Ten years ago, Kapka Kassabova began a journey in the southern Balkans, exploring the border zone that separates Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece. From that journey, she wrote Border, the first book in a quartet exploring the connection between humans and nature. The third in the quartet, Elixir: In the Valley at the End of Time, was published this year, and goes deeper into the connection between people, plants, and place as Kapka travels through the Mesta valley, collecting personal stories of love, tragedy, and wisdom from those who know the valley best.
In my recent conversation with Kapka, she spoke about why Border was nearly the end of her journey instead of the beginning, and why everything she discovered while writing it proved necessary in order to prepare her for the books that would follow, including Elixir. She also spoke about why she always seeks out a guide during her travels, how she discovered that time may not be as linear as we like to think, and why it’s important for every traveler (and writer) to “own your wounds and your hopes.”
This conversation offers beautiful wisdom and insight into the process of travel writing, but it also goes further, diving into the strange and wonderful connection between humans and nature. It is, at its core, a conversation about story, and how the stories we tell (or don’t), as well as the places we find ourselves in, define us and the course of our lives.
Listen to the full conversation here: