железная дорога (2002 – 2006)

Yes, I realize I’m fudging the alphabet a little here because this should technically be under the letter Z, but since the Cyrillic letter looks like an X, let’s just go with it. This post is the Railroad!

While You Are There: You can do everything on a train. A train is a world unto itself. You can

  • meet locals you can’t communicate with in words but still enjoy the company of and eat all the food they offer you
  • meet interesting tourists, like an older Italian lady and her boy-toy, because the conductor forced you to sit in a tourist car because he doesn’t think it’s safe for foreign women to be travelling alone
  • get woken up on the overnight car by soldiers coming onto the train and locking it down so you can travel through a particularly dangerous area, all while a Buddhist monk sleeps across from you, making you feel like nothing bad could possibly happen
  • ride in the conductor’s berth because the train was sold out but you really need to get home the next day and he feels bad for you so he lets you share his space
  • buy delicious snacks from independent vendors at the stations
  • pretend you don’t speak any Russian in order to stonewall Russian guards who want to “fine” you for not having the correct permission to live in Moscow as you are trying to get to Finland for a flight to Spain, and laugh when they finally give up because they don’t speak English and no one else stepped in to help translate
  • get in trouble because your university laminated your rail pass and that’s against the rules and then you get fined and then the town finds out and the local paper publishes an apology to the foreign students for the “rude” treatment they suffered from train personnel for something that wasn’t their fault
  • go on an epic cross-country journey, lose track of what day it is, get on your train on the wrong day, get woken up in the night by the person whose berth you are in, watch as mass confusion ensues while a helpful local runs into the station to buy you a ticket valid for that day, and then be eternally grateful to that person even though you spend the rest of the night in overcrowded sitting-only car

Why It’s On My List: I love train travel, for all the true stories enumerated above and more. I only posted pictures from Russian train trips I took, but I’ve also taken the train in India, the US, and Western Europe.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Wagah Border Park, India (November, 2000)

While You Are There: If you are anywhere in the vicinity of this border crossing in your lifetime, for example if you are visiting Amritsar and the Golden Temple, find the time to go see the ceremony. And tell me if the Niagara Falls cafe is still there.

Why It’s On My List: If you’ve seen the video and know anything about the history of India and Pakistan, you probably don’t need any explanation. This is a unique experience.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Indian Step Wells (August, 2000)

While You Are There: Bring a book and hang out for a few hours in the cool escape from a hot day. Play with the local children. Imagine the women in their brightly colored saris lounging and chatting. Soak up the history.

Why It’s On My List: I had never read about or heard of such a thing until I saw my first step well in Ahmedabad. The university I attended was in Gujarat, where there is a large concentration of these wells, or vav as they are know. Some of them are fantastically intricate and beautiful. They are all mysterious to me.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Ferries!

Ferry

Overnight ferry to Tasmania. This is the real deal. (2000)

Rio Dulce Hotel Perrico

The Hotel Perrico, Rio Dulce, Guatemala. You can only get there by a tiny ferry (otherwise known as a motorboat). (2004)

ometepe-ferry

On the way to Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua (2008)

valentia-island-2

Waiting for the Valentia Island ferry to take me and the car back to mainland Ireland (2014)

While You Are There: Your on-board experiences will vary widely, but whether you are living it up in a private cabin on a ship with plenty of booze and entertainment, or crammed in a cold and leaky vessel with a bunch of local fisherman, enjoy it! It’s not your everyday experience. It’s part of being wherever you are.

Why It’s On My List: Yesterday’s post was about the places you can stay and today’s post is about the ways you can get there. Ferry travel can take you places that are expensive to get to otherwise, or sometimes, that you can’t even get to at all. Some of my favorite ferry related experiences are

  • The Aran Islands in Ireland  where I rented a bicycle and rode around narrow roads lined by sheep pastures outlines with old, low stone fences and the ever-present cold, gray sea in the background. It was the quintessential image of Ireland.
  • Elephanta Island in India, which was the first place I visited in India, the day after I arrived in Mumbai and had a day to kill before my flight to Vadodara. It was overwhelming and magnificent.
  • Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica where I witnessed a sea turtle nesting in the middle of the night under the stars.
  • Pelican Bar in Jamaica, which in itself was very cool, but my favorite part was riding over with a Honduran immigrant and learning about his life experiences and being very impressed with his English, but more, with how he had picked up the Jamaican patois in just six months
  • And last but not least, the ferry ride to Tasmania because I found a $100 bill lying on the carpet in the hallway!

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.

Amritsar and the Golden Temple (November, 2000)

Akal Takhat

While You Are There: Sleep on a mat on the floor with the pilgrims, eat in the communal kitchen, make a karah parshad offering in the temple, close your eyes and listen to the the singing, walk around the pool, people watch, strike up a conversation with a student from the Miri Piri Academy, relax, make a donation or volunteer.

Why It’s On My List: The overwhelming serenity and generosity of the place. While it’s just as crowded as the rest of India, within the temple walls you are left to just be and experience. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from. There is a peace there that is nearly impossible to find elsewhere in such a crowded and terribly impoverished country. It was also very humbling to be a westerner (meaning wealthy by comparison to most people around me) and have the Sikh community open its arms and provide lodging and food without question or agenda. I’m not a spiritual person or one to meditate in any way, but I spent many hours in the temple and by the pool just listening to the chants and observing the beautiful community that existed within those walls.

For this year’s A-Z Blog Challenge, I’ve decided to showcase 26 of my favorite places in the world. I’ve only been to 22 of the 196 countries, so I’ve got some more travelling to do, but these places are well worth a visit.  

Delta

My first international flight, which was also my first flight ever, cost $899 one way. It was scheduled to go from Buffalo to New York City to Manama to Melbourne. A snowstorm in Buffalo derailed that plan, so I ended up on a flight from Buffalo to Washington, DC to London to Singapore to Melbourne. This was back in the day when airlines took care of their passengers when things like this happened, no travel insurance needed, so my unexpected 14 hour layover in London came complete with a free stay in the Radisson Edwardian for the day, lunch, dinner, and transportation to and from the airport. Then I ended up in bulkhead seat (back in the day when you didn’t have to pay extra for those) on a double decker Quantas plane all the way from London to Melbourne. Not a bad outcome for a highly price conscious 19 year old.

I never played the airline mileage game until a few years ago, which was really a waste considering how much travel I did and how many miles I could have earned. I always looked for the cheapest flight possible. The best deal I scored was round trip on Air Transat from Toronto to Frankfurt, Germany for $425, all fees included, back in 2001 just before the TSA ruined airline travel for all of us. Sometimes I got lucky and landed deals on luxury Asian airlines, like Cathay Pacific from Melbourne to Bombay, with a free three day layover in Hong Kong. If you’ve never flown an Asian airline, you have to try it. Our first class is their economy. And I got an amazing package holiday deal to Iceland when Iceland Air opened direct flights from Denver to Reykjavik. Continue reading →