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Polly tackles the world

Matt Zalaznick

Think of the courage it took for Polly Letofsky to leave the comforts of life in Vail – little traffic or crime crime, big supermarkets, a giant ski hill nearby – for the uncertainty, loneliness and peril of a five-year walk around the world. This was no pleasure cruise. Polly didn’t spend her nights in an air-conditioned cabin, only disembarking on foreign waterfronts to buy souvenirs and snap disposable photographs for a few hours each afternoon. She left the West far behind and plunged into the strangeness of the world on foot – without always having a place to sleep and only a souped-up stroller nicknamed Bob to carry the most essential supplies. Polly often found refuge in that most American of places – in McDonald’s restaurants around the world. As those who have traveled in foreign lands know, after hiking through Andalusia or hitch-hiking across Israel, a McDonald’s can provide a reinvigorating dose of familiarity – and can be one of the few places to get a large, cold Coke outside the United States. Polly’s cause was a noble one – raising awareness for breast cancer, a disease she’s never had, but still a health problem that needs more attention. She raised money and spirits. What’s clear from conversations recorded in her journal, Polly inspired women everywhere to take charge of their health. A more selfish reason we’re big fans of Polly is that for five years she consistently provided the Vail Daily – and its readers – with journal entries, which were published regularly on our community page, A5. Her dispatches were sometimes funny, sometimes serious, sometimes sarcastic. She was at times fascinated and exasperated by the cultures and people she encountered, though she found friends and helpers – and admirers – in just about every corner of the globe. What made her writing truly captivating was that she was always honest – she didn’t gloss over a society’s flaws when she found them, whether she was in India or Europe or Kansas. Polly has been criticized for writing about troubles she had in some of the places she visited, but an unwillingness to be critical only holds a member of society back and allows their society’s flaws to fester into larger, more debilitating problems. Considering Polly’s cause, one of her goals was to get attention. As traveler, advocate and writer, she did the world a great service – she told straight, just like it is, while taking the most scenic of routes to get from Vail to East Vail. M.Z.


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