Alden Jones, a Jamaica Plain resident and Emerson College writing teacher, spent her early twenties roaming the world. Now she has penned a book about ethical dilemmas in travel and tourism titled “The Blind Masseuse: A Traveler’s Memoir from Costa Rica to Cambodia.”
One of her adventures took her to a year-long teaching assignment in rural Costa Rica. Jones found there a scene that would give health-crazy New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg the hives: The villagers cooked everything from vegetables to rice in lard.
Jones said she had a moral quandary about the practice. The traveler in her wanted to fit in with the villagers, while the tourist in her thought the food practice disgusting. That dilemma forms the basis for Jones’ book.
“What does it mean to travel and what motivates use to travel?” Jones said are themes she explores in her book.
She said she asks in the book whether there is a “right way and wrong way to travel.” Jones said she leaves that question largely unanswered and views the book as opening the dialogue on the subject.
The lard-cooking practices eventually caught up with the village, as the 29-year-old father of one of Jones’ students died of a heart attack. A doctor came to the village and said it was because of the lard.
The events inspired Jones to write an award-winning travel essay called “Lard is Good for You.” That essay is the first chapter of the book, which covers 10 years on the road for Jones.
Another chapter covers her time in Cambodia, where she came upon a pack of naked children. Jones took pictures of them and continued to do so despite their objections. She said it was something she eventually felt guilty about.
“It was a real tourist moment,” said Jones. “I was going after something I wanted.”
But her travels were not fully consumed with ethical dilemmas. The road was also filled love, as Jones met her wife Kate during her time away.
The two have lived in JP since 2007 and have a newborn daughter to go along with their 3-year-old son. Family life has slowed down the traveling, but they did manage a trip to Greece, Italy and Croatia last summer.
Jones has written a second book, a collection of short stories, that will be released next year.
“The Blind Masseuse” is available at local retail outlets and on online stores.