Reflecting on the A to Z Journey

A to Z took the

Best out of

Cheryl and the Family C who were

Determined that

Every post be obsessed with travel and

Finished oh so timely.

Grateful to

Hear from you who were so very

Inquisitive, interesting,

Joyful and

Kind.

Loved

Meeting

New

Other

People who were

Quick to

Relate and respond with a clever dash of a

Sense of humour.

Though A to Z is

Unfortunately

Verboten as of now,

We can hope to

Xtend our blogging friendships until next

Year!

Zee ya later and all the best 🙂

From Cheryl and The Family C who enjoyed travelling from A to Z.

Z is for Zillion

I love to ask questions.

Just ask my family… or maybe don’t…I already do that a lot and that drives them crazy.

I have been known to ask a zillion questions about everything and anything; a trip, about what happened in school, about how that spoon ended up in the sink instead of the dishwasher for the zillionth time, and a zillion more etc.

But my all-time favourite question to ask is:

If you had all the money needed and the time to travel, where would you travel to first? And of course, why?

And surprisingly for a question that I ask so frequently, I don’t have a definitive answer myself.

I tend to waiver between an African country such as Zambia or Botswana (for the animals) and India, usually. But then, I get indecisive and want to put all of Europe on the list (because Europe gobbles up a lot of money). OH and then there is Antarctica and The Galapagos Islands too!

So since I love to ask questions, I will repeat myself (not that I ever do that of course) and ask you, my reader:

If you had all the money needed and the time to travel, where would you travel to first and why?

Thanks for travelling with me and the Family C from A to Z this month. Oh no! I can feel alphabet withdrawal coming on. 🙂

Y is for Yellow

When I was in law school, I made a few mistakes.

The first – going to law school!

The second – staying in law school (although the jury is out as it did lead to interesting jobs).

The third – living on Diet Coke and chocolate to stay awake and NeoCitran to go to sleep.

After law school, I gave up the law but remained devoted to my Diet Coke. I loved my Diet Coke. We had a long and unhealthy relationship. When we finally broke up, I couldn’t understand what I had ever been drinking or thinking. It had lost its hold on me and I could finally move on.

I am proud of myself as I have stayed faithful to our break up, at least in Canada. But what happens overseas, stays overseas, right?  When I travel, I get weak and that dusty bottle of Diet Coke on that shelf begins to beckon me. Before I can say Diet Coke, I am drinking one. Don’t ask me how that happens. It just does.

So when we were travelling in Peru, I noticed the pride Peruvians shared in their bottles of yellow Inca Kola.

Not normally being adventurous with drinks when I travel, I tend to resort to mainstream pop. But this is Cola right? How bad could it be?

Well, the colour yellow should have been a good indicator.

One bottle between 4 people and we still couldn’t finish it. Inca Kola is the new invention of liquid bubble gum. And even though I also love bubble gum, I will kindly say, I don’t enjoy drinking it. It is most definitely not my cup of Coke.

My husband, Chris, coming from a long line of Pepsi drinkers, didn’t imbibe. Always the smart one, despite his affinity for Pepsi that is.

Thanks for stopping by to see the Family C as we drink and travel through A to Z.

What is the worst tasting drink you have ever had?

X is for Xenial

What?

You know, xenial, which means hospitable, especially to strangers and foreigners. Xenial, a word I have never said aloud nor written. Until now.

So here’s the thing. I love both big cities and small towns. I don’t discriminate. But some do. If you have lived or studied in Toronto, you may be hesitant to admit so if you move to eastern Canada. I was told, true story, to remove the fact that I had studied in Toronto from my resume when I first moved to Nova Scotia and then to Prince Edward Island. I don’t know if this is a David vs. Goliath thing but the sentiment did appear at times in my years residing there.

Recently having moved to a small town, an hour outside of Toronto, I have been reminded how friendly this part of the world is. Whenever we need a dose of the big city, we head to Toronto for some delicious ethnic food, hair dying (yes, my daughter did dye her hair a vibrant purple) and overall great wandering.

In doing so, we have found a chain restaurant in one of the Toronto suburbs with the name of Fat *astard Burrito. Not only do they make vegan/vegetarian burritos that are delicious and not a “rip-off”, but they have this staff that makes me want to be 20 again and work in the fast food business. They literally are that song, “Happy” come to life.

This is not unique in Toronto. Everywhere we go from drive thrus, to shopping malls, to markets, to the Gay Pride Parade to the parks, people are incredibly friendly. Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in the world which I, of course, love. Riding the subway in Toronto, one could be anywhere in the world.

The list of things to do and see are endless and as a family, we have only hit a few so far. Our one top family favourite is to take the ferry to Toronto Island for the day. Whether you want to walk, explore, bike, swim, suntan, picnic, or go on a few rides, Toronto Island and its beaches are a “hit” for families who wish to spend time together without breaking the bank. And if you are like us, you may even meet a family who offers to feed you, just because.

Thanks for being so hospitable by dropping by today to see the Family C as they travel from A to Z.

What is a xenial place you have lived in or visited? Are you a big city or a small town kind of person?

W is for Wary

What had the latest higher up in some office, far away from reality, dreamed up this time?

Wary, I took a look at the freshly arrived load off the boat from the Mekong.

Radios, used radios from God knows what era. As I sifted through them, I found one reminiscent from my teen years, a yellow banana shaped radio that you could carry on your wrist on the way to the beach. I had used it for a summer or two and then discarded it along the way. Still useful but no longer cool, it met its demise. Or so I had thought.

Where had the United Nations found all these old radios? Had they gone from thrift store to thrift store or put out some UN announcement that Cambodia was in desperate need for radios?

Wary, but not worried, I told the workers to store them in my house until we decided what we were going to do with them. Swamped with our work as we prepared the local population for the imminent election, we returned to our office. The radios, out of sight, out of mind, or so we mistakenly thought.

Later that evening, resting at home sweet home, I heard loud pounding at my door. No way to check who it was, I opened it up to find two men in military gear (very common in my Cambodian district – soldiers? police? renegades?) with AK-47s. Sensibly, I let them in. As an objective party in the midst of an election, this wasn’t too unusual. However, I was alone and unable to communicate with them. And then it began…

Whipping their guns around and yelling at me in Khmer, I went to get my cook who looked terrified. Through sign and gun language, I deciphered that they wanted the radios in my living room. Now the fun starts. In Khmer, I try to get my point across (please leave and come back later…much later) but they see this as a sign to start opening boxes and check out the radios. I call for back up on my radio and thankfully, one of my interpreters comes.

Deciding that correct protocol is not worth our lives, I cave and hand over 2 radios. Within minutes, I have a hoard of anxious radio protesters on our porch. Word is out and we are being bombarded. My interpreter tries to negotiate but fails. The porch frenzy quickly turns into a living room frenzy and officially, Radio Hell, has begun. Radios are flying as people push and shove to get into the boxes. More back up arrives, this time armed, and we finally succeed in quashing the thirst for radios… temporarily.

A quick solution is needed. In a Buddhist country such as Cambodia, monks are revered so off to the Wat we go. Radios in hand (well… actually under cover) we happily pass them over for them to decide their fate. Seeing the prized merchandise, the monks decide to keep all the radios for themselves. We then knew that the monks would be well-informed of the upcoming election and our district would, at least, have a good monk/voter turn out rate!

NO, it wasn’t the Khmer Rouge death threat letters, NO, it wasn’t malaria, it was those frigging old radios that almost killed me!

Cheryl from the Family C travelling from A to Z.

Have you ever felt fearful when you were living or travelling somewhere?

V is for Verboten

The only thing that is certain in life is change. My father used to say that.

This is true in travel as well.

Verboten by law, one can no longer ride on top of the train through the Devil’s Nose in Ecuador. That may have been a sound decision but there is no denying riding on top of a train through the Andes Mountains was a “high” to say the least.

That is me, in my favourite red jacket, riding on top of the train in Ecuador.

That is me, in my favourite red jacket, riding on top of the train in Ecuador.

Verboten by “new understandings and animal ethics”, riding on top of elephants is now controversial. Research this before you decide. (Our excuse was that the Internet did not exist and we simply did not know of any negative side effects to the elephants. Sorry to our elephants! )

2015-04-20 11.38.22

Verboten by fashion standards, I should have known that purple and red don’t go well together. If I had been blogging in my travel past, I would have been sure to be better colour coordinated.

Unfortunately, I am the one in red and purple!

Unfortunately, I am the one in red and purple!

Thanks for dropping by. It is most definitely not verboten.

The Family C from A to Z.

Have you travelled and done something that was permitted in the past but is now verboten?

U is for Used

Dear RJ,

I feel so torn when I think back to that day. I often think of you, leaning against that fence watching me go down that river. Me, in the boat, wondering if I had made the right decision.

It all began so long ago. When we first met, I was shy and hesitant, unsure if you were the right one for me. You weren’t quite the right fit, you felt a little different from my others but I took a leap of faith and hoped.

As time went on, we grew to love each other; maybe out of routine but I prefer to think we put our differences aside and focused on our positive attributes instead. I kept you close to me; cherishing you when I had little else around me. In return, you comforted me, always.

When that day came, you were at the end. So tired, worn out, and heavily used, you didn’t complain. You let me go as I let you go. I miss you so.

Fondly yours,

Me

(I had a very large (too large) red jacket that I have travelled with for years. The lining was so ripped and torn that only the surface of the jacket remained and any rain would leak through. Its last days in the jungle of Guatemala were met by the invasion of red ants. Taking one last look at it, my family convinced me to leave it behind. I set it on a fence and turned away. Sadly… Since then I haven’t been able to find another that is even half the jacket my red one was. I am still searching….)

Me and my red jacket sharing happy moments travelling.

Me and my red jacket sharing happy moments travelling.

Have you ever had something that you so adored that you didn’t want to throw it out or give it away?

See you tomorrow.

The Family C from A to Z

T is for Two

When it comes to travel, I prefer two to one.

Solo travel and me are like oil and vinegar. Ok but not the perfect blend.

Travelling together is like salt and vinegar. Great and the perfect blend, especially for potato chips, that is.

It Takes Two To Travel 

Travelling together from A to Z.

Do you prefer to travel alone or with someone else?

S is for Slow

No, I am not slow.

But I would like to be…some times.

There is this “new-ish” trend in travel. It is called Slow Travel. I don’t pretend to be an expert.

It speaks for itself. Travel slowly and in doing so, the traveller experiences a deeper understanding of the place, its culture and its people. The antithesis of the whirlwind trip around Europe; 6 countries in 6 days.

Jaz, my sheltie, has mastered the art of travelling slow. Being a somewhat older dog, she likes to take her time and sniff the grass when we walk together. And apparently grass remains fascinating, no matter where we are; each little patch of it deserving extra care and attention.

I could learn from her. You can see why from the photograph below. True story. Jade, Chris and I in New York City.

Chris took the picture of he, in last place, Jade in second and me in the lead!

Chris took the picture of he, in last place, Jade in second and me in the lead!

I have to laugh when I look at it now. It is not exactly a number 1 mom moment!

My thinking was If I speed it up, so will they. Then this can happen…. and that can happen. And pathetically, I can’t even remember where I was headed or what was supposed to happen. I was just in a hurry to get things done.

So I have been consciously trying to build in slow time when we travel now as a family. When I plan, I try to have only one activity per day and then some days I plan nothing, an oxymoron, but necessary for me, the travel moron.

Inevitably the nothing becomes a some thing that we all choose but then it is a some thing that feels less like a travel must and more like a travel want. Keep some spontaneity and flexibility for those paths that look interesting and lead to who knows where. What is at the end may be just as interesting as that art gallery that we were told we “had” to see. You will never know until you make the time to explore the “nothing” on your list.

So although I have made some head way into the world of slow travel, I still struggle. Two weeks in Italy? Challenging. The entire country is a traveller’s dream. I need 50 – 2 weeks holidays to see what I want. Two weeks in Guatemala? It is killing me. How do I get to Todos Santos and Tikal (in opposite directions) and still spend time at Lake Atitlan? Three weeks in Morocco? Stressful. We have to get to the Sahara Desert but then I must see Essaouira and also want to spend some down time in Chefchaouen.

Time forces choices. And choices make me want to speed up.

So there is only one solution to succeeding at this slow travel thing.

Only travel. Nothing else.

Then I promise… I really promise… that I will travel slowly.

Travelling slowly through A to Z from the Family C

R is for Remembered

(Jade, my daughter, aged 15, wrote this post.)

This March break when I went to Europe with my school, we visited Auschwitz when we were in Poland.

It was incredibly emotional for all of us. As we began the tour, I thought I was going to do alright. I couldn’t picture what it was like, so I didn’t feel that much.

It was just a dirt path with brick buildings on either side.

It wasn’t until we got inside the first building, that it really began to feel real. That I could actually picture what it must have been like. There was quite a bit of evidence to make you picture this tragedy.

A massive glass container that took up the whole wall of one very large room, filled completely with women’s hair is what got me first. After we returned to the hotel and I began to talk with my friends, one of them told me why the hair had bothered her so much.

All those women were individuals, they were unique. They had different styles of hair, different colours, different lengths. But now, all they’re remembered for is this hair that has gone grey, blending in to the hair next to it. These women were individuals and now you can’t see the difference.”

There were more glass containers filled with shoes, baby shoes, glasses, bedding… There was so much and every time I looked at it, I could feel the sense that it once belonged to a person, a person who no longer existed to reclaim their taken objects.

But out of the glass containers, what really got to me were the suitcases. You could see the names of the owners on the suitcases, the different handwriting, the large font so when their bags returned they could find them. I could picture them writing their names, thinking they would receive their bags later. The lie of the suitcases seemed so much more present with the evidence of the stolen suitcases laying in front of me.

As I cried in the middle of Auschwitz, looking at the glass casing of baby shoes and pictures of starved children who had been experimented on, I felt guilty almost.

This wasn’t my suffering, why was I the one who was crying? Why was I the one who was allowed to enter a concentration camp and be certain that I would leave, unharmed? Why was I the one who could walk into a building and come back out when every other person who had walked through its doors never exited?

Why them?

Of course I don’t ask this question in the sense that I don’t know the answer. I know the answer. I’m asking why, because the answer just doesn’t justify my question.

There is nothing I can do about why I was allowed to leave Auschwitz when my tour was up and why so many others never left Auschwitz at all. All I can do is acknowledge that this did happen and remember it.

That is all we can do.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

Jade from the Family C as we move from A to Z.