I was in darkness. I couldn’t see a thing, not even my own hand. Before I knew it, I descended in a free fall and screamed. Water sprayed on my face. And then, sound and sight filled me with wonder and awe. No, this is not a memory of childbirth. This is a memory of one my earliest vacations. Disney land’s “Pirates of the Caribbean.” On that boat, I experienced a sensation I wanted to feel for the rest of my life. No, I don’t mean the commercial tourist trap that Disneyland is today. I mean, the ability to employ all five sense and feel that child-like wonder.
My parents also took us to Yellowstone Park, Great Falls, Medor, Rapid City, Salt Lake City, the Redwoods. I recall looking up at George Washington’s face at Mount Rushmore, thinking someone needs to wipe his nose. I enjoyed my first Yoplait yogurt (Strawberry flavor) in Oregon (and continue to eat them ever since). I recall being in a bus full of retired farmers, listening to country music on my Walkman. My brother and I were in a constant wonder.
I realized, this feeling doesn’t have to leave me as an adult. And the best way to accomplish this is by leaving my own environment (in my case, Thunder Bay, Canada) and visiting others as much possible. In short, traveling…
I’ve eaten Swedish meatballs at the original IKEA in Helsinborg, Sweeden. I’ve sipped beer from a plastic cup on the streets of New Orleans (legally). I’ve been chased by thugs in the streets of Quito. I took billions of photos at the Smithsonian Institute, which is so mind blowing with my own eyes.
Because no matter how big your flat screen is, you’ll never get the feeling that Abraham Lincoln is following you around the room. That’s how monstrous Lincoln’s statue is in the Lincoln Memorial. So big, you can’t experience it on TV. You also cannot taste Ceviche and wash it down with Inka Cola in Lima, Peru from your living room (unless your living room is in Lima, Peru). You cannot taste the sumptuous chicken (you’ll never walk into KFC again after visiting Padros Chicken). You cannot truly see how big the butterflies are in the Amazon Jungle. You cannot digest the breathtaking view from Machu Pachu. And the rain forests. You cannot miss that in your life. You have to be there! Pics or YouTube videos do not do any of these wonders justice. Your five senses must be there to be jolted back into the childhood wonder you once had.
We can create 3-D, 4-D, we can invent simulated worlds, we can make blockbuster films that cost $200 million, but nothing compares to what our ancestors have done with real rocks, real wood, real metal. The detailed stonework at Machu Pachu cannot be described. Climbing the 273 steps atop the Frederikskirke or “Marble Church” (which took 100 years to build) is something you cannot believe. Snorkling at the Galapagos in a deep sea traffic of the brightest colored fish in our planet is more than breathtaking. It has meaning. It reminds you of the miracle of your own life. The 640 million years of evolution which has brought us to this point. The miracle that I’m alive, breathing, and that I have the freedom to visit these worlds is one I’m going to take advantage of.
I’ve visited many places I do not call home… Japan, South Korea, Florida, Minnesota, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Texas, Chicago, Spain, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vatican City, Hawaii, South Carolina, Washington DC, Boston, New York and Niagara Falls…
… and I have only begun. There are many other worlds I’m dying to visit.
I’m salivating to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mount Kilimantoro in Kenya, walk the Great Wall of China, and explore the most forbidden places on Earth, like Antarctica, where no one lives, and North Korea, where no one can leave. I’m happy to report, my child-like wonder is not only intact, but electrified. I want to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste more.
I started this site to share with you what I know about these other worlds, the Murphy’s Law of Travelling, so to speak. With vacation comes 15% real life. And that 15% can get in the way, if you’re not careful. For example, you may pack more than you need. This may seems like a small thing, but if you’re doing a tour of different countries, this can turn into a headache you don’t want to have.
Everywhere in the world, you must do laundry. Everywhere in the world, you must eat. Everywhere in the world, you must communicate. Everywhere in the world in the world, you must use the bathroom. Everywhere in the world, you need cell phone. Everywhere in the world, there is a new challenge…
Japan is one of the most organized countries in the world, where even a white guy like me can traffic his way around their world. They even return lost wallets and cash there. But communication can be a problem. Nobody reads or writes anything outside of their own language (sound familiar?).
The fish and chips in Fort Lauderdale is stunningly good (washes down well with Samuel Adams), but the driving leaves a lot to be desired. Nobody obeys the rules of the road. The parking is funny. Funny as in, you rarely see a car fit perfectly in a parking spot.
There also “good problems,” such is in New Orleans. Every bar or restaurant is fantastic. How do you choose? During the summer in Chicago, you encounter the same problem with the street festivals. They’re all pretty awesome and you cannot possibly go to all of them. How do you choose?
You can learn from my experiences visiting these great cultures. The Balkans is an amazing place. Overwhelming to visit, because there just isn’t enough time in the day to take it all in. The architecture, even the bullet riddled walls were fascinating. But the bus rides can be tricky. More people than seats, if you know what I mean. A small problem to deal with, of course, to experience such a historical majesty of the human race – and the food, wine and great looking ladies certainly was a plus.
I’ve also used every travel agency, travel insurance, airline, buses, cabs, every form or transportations imaginable. I know which ones to use and which not to use. I’ve lost luggage. I’ve gotten sick from the food. I’ve traveled in groups and I’ve traveled alone. And I still only speak one language. English.
What happens if you have to ask an important question and you need something more than a “yes” or “no”? You become really good at the artform everyone hates. Miming. But don’t worry, you don’t have to put on white make up. You just have to become really good at hand gestures (and sometimes using your feet) to create the image of your needs to the baffled stranger. The trick is remind to yourself, there is no shame in this, humans have been communicating with each other for thousands of years.
I’ve slept in every kind of hotel room. Really nice ones, average ones, flea bag motels, and really, really crappy ones. And I mean, nasty ones. Beds you wouldn’t put your worse enemy on. I’ve slept in hostels. I’ve slept in tents. I’ve slept outside. I’ve been passed out drunk in many cities across the world.
I know the airports of the world. Be careful of Heathrow in London. It’s a labyrinth where only the fastest runners survive. You will run to your gate and realize it’s the wrong one. You will play The Amazing Race at Heathrow. Put your sneakers on when you land in London for a layover.
I’ve tasted the beers of the world. I’ve tasted the buffets. I’ve eaten the desserts. I’ve indulged in the candy. I’ve enjoyed the fruits from the different trees of this planet, sometimes picked right in front of them.
I’ve seen insects I thought I would never see. I’ve seen fish I could not even imagine existed. I’ve seen animals that looked back at me with the same wonder I had in my eyes. I listened to them in the jungles, and thought back to a time when there were more of them than humans. I’ve also eaten animals I thought I would never eat. And I’ve used toilets I thought I would never use. I’ve lived a life of unpredictability, and I believe this is the healthiest way to live. To face the unknown as much as possible.
Visiting another world, seeing people do what we all do – work, eat, drink beer, but differently – can only make you wiser. How you relate to loved ones and friends can only grow. Word, photos, The Travel Channel, History Channel do not scratch the surface of the adventure. The awe. The wonder. The endless mystery of this planet and our place in it.
If my knowledge can save you time, money and headaches and free you to enjoy your journey, please use it. That’s why I started this site.
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