was in Nicaragua where he was a tour guide for “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern,” a Travel Channel show. Berman took the TV host to restaurants where he could brave a sip of some bull testicle soup and try bull testicle ceviche. Just up the road, Berman took Zimmern to a place where he could sink his teeth into a plate of boa constrictor. They rounded out the experience by enjoying some tamer dishes, such as a seafood stew and a selection of coffees.
“He’s a tranquilo traveler, too,” Berman said. “That’s why we got along so well. His style was to find the real stories, and he connects with people and appreciated their cooking. It was fascinating to see and be part of.”
Honing in on the many mountains, valleys and plains to explore in Colorado, Berman has most recently been writing about local camping and hiking explorations. When he’s not writing guide books or exploring the Rocky Mountains, Berman works at Shining Mountain Waldorf School in Boulder as a Spanish teacher and teacher in cyber civics, a class on being a good digital citizen.
When Berman thinks of a story from his adventures that truly embraces the art of the tranquilo traveler, he thinks back to a time he had to hitchhike across Nicaragua to get some supplies for his Peace Corp job. While that may have seemed a daunting task, Berman stayed calm.
It started by catching a ride with a farmer, who during the course of their interaction recited the poetry of Nicaraguan poet Rubén Darío. When the farmer dropped him off, Berman caught a baseball team at a gas station filling up their school bus. Noticing the guitar he carried, they agreed: “The gringo can get on but he has to play music for us.”
“I knew a couple of songs they knew and it got rowdy,” Berman said.
Finally, he rode in the back of a pickup, where he surveyed the Nicaraguan landscape as it flew by.
“Tranquilo is a popular word in Nicaragua that means everything from relaxed and peaceful to slow and unworried,” Berman said. “At one point it was the perfect word to describe the kind of travel that I like to promote.”
His wife, Sutay Berman, has also embraced the art.
The couple honeymooned in the early 2000s in Pakistan. The purpose of the trip was tracing the roots of his wife’s great-grandfather who taught botany in the country. Through the trip, the newlyweds met many people connected to the man. They also took time to explore the Himalayas and braved the twists and turns of the Karakoram Highway.
“It was a 27-hour bus ride at really high elevation coming down these mountain roads,” Berman said. “Way hairier than I-70.”
It was work that eventually brought the couple to Boulder County. Berman’s wife is a nurse with Boulder Community Health, and Berman started his Boulder teaching job.
Berman today is continuing to share his love for adventure with his wife and three daughters, Shanti, 13, Zenlana, 10, Sky, 8.
“Every time my family and I go camping, we’re actually doing research and I get to write articles, too, about the best campgrounds for all different activities in Colorado,” he said. “This was another way that writing enveloped an original passion, kind of like the travel thing.”
Taking his daughters on many of the excursions has been more than just a chance to share in his adventurous spirit.
“I feel a responsibility to make sure they have a connection with these mountains in as responsible a way as possible,” Berman said, “being able to teach them leave-no-trace principals and leaving the campsites cleaner than we found it — that’s the only way we as a state are going to be able to deal with the good thing of more people wanting to camp and be outdoors.”