Posts Tagged With: travel

Five Countries on My Bucket List!

            As you probably know by now, I live for travel. Like so many travel enthusiasts, I miss the glory days when we could freely travel around the world. It has been the biggest thing for me to swallow during the COVID pandemic. But when it’s over, I will be poised to travel again! Many of you are likely planning where you will go first when travel restrictions are lifted. I am too! I’m not exactly sure where I will go, but it may be one of the many countries on my bucket list. And fortunately, I have a South African girlfriend who is as passionate about travel as I am!

Today, I want to share with you the top five places I want to visit at some point post-COVID!

  1. Colombia
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This one may not be everyone’s cup of (insert drink). A few years ago, I visited South America for the first time and fell in love with it! I currently teach English at a school where 70% of my students are Colombian, and they have inspired me to visit their country. I’m hoping to visit Bogota, Medellin, Cartagena, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s hometown in Santa Marta. Another attraction to Colombia is that it is one of the biggest producers of my all-time favorite drink: coffee.

2. Japan

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I owe this to the many Japanese students I have taught English to over the years as well as the fact that I once dated a Japanese girl. I’m fascinated by the unique culture and history. Of course, I cannot deny my love for Japanese food, especially sushi. My Japanese aspirations include riding the famous Shinkansen (bullet train), visiting the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, and spending a night in a capsule hotel. I also hope to visit a sento, which means bathhouse. I have been told that this is a must-do for any Japan visit. The sento, as I have learned, was once the only place where the Japanese could wash themselves.

3. Norway

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I’ve been captivated by this nation since I was eleven. The Vikings, the fjords, etc. I am hoping to visit Norway during the winter months. I once befriended a Norwegian in Spain who commented on how special it is to be there during winter. Being from the Great White North, this won’t bother me a bit.

4. Australia

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My friends from New Zealand would probably jeer me if they read this, but I have wanted to go to the Land Down Under for ages! Venturing through the Outback and the Great Barrier Reef, as well as gazing at the 12 Apostles. Then, of course, there is sitting in a Sydney outdoor café after the exhausting long flight over there. And speaking of the incredibly long journey, Australia is worth it, IHO! And to keep my Kiwi friends happy, I’ll be sure to stop by NZ on my way home.

5. Kenya

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I’ve always wanted to go on an African safari, and I feel that Kenya is the place to make that happen! I also once did a project on the Maasai group, which first sparked my interest in Kenya. My girlfriend speaks highly about Kenya and she is more than willing to return there for my sake!

Which of these countries am I hoping to visit first? Everything depends on when travel restrictions are finally eased. It would likely come down to either Colombia or Japan. We shall see!

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , ,

Go local! Travel local!

Lake Ontario

 

 

COVID-19 has thrown many social pleasures out the window, from weddings, summer festivals to concerts. But the pandemic has curtailed one of life’s biggest pleasures: travel. With global travel restrictions in place and pockets of rising cases, it seems like travel is the last thing on anyone’s mind. I, myself, had several big trips derailed due to the pandemic: skiing in Banff, California and Colombia. Regrettably, I don’t think I’ll be going abroad for the rest of the year!

Being a travel enthusiast, I feel somewhat empty inside not being able to indulge in one of my greatest pleasures. You fellow ‘wanderlusters’ probably feel the same way. But just because there are worldwide travel restrictions doesn’t necessarily mean travel has to go out the window completely. Now is the perfect time to play tourist in your own backyard and go ‘local’. And that’s what I’ve been doing for the last month now.

I’ve been visiting towns and villages near my home that I either have never been to or haven’t been to since I was a child. And now that I have, I’m discovering local treasures I never knew existed. For example, I recently visited a town nearly seventy miles from my house. It turned out to be along this pretty river known for paddling and rafting. It also was a quaint town to walk around, I felt as if I was experiencing a more authentic Ontario. In another example, I went to a lakeside town that has a renowned theatre, and is popular with couples. It is also in the heart of Niagara wine country with vineyards galore!

town of Niagara-on-the-Lake

 

If you set your travel radar to local, you can have similar experiences as me! Chances are your home is nearby to countless ‘treasures’. Not convinced? Try doing a Google search or use an app I love called Culture Trip. You can use it to find various travel tips and insights on practically any destination worldwide. I normally use to look up places I plan to visit on any trip abroad. Give it a try! I’m sure you’ll be able to find places within 80 miles of your home, which would make the perfect daytrip!

Overnight stays at a hotel/motel may not be plausible for obvious reasons, so it’s best to look for places you can easily visit for the day. Not only will you discover new local treasures, you will have an opportunity for a selfie or two to add to your Instagram feed! So get online, discover travel-worthy locales and keep up on traveling. The day will come when we can all get back to savoring the great wonders of the world! I know I will when that day comes!

Happy ‘local’ traveling, where ever that might be!

 

 

Categories: My Travels | Tags: , , , , , ,

Why Mexico Rocks!

 

We all know that Mexico doesn’t exactly have the best P.R. reputation at the present. Homicides, kidnappings, drug cartels, etc. And then, of course, we have the situation with Trump. It seems like Mexico is the last place anyone wants to visit. Over the Christmas holidays, I traveled through this amazing country, and I’m here to share with you why Mexico rocks and why you should consider a trip there.
Most of my countrymen – and other foreign nationals – prefer to stay at resorts on the coast, such as the Mayan Riviera, Puerto Vallarta, and Cabo San Lucas. Prior to my trip, I had only gone to Tijuana on a day trip from San Diego. I didn’t have the best impression from, and many Mexicans that I had met over the years told me Tijuana is not exactly authentic Mexico. So over two weeks, I traveled through southern Mexico, starting in Mexico City and finishing in Playa del Carmen. I hit hotspots such as Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Campeche. It was fantastic! Even Mexico City etched a special place in my travel memories! I also felt as if I had experienced things that resort-goers rarely experience. Furthermore, I didn’t feel unsafe during my entire trip.

So, what makes Mexico so special?

1. A foodie’s paradise – tacos, tlayudas, mole, enchiladas, the freshest peppers and spices, the list goes on! Note: Mexican food here is not like those typical Tex-Mex restaurants; it’s a whole new ball game, and the food is much spicier. Still, you will not be disappointed with Mexican gastronomy. And if you are looking to up your cooking skills, this is the place to learn. When I was in Oaxaca, I came across a renowned chef, named Gerardo, and his cooking school La Cocina Oaxqueña. Not only did I learn some new skills, Gerardo was an amazing teacher and hospitable. He first takes you to a local market to buy the ingredients, and then brings you to his house to do all the cooking. Totally worth a day out of your time in Oaxaca!

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Typical tlayuda.

2. Civilizations past – you know them! The Aztecs, Olmecs, Mayans, etc. A visit to Mexico is a chance to step back and time and trace these Pre-Hispanic civilizations. When you’re in Mexico City, you will be in the old Tenochtitlan. This was what Mexico City was called prior to the Spaniards’ arrival. It was also the center of the Aztec Empire! It’s mind-blowing to know that you are in the land of some of the most interesting ancient civilizations!

3. Natural wonders – this is a piggyback to point number two. Chichen Itzá, Teotihuacan, Monte Albán, Palenque, etc. Some of these are considered to be the great wonders of the world. Another natural wonder is a cenote. Cenotes, which are scattered in the Yucatan Peninsula, are natural sinkholes in caves. They offer a natural dip in an underground lagoon, where the visitor is soon congregated by minnows and other small fish. I visited one near Merida, and it was definitely a trip highlight!

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Cenote

4. It won’t break your bank – Mexico is cheap compared to other places out there. You can easily have a plateful of tacos and a beer in a taqueria for six U.S. dollars. And Mexico is a great place to practice your bargaining skills when you visit the local markets. They are also optimal for authentic souvenirs. In short, a trip to Mexico will definitely be easy on your wallet!

5. Friendly locals – despite what you may have heard, Mexicans are really friendly, and they really want tourists to visit their country. They are fully aware of the negative narrative going around. I struck up interesting conversations with a few locals (it helped that I’m fluent in Spanish), and I found them to be helpful.

A few helpful tips to Mexican travel:
1. Brush up on your Spanish – this will make your trip more enjoyable, and it is a must if you visit Mexico City, or CDMX as it is colloquially referred to.
2. Include Mexico City – it’s not as bad as P.R. makes it look out to be. With great restaurants, and a chance to discover Aztec history, this city should not be excluded. It was my favorite place, and IMHO, no visit to the country would be complete without CDMX.

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Mexico City

3. Download Uber – taxi drivers have a negative reputation in CDMX, and Uber is a safer, more reliable way of getting around this colossal city. I used it to get to the city from the airport. Just know some basic Spanish, as most Uber drivers don’t speak English.
4. Invest in a money pouch/belt – do not carry your wallet in your back pocket for obvious reasons. It’s better to have your money and passport inconspicuously stored.
5. Buy a SIM card – don’t expect reliable WIFI here. A SIM card means you will always have reliable WIFI. They are inexpensive and the data included will last you your entire trip (just don’t stream videos).
6. Travel in an organized tour – not comfortable traveling alone? No problem. I advocate investing in an organized tour, such as G Adventures. This way, you will be traveling in numbers with someone who knows the country inside and out.

So, I hope you are now more convinced about Mexico. If you’re still not, that’s okay too. Happy traveling!

Categories: My Travels | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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