Mongolia

Meet the Expert: Tese Wintz Neighbor

Zegrahm Expeditions|August 18, 2020|Blog Post

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Tese Neighbor

Where are you from and where have you lived? 

Born in small town Indiana (Batesville), lived in Los Angeles, Beijing, and Hong Kong and currently reside in Seattle. 

Tell us about yourself—what path led you to becoming a Zegrahm Leader? 

My work has focused on Asia since I graduated from Indiana University more than four decades ago. After I received my BA in Journalism and Political Science, I worked in Beijing in the early 1980s as the English editor for China Pictorial magazine. (Earlier I had been chosen to be on one of the first delegations to China after President Carter Normalized relations in January of 1979.) During my almost two-year stay in China, I also taught English at Beijing University, and traveled extensively around China. I was one of the first individual travelers to journey to Tibet in 1982.  I snuck up there with my brother Gary, another Zegrahm leader (long story). 

After completing my work in Beijing I traveled around the world—and then ended up living in Hong Kong from 1983-1985. Based there, I led some of the first bicycle tours across the PRC. I went on to lead ground-breaking trips all throughout China for Lindblad Travel. I never looked back! Since my first trip to China in early 1979, I have returned to Asia more than 75(?) times leading educational/adventure tours. More specifically I have escorted tours to China/Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India/Sikkim, Japan, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Mongolia. 

What other jobs, positions or credentials do you have?

Freelance Writer (1978 - present)
Published in numerous periodicals including the Asian Wall Street Journal, the Far Eastern Economic Review, and Education About Asia. Authored numerous curricula for museums and Newspapers in Education.

Seminar Leader, National Consortium for Teaching about Asia (NCTA) (1998 - present)
Responsible for organizing, developing, and teaching 30-hour seminars on East Asia history, geography, and culture to Washington State secondary teachers. The NCTA is administered by the University of Washington's East Asia Resource Center.

Senior Director of Professional Development, World Affairs Council (2000 - 2014)
Responsible for planning and coordinating all K-16 teacher training programs on international topics in Seattle, Tacoma, and Everett areas.

Washington Commission for the Humanities, State-wide Traveling Lecturer
(Inquiring Mind Speakers Bureau 1994 -1996 and 1998 - 2000)
Lectures included: Holding Up Half the Sky: Women of China; Return to Hong Kong; Tibet: Can Marx and Buddha be Friends; and The Dalai Lama: A Policy of Compassion. 

What other fields are you passionate about?

I enjoy backpacking and hiking in the northwest and all over the world. In recent years, my husband and I have hiked 250 miles of the Camino de Santiago across Spain, hut-to hut-hiking in the Italian Dolomites, and most recently (last October) hiking up and down mountains in Japan. I just returned in March 2020 from hiking for four days in the Sierre Nortes of Oaxaca, Mexico. 

When I am here in Seattle, I love power walking five miles a day along Lake Washington with my girl friends and being a member of two book clubs and one poetry club! I like to make art out of recycled rusty things and creations from the forests (pine cones, etc.) 

After the outbreak of the pandemic, I started a COVID-Victory garden in our parking strip. I built several raised bed P-Patches for neighbors to raise food for themselves and nearby food banks. Here’s a short article about it in the South Seattle Climate Action Network:  http://www.southseattleclimate.org/growing-love-at-the-plum-street-pea-patch-and-poetry-post-by-tese-wintz-neighbor/ 

What organizations are you a part of?

World Affairs Council, Methow Valley Conservancy (we put our Methow Valley land—23 acres—into this conservancy), monthly poetry organization, Grandmothers against Gun Violence, and numerous green organizations (Sierra Club, etc) 

What excites you (or what do you enjoy) about working for Zegrahm?

Of course I love the Kodak-moments (the great outdoors, the UNESCO sites, the sacred temples, etc.) but fundamentally it is about the people. For me it is about the people you travel with and the people you meet. It’s about the connections you foster. It’s about watching the interactions between strangers from different sides of the planet. 

What is your favorite Zegrahm memory?

It’s a people memory—experiencing Mongolia with clients like Rita and Roy Kaplan who found joy, beauty, and humor in most of their waking hours. Too many to bullet point! 

Tese in Mongolia

What are your top three countries or regions in the world to explore?

All of Asia, tropical islands (anywhere), and mountainous regions (anywhere). 

What’s left on your explorer’s bucket list/where do you still want to go that you haven’t been yet? Why there?

Namibia, New Zealand, Galapagos, Jordan, re-walk the Camino and other long walking excursions (the Way of St. Francis in Italy, PCT, Arizona Trail)… Why? To surround myself in the great outdoors in the midst of other cultures. Taking time by walking—not just flying from here to there. 

What does being a part of the Zegrahm family mean to you? 

As a solo cultural leader, I miss the comradery of being on being part of an expedition team. Having said that I do enjoy having the clients all to myself! And I love living in Seattle (Zegrahm’s home base) and having a chance to meet with the incredible and supportive office staff. 

Who is the Zegrahm Explorer/Traveler? 

A Zegrahm traveler is experienced, well-read, curious, flexible, healthy and often/hopefully has a sense of humor! 

Any final thoughts? 

I just finished reading an excellent book called Beyond Guilt Trips: Mindful Travel in an Unequal World. I originally bought it because of the “mindful travel” part but it actually made me think MORE about the current BLM social justice issues/call to action thoughts crashing around my head. The author Anu Taranath (a University of Washington professor) inspired me with some GO TO PERSONAL ACTIONS leading tours halfway around the world or walking down my block. I noticed that her book is on Amazon, but only in the KINDLE version which I would not recommend (because part of it is a “work book”). Instead I recommend you buy it directly from the independent Canadian publisher: https://btlbooks.com/book/beyond-guilt-trips It is relatively thin and light-weight. Oprah Magazine JUST highlighted it as one of the "26 Best Travel Books That Will Take You All Around the World."