Travelers are curious. Why else would they put up with the more uncomfortable bits that make up “travel”? Squatting toilets for instance or anything that has anything to do with an airline.
Many of us are so curious that we want to see it all. The whole world. At the very least, a sample of each region from the world. That “see it all” curiosity is especially true for my husband. His initial thoughts on creating an itinerary are never “I’d like to go back to….” but always “We haven’t yet seen…”.
I, on the other hand, am a very nostalgic person. In some ways, that seems like a trait that wouldn’t encourage travel but would instead put a damper on curiosity for all things novel and strange.
Believe it or not, I think nostalgia can fuel travel too. Of course a person who has traveled as a kid may feel nostalgic about returning to the places they visited or simply about travel in general. But I think there are 3 ways in which nostalgia can inspire anyone to travel, even those who never traveled before.
1.) If you think about it, the discovery of something new is inherently familiar from our childhood. When is this world more full of discovery than when we’re children, constantly exploring “firsts”? Everything from our first bike ride to our first field trip comes with that feeling of discovering something novel. In that way, even a person who never traveled as a kid may feel nostalgic about new experiences and new places.
2.) Some people travel for the nostalgic feeling of a simpler time. One of my first jobs was as a front-desk clerk in a bed & breakfast in Amish Country Ohio and I must say, most of our tourists came to remember what life was like when the world was slower. Every day I heard someone exclaim, “My grandmother used to do it that way!” or “Yes, I remember when we made bread that way too.”
My point isn’t that nostalgia inspires you to travel to Amish Country but rather that nostalgia can inspire travel to developing or remote cultures, not yet saturated with all things digital. Eastern Europe for instance reminds me of the America my grandparents tell stories about. Yes there are cars driving down dirt roads in the countryside, but there are horse-drawn carts too. And pay phones! And little bakeries run by little old women in the same plain aprons my aunts used to wear when they made homemade bread.
3.) Doesn’t the study of genealogy and family history seem to sprout from nostalgia too? Genealogy seems to inspire even the least wander-lusting types to travel back to the place of their roots. There’s something fascinating, after all, about visiting a town you’ve heard family fables about. My grandmother used to sing a song about buying shoes in “Laderbach.” Never has she seen Laderbach, but seeing the name “Laderbach” on a sign in Switzerland brought back warm memories of my her singing the songs her grandma sang to her. It was fascinating to realize that a little hint of Switzerland had trickled down through the generations in the form of a song.
Nostalgia is a mysterious feeling in this way. It seems it’s not just a love of things familiar from our past, but sometimes a love of things reminiscent of a past we’ve never even seen ourselves.
Why travel far and wide you ask
What will you perhaps find?
There’s so much here to see and do
Why go far to unwind?
So much to say – the words are hard
They make so much sense to me
Stay here to find the everyday
Or go abroad and see?
The fun, the peace and curiosity
It runs deep in my soul
Adventures to have and experiences I seek
The journey itself is the goal
In travel I find a piece of myself
I’ve yet to find at home
Truth and identity are ones that I seek
And I find it whenever I roam
It’ll never be easy or just the right time
To quit tradition or ditch the routine
Follow your dreams and go forth to find
So much learning from travel you’ll glean
Years from now what will matter more
What you did or didn’t do?
Remember you matter and you are important
And you choose what works for you
Venture out in the world there’s adventure afoot
The more you travel the more you know
Don’t wait for the right time for everyone else
If it’s right for you…JUST GO!
To read more of Stacey’s travel adventures, visit her website.
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 was illustrated in sharp relief for me. It’s one thing to hear how the Europeans put priority on the “life” side of the balance, and it is another to see it in action. As many know, the Europeans enjoy social benefits such as maternity as well as paternity leave, and up to six weeks of vacation time per year.
To see the very obvious benefits of that strategic choice for a shorter work year play out in the lives of everyday Europeans illustrates the point. Watching families strolling in the parks, laughing and chatting happily, on a weekday afternoon or visiting with friends over a drink in a café—enjoying the free time their generous benefits affords them—is to reinforce any stressed-out American’s suspicion that we are on the wrong side of the equation.
Of course, there are economic trade-offs along with such benefits. With less time focused on work and more time focused on free time, GDP is affected and taxes are high to support these benefits. Countries with a historically take-it-easy approach to life such as Italy and Spain had no trouble swapping time at work for time with friends, but how do these policies fare in the more traditionally industrious nations of the north? Does this bother many of them?
Not very much, it seems. “Everyone hates taxes of course,” a German told me, “but we willingly make the trade-off because it’s a good bargain. The time is more valuable.” Another said, “We made the conscious choice to arrange the society this way, with the emphasis on maternal and paternal leave and more vacation time. It has many positive benefits. We just do with a little less material things.”
In a surprising finding that bolsters the arguments of proponents for more European-syle work arrangements, a recent analysis from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (link to the study is here) found that workplace productivity doesn’t necessarily increase with hours worked. Workers in Greece clock 2,034 hours a year versus 1,397 in Germany, for example, but the latter’s productivity is 70 percent higher. In other words, there’s not necessarily the direct correlation that our system is predicated on.
“You Americans kill yourselves with antiquated work policies,” says a French acquaintance. “You have two weeks of vacation, if you are very lucky. We are a very prosperous, industrialized economy with a national healthcare service too. We make it all work.”
I knew it begged an inevitable question, and my friend asked it. “So why can’t you?”
That statement and its inevitable question was put to me many times, in many places. It is a question I brought back to the US with me. It stayed in my mind as my flight arced across the Atlantic and over the North American continent, remaining as an important souvenir. The issue was never about lingering in cafés or visiting the Alps, but rather the stuff of a good life: choices, time and freedom to make of it what we will. Would you be happier and more productive if you had more of these? What will it take for us as a society to finally demand it?
At the age of twelve, I visited my friend Jill’s house and tasted what I still believe to be the best barbecue sauce around. Her dad’s friend Steve brought it with him on a visit from Toronto, Canada and I have never found its equal. Today, Diana’s Sauce lives in my own cupboard and I order it by the case.
Before I ever ventured out of my post-code, my mom shared my grandfather’s travel advice. “Take out half the clothes and put in twice the money”, he said. I’ve since shared his wisdom countless times, but regardless of the truth to it, no one ever said I’d need to save room in my rucksack to hold food products I learned to love along the way. And no one at all told me that if I couldn’t bring them home through customs, I would scour the Internet as soon as I returned just to find that one specific item that tempted my taste buds in my travels. It’s true, I do.
Today there are heaps of culinary tours and cooking classes in travel are all the rage. Travelers will tell you that eating local and traditional cuisine is part of truly experiencing a country or city. Why stick to KFC or McDonalds when the world of Indian curries or Vietnamese pho is so easily in your grasp? I can’t say it’s all for me, I did give the fried tarantulas a miss in Cambodia and said no to the kudu steak in Namibia-but then again, I am a vegetarian.
Having tried treats around the world there are many that are worth keeping at home reminding us of our travels. There are others that can’t be found outside of their homeland, but they are to be savored and perhaps the memories are so strong that they draw you to book that ticket once again. And there are others dishes still that although not the same, we can try to recreate to have an Australian or Argentinian-themed dinner at home in New York.
Here’s some of what’s made its way into my cupboard since I first left home:
Tim Tams: Australia
Chocolate Teddy Bears: Australia
Mint Slices: Australia
BBQ Shapes: Australia
Uncle Toby’s Oatmeal: Australia
Branston Pickle: England
Licorice All Sorts: England
Quorn Chick’n Nuggets: Hong Kong/England
Ouma Rusks: South Africa
Brai Salt: South Africa
Nandos Hot Sauce: South Africa
Jungle Oatso Easy Oatmeal: South Africa
Simba Chips: South Africa
Mrs. Balls Chutney: South Africa
Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans: Costa Rica
Lizano Sauce: Costa Rica
Chickpea Flour: India
Whole Cumin Seeds: India
Masala Munch: India
Diana’s BBQ Sauce: Canada
What products do you bring home with you? What do you continue to crave after your travels?
Although they can’t possibly taste the same-these are just some of the flavours we’ve tried to recreate at home:
Colombian Arepas: Queen Victoria Night Market, Melbourne, Australia
Burgers with the lot: Australia/New Zealand
Kumara Chips: New Zealand
Watermelon Smoothies: Phuket, Thailand
Iced Lemon Tea: Hong Kong
Aloo Jeera (Potatoes with Cumin Seeds): India
Gallo Pinto: Costa Rica
Mahi Mahi: Bora Bora, French Polynesia
What recipes do you take home with you?
To read more about Stacey’s travels visit her website.
Day 63 of our year long ‘round the world honeymoon will be forever etched in our memory. In October 2009, my husband and I had just concluded a three-week G Adventures tour of southern Africa and had a few days to spend in Livingstone, Zambia. The falls called to us. Knowing only it’s mammoth size, endless supply of rainbows and something called Devil’s Pool; we went in search of adventure but what we found was both a literal and metaphorical ‘jump’. The water rushed past us with its continual flow symbolizing the twists, turns and sometimes, jagged edges of life. How on earth did we get here?
Devil’s Pool is a natural rock pool cresting on the edge of the Zambian side of Victoria Falls (also known as The Smoke that Thunders). During the dry season, the Zambian side of the falls is low enough for visitors to attempt the adrenaline rush of Devil’s Pool. “Climb up this way” our guide David said as he gestured to a large rock that placed us just above the small pool. At the far edge of the natural pool lay the actual edge of Victoria Falls. My heart jumped. The falls rumbled. How did we get here and now what was I supposed to do?
For so long, I’d lived a sheltered life in Long Island, NY. During university I took my first international trip and each year ventured further in my travels. I found that traveling allowed me to find my true self. My comfort zone was grew and my fears lessened, but this was a jump on a totally different level. Moving in together was a risk worth taking, getting married was a leap of faith, taking a year off from a career I’d been in for over ten years was scary but this was on a much greater scale! At the time, I’m not sure I truly knew what it meant, but it was the beginning of a complete shift in attitude, confidence and total life balance.
We watched a group of travelers in front of us and they lived. “Are we really doing this?” I asked my husband of nearly two months. “Absolutely-there’s no turning back now!” David (the guide) stood on the rocks on the left, the cliff’s edge was in front of us with another guide standing ready to catch our hands if necessary and we waited our turn. These guys literally walked on the world’s edge every day-I wonder what their mothers said about their job? I imagine their life was as balanced as could be. Water was everywhere. David said ‘jump’, and insanely, I listened. Landing safely in the pool my smile may have actually surpassed my ears! The rush was inexplicable. Mathew and I sat, as so many did before us, on the edge leaning back to see the falls rushing over the side and watched as a double rainbow appeared before our eyes. Incredible doesn’t do it justice!
After the jump, excitement replaced fear and our appetites returned. It wasn’t just the desire to devour the delicious eggs benedict and scones offered to jumpers after their plunge. Now, after successfully looking fear in the eye, jumping and more than just surviving-I wanted more. This wasn’t just an incredible day or travel story to retell; this was a life-changing experience whose effect was far greater than I ever could have imagined.
Three years after that jump, the feelings hadn’t lessened. We’d returned, gone through a hurricane that nearly decimated our community and the desire for more was still there. The entire jump from the giant rock into the pool at the top of Victoria Falls took all of ten seconds. The journey to reach the top of that rock took well over thirty years and was comprised of as many bumps, tumbles and magic as the waterfall herself. The interesting thing was that the magnitude of the jump was not in those ten seconds as I had first thought but instead it was the aftermath that held the greatest significance.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined spending time traveling the world or ever having the courage to take that leap at one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls. That leap led to more as I finally began to believe that some form of net truly would appear. Perhaps those first few nets of my family, my husband and the pool at the top of the Victoria Falls led to finally believing that even I could be my own net. By four years after the jump, we’d taken more time off from work and gone traveling again facing new challenges and taking greater risks than I ever before would take. I finally felt that I could be my travel self, that true self at home or abroad. The ‘world’s greatest sheet of falling water’ (according to UNESCO) taught me about courage, fear, wonder, risk, encouragement, balance and joy.
I’m no longer afraid to jump. In fact, there are times that I look forward to those jumps and find them far more exciting than nerve-wracking; the complete opposite of life prior to Day 63. I’m not sure she knows what she gave me in those ten seconds but because of her, I know that the possibilities are endless and that the risk is without question, worth the reward.
Thank you, Victoria Falls.
To see more of Stacey’s travels check out her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.
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 point of Amsterdam. Questions like, how would I be able to handle a large group as we steam across the continent day in and day out? And, how will the mechanics of moving groups from one site to the other in an efficient way work? But these concerns paled next to the most significant challenge: Helping the scores of American travelers connect to the history and culture of the places they came so far to experience.
Staring out my window at the endless expanse of the north Atlantic, I began to feel the weight of the responsibility settle into my gut. How do I curate this experience for our flock? I’d always done it for myself just fine; teaching others how to appreciate the richness of Europe was something I’d never needed to do beyond my writing. It was easy enough to crank out articles about the places I’d visited and about the treasures—the food, the history, the people, all the things that make up the culture—those places had to offer. Would I be able to help our travelers connect to them and appreciate them in the same way that I did?
The teaching I’d done before—giving free travel talks at public libraries to would-be travelers who were interested in learning how to create their own independent European adventure—was indispensable. The classes I’d taught had given me a sense of what tickled a traveler’s fancy and what common-sense issues they worried about. This gave me the advantage of being able to anticipate questions and concerns, sometime before the group members even knew they had them.
The true challenge was facilitating the tour member’s experience of the culture. It was in trying to cast new food experiences as a part of good travel, as “sightseeing for your palate”. It was in helping them fend off museum overload by urging them to see the art of the Louvre and the Accademia with their hearts rather than their mind. It was in not rushing through another “check the box” locale (don’t rush through St. Mark’s square, I counseled, just take your time and find your own way to relate to the space). And it was in fending off cathedral overload by teaching that architecture was art we walk through—art that took generations of devoted believers and craftsman to create—rather than just another drafty old building.
Finally I kept the old teacher’s maxim close to my heart: “The task of the teacher is to honor the integrity of fact while at the same time igniting the student’s imagination.”
Over the course of the following weeks I’d work on striking that balance, always trying to bring long-ago stories and long-dead people to Technicolor life. Success for the tour guide also means the tourists returning home knowing that the struggles, the tragedies and triumphs of those who inhabited the majestic castles and cobbled city streets so long ago set the stage for the world as we know it today.
The trick to achieving that was helping them forge an emotional connection to the events a given site had witnessed; that its history was not just a collection of faceless dates and facts, but human beings with hopes and dreams who lived in similarly dramatic times of war, economic uncertainty and dramatic social change. Those folks tried to make the best of it, and somehow got through it. We can too. But more than just the appreciation of history, it’s the appreciation of the culture that really informs a successful travel experience. My hope is that the tour members came away with a renewed perspective on how Europe’s endlessly varied tapestry of cultures, while wonderfully diverse, are similar to our own in the most fundamentally human ways.
If you ever find yourself in the trying but satisfying role as tour guide, I think you’ll find that those lessons are your tour members’ best souvenirs.
From the very first time I ever went on a trip, I never wanted to leave. Friends used to tell me they thought I feared reality and wanted to live in a permanent state of holiday. ‘What’s so wrong with that’, I’d reply. It has only gotten worse with age, I’m afraid. I used to think it was because I didn’t have to handle any chores at that time. Since then I’ve gotten sick while traveling, have had to pay bills while on the road and deal with other disheartening realities, but, even to this day, I never want it to end. How do I transfer those travel feelings to the everyday?
Free. Unencumbered. Happy. At Ease. These are just a few of the terms that travelers often use to describe how they feel when in their happy place. On the road we can be ourselves, be the person we always want to be and not feel as if we have to fit into any specific boxes or deal with any expectations. We can change direction with the wind, be spontaneous or try new things that we’d rarely do in our ‘normal’ setting. Go to the beach on a weekday, hike that mountain you were once afraid of or eat ice cream twice a day-all of these special things take place when we leave the nest. Things are only part of it, but more significant are the changes within that we discover. A different perspective arises, new hobbies take shape, varied taste buds develop and a whole new world opens up that perhaps we never knew-how do we harness those feelings and bring them back ‘to reality’?
There’s not always time or money to go on that much desired adventure. If we can find a way to bring the happiness found in travel to the daily routines of life-the everyday can sometimes feel like a holiday! Happy travels.
For more of Stacey’s writings visit her website at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com.
We’d been dating long distance for over three years. We got engaged in Australia in January of 2009 when I was still in New York and he in Melbourne. We’d traveled overseas together on every holiday break we could and loved it. We knew we wanted to share the same space for more than a few weeks together and thought long and hard about how to do it in perhaps a non-traditional way. We decided to take a ten-month honeymoon after we got married and travel around the world. A couple of years later, we did it again for a few months. We looked forward to the job hiatus, an apartment on hold, the joy of not knowing where we’d be or what we’d do on any given day, nothing pulling us in a specific direction and constant adventure ahead. The scariest part was that at some point, we had to tell people what we were doing. Of course, some responses were positive, ‘that’s awesome, take the opportunity and enjoy’ from those who were happy for us. But, let’s just say that the traditional path was not the one on which we traveled.
There were many interesting questions that came from the thoughts of others, but mostly we got…’you’re doing what?’
Here are some of the questions we got when we ditched the traditional path for a while.
Why would you do that?
What about health insurance?
What about your jobs?
What about your career?
What about your apartment?
What will you do for money?
Do you have a trust fund I don’t know about?
How can you do that?
Where will you live?
Did you get an apartment already?
Do you know where you’re staying?
You’re planning on traveling WHERE?
Don’t you know there are diseases and crazy dangers there?
Why would you want to go THERE?
What will you do with all of your STUFF?
Are you insane?
Are you ever coming back?
What about your family?
Can I come too?
You’re doing what?
How did people react when you shared your travel plans?
What’s the most memorable question you heard when you headed off on your journey?
To read more of Stacey’s travels check out her blog at thegiftoftravel.wordpress.com
Money in, soda out-this is the typical experience with a drink machine. But we’ve all had that sticky situation of money in-no soda out. What do you do? Do you shake or kick the machine, or do you yell or even go as far as to demand that the machine return your drink or your money back? When you place your hard earned money in that skinny plastic slot, you expect that same result that you’ve had time and time again. What happens when the result is not the same? What happens when the machine is human?
Travel changes a person. For some, we leave looking one way and return another. But for most of us, the real change happens on the inside. It’s perspective, beliefs, and thoughts that can’t be viewed by the naked eye. Returning from long-term travel and trying to fit into the same old boxes people place us is often difficult and sometimes truly impossible. We may look the same on the outside but are internally altered.
Some travel changes work for the new person in the same life. Stay in Australia for a while and you might now put fried egg atop every burger you make. Travel to Costa Rica and upon your return you might scour the shelves of every supermarket inspired by your newfound love of Lizano sauce. These changes fit. These changes seem acceptable to society at large. But what do you do about those ‘other’ changes?
For many, long-term travel showcases the lives, cultures, settings and lifestyles of other ways to live. Embracing that way of life for even a small period of time changes a person from the inside out. For some, we come home and although unfathomable to many, we quit our jobs or ditch life-long careers. We no longer accept certain attitudes and often have a newfound perspective for the actual problems in life as opposed to those we used to think of as problems. We change the way we act in situations and often have a new lease on life, greater independence and more faith in ourselves.
Our reactions, or actions (like those of the soda machine) are actually visible. Perhaps we now react differently to conversations, statements, outings or others than we used to. It’s in these circumstances that it’s difficult for others to know what to do. All of a sudden society has acted one way and instead of responding in our usual way; we’ve changed. Others weren’t on our journey but those invisible changes are now affecting them. A result of many life-changing events, I’m sure, but it’s still difficult to share all of the internal changes that have gone on in your perspective, wants, desires and those choices you’d now choose to make.
No matter the result, the struggle is real on both sides. Do your friends and family shake the machine? Do they say ‘the heck with this, I’ll just use a different one?’ Do they take the time and patience to understand the inner workings of this device and deal with the fact that the soda might never reach the tray? We’ve all had experiences with this sort of situation. For me, it took time, patience and understanding on both sides. I was the one who left and changed, and there was work needed on both sides. When the machine has made up its mind, eventually those shaking realize too and either accept this decision or don’t. This is true with drink machines and people.
What happened when you returned from your journey? Did you experience the ‘soda machine theory’?
As I was preparing to write this blog post, I thought of a problem that most, if not all writers, struggle with: coming up with something to write about. That’s especially true in travel writing, where finding a good angle, or a “story”, is key to get the attention of an editor and an audience.
With the facility of modern travel, even getting to very far-flung and hardcore destinations is not enough to have a story. Plenty of people are probably already there, camera in hand, without an assignment. Truth is, today’s editors have many more offers than they can consider, and they all come from as many exotic locations as we can find pointing fingers madly on a world map. So, how to stand out and get published?
I found that opening my eyes very wide is the most useful of strategies. In fact, today’s publishing industry is not looking at what is there, but more at what has slipped between “there” and “somewhere else” only people with deep sense of observation see. I don’t believe that one has forcibly to stay in a place long to get such “discerning power”. Of course, extended knowledge of a place can just do your writing good; but in order to catch that glimpse that makes an idea stand out among all the others, you don’t necessarily need it.
You just need good imagination, attention to detail, and a great deal of curiosity.
I give you a simple example: the other day I was walking down Armenian Street in Penang, where plenty of people go visit the famous street art installations realized by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic. I remember that there were so many people lined up to take pictures of the kids on a bicycle, and all of them were waiting to take the same picture. The street corner was so crowded, it was silly to notice how, tucked at a street corner just across the road, a traditional rattan furniture shop was empty.
I know that place very well, for I have visited several times before: the owner, an old man in his 70s, has been weaving rattan furniture by hand for the past 50 years. He, of course, besides keeping an old trade of Malaysia alive, is a goldmine of stories. When I visit and he has time, I always leave his shop with more than a handful of ideas buzzing in my head. And that’s how I get material to write my stories: by looking around the corner, and talking to people. Real people, who aren’t just taxi drivers and hotel staff.
The difference between a story you can sell, and one which will be rejected, is all matter of perspective and perception. The important thing is to remember that nobody is willing to pay to get what everybody else can provide, and most often for free on their blogs… so open your eyes and ears, interact with people, and look for the unusual, underrated, or just plain forgotten. It will pay off if you are persistent, and able to cope with inevitable instances of rejection.