The Travel Clock Waits For No One

 

Lauterbrunnen Valley

A train ride to the Lauterbrunnen Valley in Switzerland. Snapped while the train was moving through the mountains.

In the last post, I talked a little about the importance of consistent travel throughout your life (and regrettably, how I failed to follow my own advice). Don’t make the same mistakes. As the years go by, your opportunities to build travel friendships, travel memories, and ever-stronger travel bonds with your family are lost. Caught up in the daily grind, we keep putting off the one thing that is so very life-enhancing, which is traveling to foreign lands.

“As silly as it sounds, it’s so true. You can’t get the time back – no matter how hard you try. So don’t let another minute pass without starting to make some travel plans for yourself.”

These days, there are many places to go in the world. Places that were closed to tourists not long ago, are opening up and welcoming tourism. Exotic places like Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos. Places that you wouldn’t even consider just a few years ago. Now people are trying to visit these countries to get a feel for the culture and the people there. There are all kinds of opportunities to experience something new. All that is required on your part is to decide where you want to go and for how long.

Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and so many others are very inexpensive to visit. Food and lodging is cheap, and there is a wealth of things to see and do. It might be a bit of a culture shock for you if you’ve never been to Asia, but let’s face it, there’s a culture shock just about anywhere you would go for the first time. Even landing in London is a shock, as the airport and the city are so crowded and fast-paced. So resolve to step outside of your comfort zone a little, pick a destination, and go for it!

Anthony Bourdain travels all over the world to sample cultures in the form of food and drink. He often visits countries more than once, to see how one side of the country differs from the other side. If you’ve never seen his shows on CNN (called Parts Unknown) or reruns of his previous show on the Travel Channel (called No Reservations), you’re missing the chance to see some places that might really interest you. He’s done some great shows in Italy, France, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Spain – too many to list. You can get a feel for the various countries and pick a place you’d like to go. I highly encourage you to watch the show and see if anything gets you revved up! That would be a great place to start thinking about your first (or next) trip!

Taiwan temple

A temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. My wife and I were traveling around Taiwan and visiting some of her relatives.

Wouldn’t it be great to visit Taiwan and learn a bit about the history, sample the food, and watch all the crazy drivers on motor scooters? I’ve been there twice, and I learn something new and interesting each time. My wife and I rode the elevator (at the time, the fastest in the world) to the observation deck in the Taipei 101 building in Taipei, Taiwan. Taipei 101 was the tallest building in the world, until another taller one came along. See the elevator ride and a little bit about Taipei 101 here.

It’s interesting to note that Taiwan is experiencing a flood of immigrants these days. Now that people can travel from Taiwan to China and vice versa (it wasn’t long ago that direct flights between the two were prohibited because of the political friction), poor people from China are flooding into Taiwan to better their lives. Consequently, there is a lot of resentment towards people coming from the mainland and there have been a lot of loud protests at the universities, as students feel that people shouldn’t be allowed to come into the country illegally and take jobs. Stay tuned for what happens next…

I’ve mentioned Anthony Bourdain (whom I’ve grown to like) and his antics. Some of his shows are good and some flop. But he is always with the wise-cracks. So they’re worth watching just for the scenery and some of the interesting places he goes and the exotic foods he gets to sample. He’s a lot more adventurous than I am when it comes to food!

Another excellent travel show that I really enjoy is the Rick Steves “Europe Through The Back Door” series. These days, I only find his shows on PBS – usually during pledge drives. But that’s OK. I really like the places he visits in Europe. As a Christmas present one year, my children gave me a boxed set of 70 of his shows on DVD. I have watched most of the shows more than once. Every time I get the urge to travel, I pull out the collection and do a little travel day dreaming. He now offers a boxed set of 100 shows. Unreal. How do I get a job like Rick Steves has? I guess I’ll have to invent one…

I took Rick’s “Europe Through The Back Door” travel guide with me in 1980 when a friend and I followed his advice and rode the fabulous trains through 11 countries and just had a blast!! Things were cheaper in those days. And the European Union had not yet been created. So we had the fun of collecting money from every country we visited. I still have some coins from that trip tucked away somewhere.

“I’ve found travel guide books to be a lot of fun to read, especially when you are contemplating a big trip and you need to decide on an itinerary. There’s no better way to learn about the things you are going to have a chance to see and do.”

These days, the Euro is accepted in many of the countries in Western Europe. And they’re adding more countries to the EU all the time. I have some Euros from our last trip that are just dying to get back to France. I promised to take them back home next May when we go to Paris! And I always keep my promises!! But then, I digress.

There’s one other show that I really love to watch. I record all the new shows as they are broadcast and watch them when I get a chance. They offer the viewer a chance to see what real estate looks like in many other countries. And you learn a lot about how things are done all over the world. I’m referring, of course, to House Hunters International. If you haven’t seen it, look up HGTV (channel 229 on DirecTV, I believe) on your cable or satellite provider and set your DVR to record the series. My favorites are the shows where they go to Paris and try to find a suitable place to buy. The properties are so small and many of them are in need of some kind of renovation. They’re old! A facelift is in order for many of the houses people choose. My favorite part is when they show the “before” and “after” shots. What a difference. It is sometimes like night and day when the renovation work is finished. It’s a show that lets you contemplate what house you would pick and what you would do with it once you bought it. I look forward to seeing this show when I get home from work. And the best part of all is that they take you to some places that you probably know nothing about!

Greek Church Santorini

A Greek Church on the island of Santorini in the Greek Islands. This church is on the top of the caldera, a volcano that exploded many years ago and left a crescent-shaped island. There were people living here when that happened and the explosion was felt many miles away.

I’ll bet you’re wondering where I’m going with all this? Well, travel shows do a very good job of motivating you to get out and see something new. It’s a lot easier to understand the history and the culture of another country if you actually go there! Try not to stay in hotels. Try not to eat in tourist areas. Get away from the tourist centers and meet the people who live and work there. Rent an apartment outside the city center and ride the train or bus to get where you want to go. Shop in the local markets and strike up a conversation with the owner. And join tours that are run by the local people. We’ve met so many hard-working, wonderful people who have enriched our lives by sharing their love and knowledge of their city with us. It’s all out there waiting for you. As I said at the beginning of this post, you can’t get the time back if you let it pass you by. Before you know it, your life is half over and you haven’t traveled to the places you’ve always wanted to see. Take a few minutes right now and think about where you want to go on your next trip. Then, either make a list or discuss it with someone and make a commitment to go. The clock is ticking……..

P.S. I took the photos in this post, and I have so many great memories from those trips. My wife always gets excited to see them. We immediately sigh out loud and wish we could go back. Start loading your photo album with great pictures that you will enjoy looking at and remembering. You’ll sigh out loud, too!

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About Steven

Living and traveling is my goal. Why stay in one place when there are fantastic beaches, mountains, cities and wide-open spaces to see and enjoy? I can't wait to stop working and start living....!
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