What’s in a name? On pronouncing difficult country names

When I traveled through Southeast Asia some years ago, I was amazed by the number of fellow backpackers who ridiculed me whenever I pronounced the “s” in Laos. Apparently, I was supposed to pronounce it “Lao,” just like locals do. The thing is, those same “s”-dropping travelers never insisted on calling Bangkok by its proper name (“Krung Thep Maha Nakhon”) when they were in Thailand — and when they recalled journeys to East Asia, they mentioned Japan and Korea, not “Nihon-koku” and “Daehan Minguk”. But Laos was “Lao,” and anyone with the temerity to pronounce the “s” ran the risk of being branded a travel-greenhorn in the backpacker… Read More...

Posted by | Comments (0)  | January 3, 2015
Category: Languages and Culture

Reverse culture shock and how to deal with it

Everyone talks about culture shock. Heaps of books have been written about how to plan for it and websites dedicated to slowly transitioning into a culture where you perhaps don’t speak the language or aren’t used to the food or traditions. You spend months planning your big travels unaware of how completely changed you’ll be upon your return (if you choose to return, of course). Your adventure is more than accommodations, reservations, and experiences. It may depend on where, how and for how long, but regardless, travel changes a person. New perspectives happen, minds open, character flourishes and life as… Read More...

Posted by | Comments (3)  | January 1, 2015
Category: Languages and Culture

On Baksheesh

Photo Credit: walidhassanein via Compfight cc I'm riding a second-class train up the Nile valley when a boy in an official-looking blue jacket beckons me to the other side of the carriage. "Look," he whispers, pointing outside. "Beautiful!" I look out the window to see a red sun streaking the sky with bands of pink and yellow. Beyond the train tracks, the mighty Nile glitters with orange spangles of light. It truly is beautiful. As I soak in the colors, I wonder why the boy has taken the trouble to show me such a simple moment. It's not long before… Read More...

Posted by | Comments (0)  | October 25, 2014
Category: Hospitality, Languages and Culture, Travel Writing, Vagabonding Styles

The Value of Time

It’s an increasingly accepted as fact that, as a nation, we have allowed a work culture to develop where taking time off is seen a sign of disloyalty or lack of care, and where extended time off is more of a concept than a reality. It’s also a given that more and more data suggest that the costs of this approach in stress and lack of free time for rest, recreation and family is having a profoundly detrimental effect on our society. Traveling in Europe always brings the difference between the US and European cultures with regard to work/life balance… Read More...

Lessons from a tour guide, part I

This week I returned from a month and a half overseas working as a tour guide, helping to lead two different groups on an epic Best-of-Europe grand tour. The experience was a new one for me; after years of exploring the continent’s cobbled backstreets and ancient cities as a solo travel writer, I found myself with the unique opportunity of being a guide for one of America’s most well-respected touring companies. A couple of concerns dogged me as I flew over the Arctic Circle, the plane making its slow path from my home base of Seattle to the tour departure… Read More...

Another adventure, another reason on why travel is my passion

Having just come back from another great trip, I’m reminded again of the richness of Europe and the gifts it keeps on giving to any traveler willing to seek them out. I went to France on assignment for three mid-size, nationally-distributed magazines, and set to work almost immediately. It’s amazing how profoundly engrossing traveling and learning can be, especially when you have the added incentive of a contract for a story that must be delivered. Poking around the countryside and investigating ancient abbeys, ruined castles, and little medieval towns gives me a charge like nothing else. It satisfies my twin… Read More...

How do you make cross-cultural connections?

One of the reasons we travel is to reach across cultural boundaries and experience the world from a different perspective. It’s that genuine human interaction between different worlds, within the same space that is the essence of the value of leaving home and “seeing the world.” That connection is the moment that makes all of the uncomfortable moments on the road worthwhile. It’s the window that allows us to really see into a place, and a people. It’s the window that allows us to truly see ourselves and learn about who we are and our place in the world at… Read More...

Posted by | Comments (3)  | May 28, 2013
Category: Languages and Culture, On The Road

Vagabonding Field Report: Dengue Fever in the Indigenous Village, The Jungles of Ecuador

    Cost/day (for a family of five): Rent in the indigenous village- $3.50/day Food- $15/day (we bought and cooked our own food or picked whatever the land provided) School- kids attended for free, in exchange for us teaching English Hospitalization and medications- free Strangest thing we've seen lately: Before his wish to die, but well after 40 degree fever and horrifying nightmares, the kindly villagers performed ritual healing ceremonies on my husband Kobi. They picked two of this leaf, four of that one, this root, that berry and cooked them over a banana-leaf-sealed open-fired vat. Then, with ritual prayer… Read More...

Posted by | Comments (9)  | April 24, 2013
Category: Family Travel, Languages and Culture, South America, Vagabonding Field Reports

Open relationships and long term travel

“But you’re just going to leave!” Although I hated to admit it, who said that was right. At the time I’d been seasonally migrating as a guide for four years. And had no intention to confine my adventurous spirit in domestic American life, then—if ever. The catch though was he was not American; Swedish born to immigrated Polish parents. And unless we got married, physically being together was a matter of juggling countless visas. I was willing to explore the challenges of the relationship. He proposed, and I accepted. However, the seemingly prince-charming-fairy-tale was soured after five months, in one… Read More...

Have you encountered ghosts?

A week from now is All Hallows Eve “vigil of All saints” or commonly known in North America as Halloween. The holiday’s roots are of pagan Celtic origin; but it seems to be spreading around the world in modern fashion. When I was young, it meant dressing up in a costume and walking around my small town neighborhood, knocking on doors and gathering more candy than I’d ever eat. On October 31st my three year-old-niece will dress up as a frog fairy princess (her creative idea) and I’ll take her to go trick-or-treating.   But today’s celebration barely resembles the… Read More...

Posted by | Comments (1)  | October 25, 2012
Category: Europe, General, Languages and Culture, North America