Into the heart of Vietnam 

Travel writing just one of workshop series

What: Vietnam: Adventures Off the Beaten Track

When: Saturday, Feb. 18, 8 p.m.

Where: MY Millennium Place

Tickets: $10/$5

Author Maria Coffey and photographer Dag Goering share their adventures in their multi-media presentation of Vietnam: Adventures Off the Beaten Track Saturday, Feb. 18 at MY Millennium Place. They will also be sharing their skills in a series of writing and photography workshops throughout the Sea to Sky corridor from Feb. 18 to 21.

Armchair travellers can sit back into the cinematic-inspired slide show of storytelling to take an intimate glimpse into the heart of Vietnam with Adventures Off the Beaten Track.

"Basically we take people inside the real Vietnam," Coffey said. "We’ll talk about the first trip in 1994 when we truly got off the beaten track – there wasn’t even a beaten track back then. We will share hilarious and moving encounters of the heart that will take you right up to the present day."

The couple has spent more than a decade busing, bicycling and boating as the locals do before discovering a kayaking haven. Each year the couple returns to the pristine waters of Halong Bay where the old ways still shine as brightly as the shrines glittering along the coast.

"It is interesting because it is still a communist country and restrictions apply: you can’t put a kayak in the water to paddle the coast without going through the necessary paper work," she said. "Yet although there is a strict communist regime, there is this layer of capitalism, which is strange, but the two seem to co-exist."

She adds while the country’s economy is growing, development is not uprooting the Vietnamese culture.

"It is great to see a place developing, but not losing touch with its roots," she said. "They aren’t quickly disregarding traditions. Ancestor worship and honouring elders is stronger than ever."

Coffey and Goering will also present their multi-media show as part of the Third Annual Squamish Winter Gala Friday, Feb. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Eagle Eye Theatre. The evening includes a silent auction with proceeds benefiting the Don Ross Outdoor Leadership Program. Advanced $20 tickets are available at Climb On, Valhalla Pure and Tantalus Bike Shop.

Vietnam has provided the inspiration for some of the 11 books Coffey has published in six countries, including travel books and West Coast stories for children. The award-winning author has also had her work published in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Globe and Mail, Sea Kayaker Magazine, Action Asia and Outdoors Illustrated.

Coffey will share insight into the tricks of the travel writing trade with two workshops: The Path of the Journal Saturday, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Squamish Public Library, and Travel Writing Sunday, Feb. 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Spruce Grove Fieldhouse.

"It’s a very powerful tool, recording those initial impressions that then become raw material for writing," Coffey said of keeping a travel journal.

"We will discuss different ways to keep a journal, how to record impressions and keep things really fresh so it can be retrieved and expanded into a bigger piece of writing."

Her husband Goering will shed light on the photography aspect of travel, bringing more than 500 credits in international publications to his two workshops: Putting the Heart into Travel Photography, Feb. 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at Capilano College in Squamish and Feb. 19 from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at MY Millennium Place.

"Photography shouldn’t stand in the way of experiencing a new place and it often does," he said. "People are so busy focusing on taking pictures that they don’t in fact experience a place. What I try to bring across is that you can use a camera as a means of making a more meaningful encounter with people…. We want to use the camera as a means of connecting with people. There is no sneaking around with long telephoto lenses. That kind of inclusive energy (between photographer and subject) is sensed by anyone looking at those images."

Goering, whose images have graced National Geographic Adventure Magazine, Elle, The New York Times and Outdoors Illustrated, will also share insight into packing equipment, photographic techniques and basic composition in the interactive seminar.

The writing workshop in Whistler is $35 and $15/$10 in Squamish. Photography classes are $15/$10.

The duo will also present By Kayak Down the Ganges Monday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Pemberton Community Centre. Coffey will read from her book Where The Mountain Casts Its Shadow: The Dark Side of Extreme Adventure Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. at the Squamish Public Library.

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