Posts Tagged With: United States

10 Things I Learned While Travelling the World

I’ve been back in Canada for a little less than a month now and have had some time to decompress and to think about my trip.  At first, I thought I hadn’t really changed at all during my travels, but it actually has in a million tiny ways.  I’d like to share that with you now:

10. The Journey is the Thing

My trip had no specific goal, other than to relax, enjoy and experience the world that was far away from home.  This turned out to a great way to travel and, for me, to not focus on the result, but to really take the journey for what it was – an adventure into the unknown.

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9. We are all the Same

I included this in my last list, but I want to say it again.  I love people, and the truest realization I had again while I was overseas is that we are all, at our most basic level, very similar.  We just want to be happy; to have enough food to eat, a roof over our heads, some people who love us and a purpose in life that brings us joy.  I saw all kinds of people living in many different ways as I worked though six countries, but they all have this in common. We are all part of one big human family, and it doesn’t matter where you are from or what you are doing with your life, some things are the same within all of us.

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8. Travel is as Easy and as Hard as you Want it To Be

PATIENCE.  This one virtue has eluded me my whole life, and nothing cures the need for control than a less than smooth travel experience.  I learned about the essence of the journey in my search for patience as I met setbacks and mishaps along the road.   I learned how to be more adaptable, to let things slide, and to only care about the most important things along the way.

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7. Roll with the Waves

This one is a good follow-up to #8.  When I rolled with the upsets along the way, the journey got even more interesting: I saw some things I would otherwise have missed, or had a completely new experiences I wasn’t expecting to have.  By saying “Yes!” I got into more trouble, saw more unexpected things, and had more impromptu adventures than if I had stuck to a strict schedule and followed it the whole way along.

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6. Pay Attention

I learned that there is beauty in the details.  That every city is an intricate mess that somehow works in its own unique way.  That the road less traveled sometimes results in a washed out car or monkeys attacking your windshield.  To stop and save the kittens, get lost on a bike and get found again, and that fun can be found in every airport, bus station, or boat ride.  By paying true attention to my surroundings, I was also able to glimpse into the local life of the people, and have real experiences from the country I was visiting.  That, to me, is priceless.

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5. Embrace the Inner Hippie

I’m normally a goal-oriented, round the clock, by the book kind of person.  To escape that mentality for a while and embrace my inner beach bum was an enlightening experience.  I had whole days with no plans and nothing to do, vague ideas of where the day would take me, and days where I just went with the flow.  That rarely happens in my “real” life in Canada, and it was refreshing to break out of the bubble of who I think I am and step into the sandals of my inner Hippie Goddess.  She is someone I want to know better, and a side of me that I won’t soon forget now that we’ve been re-aquainted!

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4. Trust the Kindness of Strangers

In my travels I stayed with family friends, friends of friends, new friends and people I didn’t even know at all. I was welcomed into countless homes with open arms, to people eager to share in my travel journey and get to know me.  I feel SO blessed to now have friends from all over the world, and want to thank each and every one of you for your hospitality and help in exploring all these new places 🙂 If you ever travel, and someone recommends that you stay with a friend or you have family/friends to stay with overseas, DO IT! It will completely change your perspective on the country you are visiting, because you get to see it through the eyes of a local.  A thousand thank-you’s again to all those who put me up while I was abroad!  You are welcome to return the favour here in Canada anytime!

3. Comfort Zones are Boring

I did something new and crazy in every country I went to: Surfing in Indonesia, Parasailing in Philippines, and even Skydiving in New Zealand.  Get out of your comfort zone and try some new and crazy stuff.  It will enrich your travel experience and add a whole new level of fun.  Besides, that’s what travel is for: new experiences and adventures! It doesn’t matter how scared you are – do something wild and crazy!  eat that cricket off a Bangkok bug cart!  Take the jet boat ride through the canyon!  Throw yourself out of a plane! These things are the highlights of my travels as I look back on them now, the times I challenged myself and really went for it.

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2. Theres No Place like Home

Canada is an amazing country. I learned this while I was abroad through other travellers stories about my home country, that it is a well-loved place in the world and worth exploring in its own right.  Talking about it with others made me realize how much I love being a Canadian and how lucky I am to call this place my home.  I never really appreciated it until I left for a long time and realized what a phenomenal place it is.

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1. I am SO lucky

The fact that I was able to pull off this trip still boggles my mind.  There was so much planning involved – a years worth of time and effort went into it, and now that I’m back I can see what a privileged position I hold as a citizen of Canada.  I have enough food to eat, a roof over my head, and friends and family who love and care about me.  The rest is just gravy!  Upon returning I went to my bathroom and turned on the tap, thinking back to all the times I didn’t have access to fresh water on my travels. Something as simple as turning on the tap can take on new meaning after travelling: it represents all that we take for granted, being from a first world country were every comfort is provided for.  I feel that, now, I am able to name how lucky I truly am.

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Well. That’s it!  I’m sure I will update this blog again in the future as life takes me on more travels, but for now I am happy to have landed back in Canada, ready to take on the world 🙂

xo

D

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Jade Factory and a Real, Live Kiwi!

The next morning we met eight new people who were joining our tour, and I bonded with a sweet American girl who sat next to me.  We marveled at the amazing views that were passing our window and had lots of stops to take pics of the mountains that surrounded us as we crossed into the NZ alps. This huge mountain range divides the island in two and made for some interesting crossings over the next few days.  We stopped for a break in Arthur’s Pass, and sat back sipping our coffees as we drove over bridges, under waterfalls (!) and up the sides of the valley to the other side of the coast.

 

The west coast has rapidly changing weather due to the influence of the mountains, and we got a taste of that when rolling into Hokitika for our lunch break.  The sky opened up on us as we were wandering over to the Kiwi Experience museum, and we got inside just in time.  It was time to see a real live Kiwi!  Kiwis are New Zealand’s wingless endangered bird, a very cute and very strange little guy who motors along the ground at night searching for little bugs with his long beak for dinner.  The museum cleverly has the Kiwi on European time, so that means it was night when we showed up to watch the Kiwi go about his business.  We entered the darkened room in a hushed silence – we had to be quite if we wanted to see the little guy!  After a few minutes he came out of his hidey-hole and started running around his large enclosure, digging in the dirt for his dinner and generally being super cute.  We must have watched him for over half an hour, laughing when he banged into things (he can’t see very well) and “squee-ing” when he came up close to the glass.

 

The sky had co-operated while we were inside the habitat, and it was almost sunny again as we went in search of some lunch.  We also visited a Jade factory in Hokitika, watching how the artisans craft the beautiful jewelry and weaponry in traditional Maori designs.  Lunch was whitebait fritters (a local NZ fish, yum), and it was only a short drive after that to our destination for the night in Fox Glacier.  We went on a gorgeous walk that afternoon around Lake Matheson, and had a chance to exercise our legs and see some gorgeous views up close.  The dinner at the Fox Glacier Inn that night was delicious, and I daresay I got into the wine a wee bit and had some laughs with the group by the cosy fire that evening.  I was loving my group!  So many interesting people from around the world, plus there were eight new people to get to know who had only joined the day before.  Tomorrow: it was time to see the great white glacier.

 

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Topdeck Trip and a stay at the Maori Marae

I was up bright and early the next day to prepare myself for the last leg of my epic trip – a bus tour around both the north and south islands of New Zealand with Topdeck – a tour company for 18 to thirtysomethings all around the world.  I joined up in Auckland, some of the trip members had been to the Bay of Islands already, but I felt like part of the group right away as I got on the bus – everyone seemed like fun, they were all my age and from a whole bunch of different countries.  Our bus left Auckland immediately for Rotorua, a spa town with lots of adventure activities and attractions in store for us.  We introduced ourselves to the group and met our hilarious guides, Craig and Scotty, who would entertain us for the next two weeks with their jokes, knowledge and general mayhem.
Before we got to our final destination for the night, we stopped to watch some group members Zorb down a hill, which basically means you get put in this giant plastic bubble and rolled down a hill. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it was actually hilarious to watch!!
After a quick stop in Matamata, a “Hobbit” town close to the film set of the Shire that I would be visiting, we drove on to Rotorua. We would stay in the town the next evening, but the first night we all stayed TOGETHER in a longhouse type of Maori lodge, bunked down on the floor like a giant sleepover camp!  But before we could enter into the Maori Marae, we had to honor their customs and learn about the welcoming ceremony that was going to take place.  First, we had to remove our hats and sunglasses and wait for the Maori woman to call out a welcome song to us and we, along with our ancestors were permitted to walk slowly into the home and community center of the New Zealand Natives.  When inside, we were welcomed by our host Shawn in a speech given in his native language and treated to a song, which we had to return to them with our own song. We practiced our Maori song “Oma Rapati” on the bus beforehand, so we sounded pretty good!  Then it was time for the traditional Maori handshake, which includes touching noses like Eskimos!
We had a nature walk after that, where we saw gorgeous waterfalls and learned a bit about the traditional Maori way of life.  Our dinner, however, was chicken, potatoes and gravy – very North American but very tasty!  After dinner we were treated to a performance by the men on our tour – the “Haka” – a war dance and song performed only by the males of the tribe meant to pump them up for battle and intimidate the other side.  It was so cool!  We were treated to stories and legends after that in our lodge, where we bunked down for the night, feeling like we knew each other a lot better after sharing something so special.  Being the culture vulture that I am, I LOVED this part of the tour and felt like I learned a lot about New Zealand and the people who inhabit this fantastic country.  I had more new adventures on my mind for the next day though – it was time to visit a movie set from one of the most epic movies ever made. Lord of the RINGS, BRO.
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Beachy Beachy Sihanoukville

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I loved Sihanoukville!! It was such a perfect place to end my journey.  I had been travelling for two months at this point, and was only days away from starting my journey home again…  I knew I needed to make the most of this place and really soak up Cambodian culture while I had the chance.

We stayed on Otres Beach, a sandy stretch about 15 minutes from the main hustle and bustle of town.  It made for one expensive tuk tuk rides back and forth to town, but was totally worth it in the long run because of the secluded feel of the beach and the castaway atmosphere.  The weather was not great – we had a daily afternoon rainstorm, but it made for some fun rainy afternoons with friends so we didn’t mind too much.

Our guesthouse was called Mushroom Point, coined obviously because it was a giant mushroom shaped-structure! We stayed in the mushroom dorm and two friends stayed in the little mushroom huts that dotted the property.  It was all soo cute! The place was  charming, the food was really delicious and the beach was right across the street.  We even had our own “mushroom bar” on the beach that served up food right on the beachfront.  We met some cool Brits, more Canadians and even some Americans (Hi Joshua!) during our stay, and had some wild party nights in the cozy laid back bars on the beachfront.

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There was lots of time to take in the scenery, walk down the shore and see the untouched, unspoiled land that was all around us (although an ominous -looking development seems like it’s going in right down the road.  there goes the neighbourhood). We spent a lot of time reading, hanging out in the sanctuary at Mushroom Point, and searching for the cheapest beers at happy hour (50 cents!) on the beach.  We also make it into town to check out Serendipity Beach, but got seriously rained out and had to while away an afternoon indoors drinking beers and playing pool (poor us!).

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My beautiful Brits and I parted ways after three fun-filled days, I was so sad to see them go and so jealous of their travels to Vietnam, Singapore, Bali, NZ, Aus and China that they had planned.  Keep me posted ladies!  I was so happy to have found some free spirited, like-minded souls to travel with through this excellent country.  It made my trip way more entertaining and they were just about the best travel companions i could have hoped for!

 


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My time in Sihanoukville included one more night where I visited some friends who were working in a local bar – they were staying on Serendipity beach with free food, accommodation and booze for one week, doing promo for a bar called the Dolphin Shack.  I wanted to party until the wee hours again, but was afraid of missing my bus trip back to BKK which would leave at 7am and last 14 disgusting hours.  Euugh.

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The Lake House

I woke up early in the morning after my little river tubing adventure the afternoon before, and got a chance to chat with my dad on the night of his birthday (11 hrs behind my time) while they were having a birthday dinner! It was great to catch up + talk with the whole family, and so surreal to stand amidst misty Jurassic Park mountains and watch the sun rise.

Our next adventure began soon after, as our two groups boarded the hippie bus to Khao Sok national park.  After a taste of the rainy season (aka treacherous downpour that would last 20 mins max) we boarded long tails to the cliff jumping spot among rocky karsts covered in deep green jungle rising out of the lake.

Then we arrived at our floating accommodations on the lake deep in the park.  45 Canadians. 4 to a cabin. On mattresses. Nothing to do but eat and drink and have moustache parties. So we did! When there was sun we would swim and tan, but that didn’t happen too much because its rainy season. Silly tourists!

The highlight of the lake house was the treacherous jungle hike we took…
First off the river was too low to get to the trailhead. So we had to hike- to the trailhead. On a new path. Forged by our Thai guide with a machete. Rough. For sure! The hike from the trailhead was easy enough, and the waterfall and caves at the end were a good payoff, but we arrived back at the lake house pretty wiped.

I was ready to leave the rainy lake house when we did early the next morning.  What would come next would remain my favorite place in the whole month I travelled with beach travellers and the experiences I had there changed me forever. Stay tuned….

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Misty Mountains

We arrived in Khao Sok and boarded the raddest hippie bus I have ever seen, it was straight out of a movie, brightly colored, broken down looking, and generally awesome. 3 working fans = not awesome though!

We also met up with the other 24-day tour group at this point, making 40 people or so in total. We would be travelling with them for the next eight days, doing the lake house, full moon and Ko Phangan together.

We arrived at the Smile guesthouse in Khao Sok, a gorgeous guesthouse in the middle of the mountains of a national park.  It literally looked like Jurassic Park, with mist rolling through the mountains, elevated jungle huts and a gorgeous lobby full of heavy dark furniture and little fountains.

Our first order of business was to buy booze for the river tubing adventure.  We bought delicious boozies then loaded up the floating coolers for our trip down the river.  We grabbed a tube each and walked down the road to the river, jumping into the shallow water and letting the current float us for a blissful, tipsy two hours of fun…

Until I looked down and realized the waterproof camera I had brought had somehow unlocked its “airtight” compartment and was now full of water…I was not impressed. It was such a crap thing to happen on an otherwise great day, I tried not to let it get to me. Back to the guesthouse after to prep for the monkey temple.

Once the cam was safely in a bag of rice drying out, I grabbed my stuff and headed out with the rest to check out the  monkey temple.

Monkeys are the greediest little jerks you have ever seen. Just sayin. We got to the temple and paid for some peanuts and bananas to feed the seemingly cute little guys, they were super grabby and even though it was cute to see them running around, they were actually a little scary….haha. Disney films have it all wrong. I’m not sure I’d want to be alone around a bunch of monkeys now.

My day ended pretty early, on account of me being pretty sauced on the river cruise. After dinner I decided to sleep for an hour to be fresh for the evening, aaaand woke up the next morning instead. Whoops!

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Kan-chan-a-buri (say it with me)

FIRST OF ALL – this seems like SO long ago as we have been traveling through some very remote places and I havent been able to update this blog in a long time!  I have 40 mins left on the interwebs here in Koh Phangan and will do my best to update fully and fill all you lovelies in on whats been happening in the land of smiles since we left off.

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We left Bangkok around 8am in a cute little minibus, off to the west of Thailand and a place (town?) called Kanchanaburi.  I had my first of many interesting experiences with the squat toilets that are the norm here, good thing I did so many squats before I left (thanks Peter!!) cause I certainly need that lower body strength now!

We arrived at Jolly Frog Backpackers Inn and had a group lunch, some announcements from our lovely guides Jon and Nikki, and put our stuff in what is possibly the UGLIEST room I have ever seen – think floral 70’s bed spread, paint splatter walls circa 1992 (with cracks secured by duct tape) accompanied by a scary bathroom and musty smell.  As my trip went on I realized – really – not such a bad room after all!!

We visited a school that afternoon, after a quick stop at TESCO.  Tesco was surreal because it seemed SO American (complete with a Dunkin Donuts and Dairy Queen) after all the foreign places I’ve experienced in the last week, it was strange to be in what felt like Wal-Mart!  We were only there to grab toys and games for the school kids, we loaded up on treats for the kiddies and headed out into the hotness.

We arrived at the cute little school (under 200 kids), and the little ones waved at us from their classrooms, visibly excited we were here to play with them.  Apparently the area we were in was pretty remote and they don’t see a lot of falang (foreigners), so the teachers were taking as many pics of us as we were of them!!

We got introduced to them as they sat in neat little lines by class, and performed a cute song for us. We then did the chicken dance for them, to their ultimate delight!  After getting acquainted, it was time to play soccer, blow bubbles and draw with them for an hour or so.  I drew a tic tac toe board for one of them on a little piece of paper and it was ON.  A tournament of wits ensued (I lost, maybe on purpose :P)  and we played happily together.

After a Kap-khoon-ka (thank-u) and goodbyes, we headed off to the River Kwai and the famous “Bridge over River Kwai”.  We walked over it (kinda dangerous as it was rusty AND there was a running train we had to avoid mid-pass lol) and had a wee history lesson as to it’s importance during WW2, apparently it was bombed many times and rebuilt in darkness during the night to keep crucial supply lines open.  I bought SWEET genie Thai pants that have proved very useful and the day was not even over yet!

Bridge over River Kwai!

Dinner at the Jolly Frog was delicious (coconut soup yumm) and we had some free time to get ready for the EPIC river cruise that was to come.  We took a bus to the riverside (still Kwai) and got on this giant floating covered raft complete with a DJ booth and crazy light show.  Jon (our guide) plopped down a 2-4 of M-150 (Thai red bull, twice as strong=twice as fun) and told us to go nuts – I knew then it would be a crazy night!!

We danced and danced and daaaanced to awesome music and our little group definitely became a family that night, we played games and got to experience a fire show (flaming batons twirling, being passed back and forth, being dropped, flung, twisted = so safe haha).  It was such a good party night and nothing like I’ve ever experienced before.  We were paired up with the 36-day tour for that part, so we got to bond with them for a bit too.

And then night wasnt even over yet!! After getting back to the guesthouse, we headed out to a place called Sugar Member (tee hee) and danced and drank some more, till we shut the place down.

After writing this I cannot believe all of that happened in one day!! More blogs to follow…much love peeps.

xo

D

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