Far out

By LAUREN WOLFE  |  May 4, 2007

She crossed paths with friends repeatedly and had encounters with all kinds. In a Bangkok hotel she had dealings with US military personnel (“They were horrible,” she says, partying and banging on her door at all hours.) She cavorted with many, many hippies living together in “communities” where people shared chores and expenses (in the Hindu Kush she lived with Americans; in Switzerland she cohabitated with “McCarthy expats” and Europeans). She ate cucumber sandwiches with then-president of Pakistan Ayub Khan in 1969, and discussed his plans for building a ski resort. (They met through the Wali of Swat, at whose hunting lodge they were staying, 9000 feet up.) Khan was “very friendly and curious as to why a group of Americans would choose to live in a dirt-floored ‘hut,’ ” she recalls.

As a woman traveling alone, Carol says she never felt much danger (“Maybe because of my size,” she says.) One exception was the time a horde of men grabbed at her while she and Chris browsed a market in Tehran. She took refuge in a shop, finally fleeing while police chased and hit some of the men in the crowd. “Needless to say, that was the last time I wore a dress,” Carol says.

She also tasted a bit of the Indian spiritual movement of the times. At one point in her travels, Carol spent weeks listening to well-known spiritual leader J. Krishnamurti in Benares, from where she wrote her mother on her birthday: “It is very important that we are always learning and open to new experiences living in our turbulent world. . . . This happens because we are always thinking and living in the past and this restricts our experiencing of the now.” She also wrote home that “most of the supposed holy men here did not strike me as being so holy but the scenery is great.” She dropped a lot of acid.

And she became a mother: a child, Dakkan, was conceived with her boyfriend Tommy, whom she had met in Geneva in 1968 as she was about to depart for a winter in Ethiopia.

Her gold-smuggling expeditions were among the things that fell by the wayside in her letters home. As she put it in one: “I have seen so much in the East it is hard to tell you everything in a letter.”

The long and winding road
After her final trip East, in 1971, Carol moved to Martha’s Vineyard and opened a store called The Golden Door that sold goods from Afghanistan, India, and other countries. (It didn’t last long. “I hated sitting in it,” she says, wrinkling her nose). She met her second husband there, and with him had two more sons, Jed and Nick.

She finished school in her late 30s at Amherst College and went on to earn a master’s degree in anthropology at UMass. For 13 years, she taught English and life skills to juvenile offenders who had been incarcerated for every crime short of murder. These days she works in residential real estate in Northampton, where, 40 years later, she looks back on her gold-smuggling days with a sense of neither grandiosity nor shame.

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