My A to Z On Travelling

Age of 1st International Trip

My first international trip was a school trip to West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I was 15 and stayed awake all night before I flew. I tried to imagine what cobbled stone streets would look like, what people would be wearing, what food I would be eating and these questions kept me wired until I landed. Once I stepped foot outside the airport, I was hooked!

Best Drink

My younger version would say the beer at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany simply for the fact that I was drinking under age! My older version would say the homemade lemonade in Cuzco that I drank by the gallon last summer.

Cuisine (Favourite and Least Favourite)

My favourite cuisine was in India but even then, at the end of the trip, I was eyeballing the pizzas coming out of Domino’s. Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! My least favourite was in South Korea. There is only so much red pepper paste and kimchi a person can handle and I had a year of it!

Destination (Favourite and Least Favourite)

This is impossible for favourites. I would go out on the travel limb and say Cambodia, Guatemala, India and Morocco. This will probably change but who knows? My least favourite is South Korea.

Event (most exciting/interesting)

I can’t narrow it down to one so it is a toss-up between the sandstorm in the Sahara desert, the ride through the jungle in Guatemala in the early morning on the way to Tikal listening to the howler monkeys, the first time I laid eyes on animals in the wild in South Africa, cycling down a mountain in Peru or hiking the Inca trail in Peru.

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Favourite Mode of Transportation

My absolute favourite mode of transportation is the back of a motorcycle. My mom and I hired motos in Cambodia and saw the country side with the wind whipping through our hair (or what I had left of it from my bout with malaria). My second favourite is the train which I loved in Vietnam and hope to love really soon, once again, in Sri Lanka.

Greatest Travel Feeling

My greatest travel feeling is when I shared with my family their first experience to travel overseas. There is nothing that beats seeing people you love have their eyes opened to what awaits them via travel.

Hottest Place I Have Lived

I have lived in some hot countries but Suriname takes the hot cake on this one! I would wake up very early in the morning and go to work ( a day care for children with physical and mental challenges) and then by noon, return home to fall asleep stuck to the couch. By 5pm, I would wake up and begin the day all over again. Usually I would go out very late in the evening and stay up most of the night with my friends dancing and partying and then begin it all over again the next day.

Incredible Service

I do not feel comfortable staying in fancy hotels where service is expected nor can I afford to do so! So given that, I would say service in restaurants both in Morocco and in India stand out from the rest.

Journey I Won’t Easily Forget

The ride on the camel in the Sahara Desert hurt the most physically (my butt says never again) and a bus ride in Morocco when my daughter needed to desperately use the bathroom and couldn’t might have been one of the most stressful!

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Keepsake

When we got married in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (Canada) one of our daughters, aged 11 at the time, bought us an ornament of a bride and a groom getting married. It will always be very special.

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Let-Down Sight

Fish River Canyon in Namibia was this for me! After hours and hours of driving with little to see, we got there and I said, “This is it?”

Moment I Fell In Love With Travelling

When my parents returned from Central and South America and my dad showed me his blow dart gun from the jungles of Peru and my mom showed me packages of junk food that were written in Spanish. I knew I needed to travel.

Nicest Hotel Stayed In

Oh boy there are many.. the one in Ubud in Bali, the many in Morocco, but the one that has the most memories is in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala (Posada de Santiago) where we could swim in the pool or soak in the hot tub and look over Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes. Truly gorgeous and breath taking. At night we could step outside our little bungalow and watch it storm over the lake while eating snacks bought in the local town. Perfection.

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Obsession With This

Markets… I just love them. I love to take pics of markets, I love to wander them, and every now and then I even buy something. I enjoy pretending like I live there, imagining my life as a local or at the least, as an expat. I can never have enough markets!

Passport

I have had a lot of them in my life and some have been heavily stamped. I have never lost one or misplaced one… knock on wood!

Quaintest Place

I can’t choose just one. It might be Patzcuaro, Mexico or Bevagna or any town in Umbria in Italy or Ollantaytambo, Peru or Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala or Ubud (a long long time ago) in Bali or Luang Praband (a long long time ago) or Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton

Recommended Country

I highly recommend Guatemala if you live in North America and want an inexpensive shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. I highly recommend Morocco if you live in Europe and want an inexpensive and shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. And I highly recommend India to anyone who wants to have an experience each and every moment. You will never forget it and you may just fall in love with it!

Splurge

We splurged when we visited Niagara Falls in Ontario and took a helicopter ride over the falls. Best money spent. We also splurged in Morocco on nicer accommodations as the country is known for its beautiful older residences (riads) and this was money well worth spent. We don’t do it often but when we do, it is meaningful.

Touristy

Touristy places can be ruined if “tacky” prevails but sometimes touristy spots are eye-opening such as Alcatraz in San Francisco, Times Square in NYC, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome… just to name a few of my personal favourites.

Unforgettable

I will probably never forget my most miserable experiences (malaria, dengue fever, being robbed, Delhi belly, field hospitals, cockroaches) but it is the most exciting ones that keep me researching where to go next. Travel for me is an addiction…but I choose to see it as a healthy one…I never forget that feeling of a new place and am always looking to replicate it elsewhere.

Visa

Visas are a pain. A royal pain in the backpack! So many countries (particularly in Africa) are requiring visas to be obtained ahead of time. If a visa is needed, those given upon arrival at the airport are my favourites. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer. 😦

Winning At Travel

I used to think the perfect job was to be a professional travel blogger. Having joined a few FB groups, I have learned that this too has its stresses. Competition can creep into anything… even into travel blogging. I am happy to win at travel by doing what I want to do and not having to research constantly 20 Ways You Too Can Get Off The Beaten Path. Or maybe I am just trying to convince myself….

eXcellent View

I have been blessed to have experienced many views over the years but recently seeing Machu Picchu with my family from Sun Gate stands out as one of the great ones.

Years Of Travel 

Uhhmmm….nope not going to go there but I have had my share of years of travel but more importantly, hopefully, many more to come.

Zillion More Places To See

Well, there is maybe not a zillion more to see but at least a lot! As I get ready to move to Cairo, my travel wish list is becoming more of a reality. Sri Lanka, one destination that has been on the list forever, is soon to be checked off in September! I can’t wait 🙂

Anything you would like to share about my A to Z? I would love to hear from you 🙂

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. 🙂

My Dad and His Henna – Only In India and Only My Dad

Who inspired me to travel?

To be fair, both my parents travelled. But my dad (somewhat like me) was obsessed!

We could talk for days about past trips, future trips, anywhere away.

Since my mom was never big on India, we decided to travel it together. Best decision, hands down, made 🙂 Grateful every day that we went for it.

So… we are in India and my dad is the kind of man who would try anything almost once. Scary maybe, funny yes.

A lady walks up to us and asks if we want a henna. For some reason, I am not sure. But my dad steps up to the plate and says, YES.

Dad, I don’t think men get henna tatoos in India. Have you seen any men here with any?”

“Well no Cheryl, but does that really matter?”

So my dad gets it done. 

Seriously, if we didn’t attract a lot of attention prior to henna incident, we sure did after. Almost car stopping, camel stopping worthy attention.

Everywhere we went, so did his followers, looking and talking about his henna.

Only my dad.. Only in India.

Not too long after, my dad died riding the horses he loved on his farm that he loved. If it had to be, he would have wanted it to be just like that. Makes me so sad still, but the memories really help. We didn’t get to Varanasi or Kerala (where he also wanted to go) but someday I will for him.

Here is a pic of us very long ago.

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An Oxymoron – Planning India

India is driving me crazy.

I want to take my family there. I want to fit it all in. I know I can’t. What is a mom to do?

I am stuck… between “planning” a trip to the north  or “planning” a trip to the south. I know I should be able to decide but I can’t.

Pros for the North-ish ( a new geography term that includes more than Rajasthan)

Taj Mahal – need I say more

Bundi, Bundi and more Bundi (see pic above) – more relaxed, easier, quaint, kite flying off of the roofs, great options for accomodation, monkeys, fort, all round great

Palaces – you can stay in old palaces and/or forts and yes, some are even affordable for backpacking families

Amritsar – didn’t see it before, want to see it! I have read so much about the Golden Temple and how wonderful it is to eat alongside thousands of people inside it daily and that there is a peace to the place that some just fall in love with

Varanasi – again we didn’t make it there the first time, so believing it is a city like no other in the entire world, it is a reason to go northish

Pros for the South-ish ( a new geography term that includes more than Kerala)

Kerala houseboats – my dad and I talked and dreamed of these many times, even bad photographers take good pics of the Kerala backwaters, it just is that beautiful

Easier? – I haven’t been to the south but any traveller who has experienced more of India than I, says the south is easier, fewer touts, less hassle – important to consider when it is my family’s first experience

Tea Plantation – I am obsessed with tea plantations but have never been. Strange, I know. I just love the pics of them so much.

Hampi – An IT PLACE that travellers go on and on about – I want to be one of those travellers – Walking and biking through the ruins, water running through the area, great sunsets, local people who pilgrimage there, a place to wander. Right up my alley.

Help!  Advice? In any event, it will be an experience.

Meeting for a Moment and Moving On

I was just leaving the temple with my dad somewhere in Rajasthan, India. There was no one around except for her; a youngish girl, carrying home water. She waved and I walked over. We couldn’t talk to each other but we could smile.

Immediately I felt awkward. Our driver in our rental car was waiting for us. We waved good-bye to her. She continued to walk; with the heavy jug on her head. I know because she had let me hold it. Driving away, moving on I looked back at her.

It didn’t seem right. In fact, it wasn’t. At least, we could have offered her a ride. But we hadn’t. Yes, feeling guilty. A common feeling I experienced in India.

Camels Are Not For Wusses

Trust me, the thrill of riding a camel lasts mere seconds… then it quickly turns to mere pain.

I should have learned my lesson the first time around. Dad and I were in Rajasthan, India and when you are there, apparently you must ride a camel in the desert. Or at least I was led to believe. Well dad and I did not last more than 10 minutes. Get on that darn camel, get a photo op and get off &*#! camel.

So why would I ever think that we should drag our bodies all the way to Merzouga, Morocco so that the rest of the family could celebrate the camel ride all over again?

And this was no 10 minute ride. Chris just confirmed that it was an hour and half both ways out into the Sahara Desert and then back again. He also stated that no one was happier than my camel when I decided to bail and get off said camel on the return home. My butt and thighs were forever grateful but my feet, trudging through the thick Sahara sand, were screaming another story.

Overall, not a pretty picture and one I WILL NOT REPEAT in front of those cool pyramids in Egypt (if and when) even if the photo op is to die for (in more ways than one).

The Elegance of an Indian Woman

I was in awe of the women in India. Simply, stunning in all they do.

I would be (as the teens today say) ONE BIG HOT MESS day in, day out. I couldn’t even begin to try. I thought I was doing well if my hair hadn’t frizzled into one massive bowling ball and that was a good day.

Indian women were cooking, they were carrying water on their heads, they were carrying anything and everything on their backs, they were looking after the kids, they were always doing and still… they have that “je ne sais quoi” , that simple elegance that makes you want to run for your camera and ask if you can take their photo.

Personally I know that NO ONE would EVER want to take my picture as I try to cook in my kitchen. It is anything but elegant.

Anonymous In India – NOT!!!

I wasn’t sporting great clothes… I wasn’t sporting a great hair cut (as Jade just pointed out). In fact I looked pretty bad. I was just plain old tired and extremely hot. This is India after all; tired and hot go hand in hand. I just needed to rest. But sit quietly for a moment by myself… rest and relax for a bit…I THINK NOT. This is India. I am not a sitting person, I am a sitting duck.

And so it began.

The man comes over and before I know it, I have a coloured mark on my forehead.

I am confused but that is no real surprise. To understand would have really been the surprise. Culture in India is no basket weaving course. The mark on my forehead is not red, the colour often used in temples. And I am not even in a temple.

So who is to know?

I smile, I say I am from Canada, and before I know it, I have an audience. Anonymous in India… an impossible feat.. but then if it was… it wouldn’t be India.

A Confession of An Unconventional Travel Obsessed Mom

I realize that it gets worse every January… it just rolls around… spitting at first, then pouring, and then soon I am drenched as there is a full-blown thunder-storm of monsoon proportions. The urge to travel…I can’t quite quiet it down. As we are more of the “once a year we take a big trip” kind of families (although I could change that up in a second if a jackpot came our way), January is the middle of my travel road. The memories of that last trip are beginning to fade and the NEED to do it all over again begins to BUILD! I am sure some of you can relate.

So when it comes to our girls, is it wrong that I don’t:

  • revel in the dream of their weddings
  • get glassy-eyed thinking of grandchildren
  • dream of their graduations (in fact I have been known to say that once they hit a certain age, they need to go backwards… like when you reach 15, then you turn 14 until you hit 10 and then you can work your way up again)
  • dream of their first jobs (unless of course it leads to travel 🙂

I care about those things…really I do… BUT I really dream of them travelling. You know when you have that “scare”, that kind of “scare” that rocks you to your core, keeps you up at night, and makes you re-evaluate your life. I had one of those last year (fortunately it was all fine) but during that scare and post-scare, this is what came to mind.

Nothing can happen to me until I know my girls have travelled to Cambodia (my first love) and to India (my second love). I realize that this is not normal… well for many of us… but I will sleep much easier once I know they have experienced these two special countries.

 

 

A Road Side Lunch in India

I am not sure about the math but if I have eaten close to 53 655 meals in my lifetime, this one road side lunch in Rajasthan, India stands out as one of my most interesting ones. Sitting on a ” ? ” , I ate alongside other local people as they sat on a ” ? ” for a delicious Indian meal right along the main road. The equivalent to pulling into a McDonald’s on a highway road trip but only a BILLION times better and more memorable. India wins hands down in the “experiences you will never forget” category!