Six hundred and seventy-four

The Life of a Traveler
Life lesson #3:
Be prepared

Somewhere in England.

Somewhere in England.

I know in my previous two travel posts I talked about how much I’ve learned to take things in stride, enjoy the unexpected, and explore the path less-traveled.  I am totally for this, but I also hinted at the idea of being prepared and safe.  It’s important to do my research about the place I’m traveling to, learn a bit of the language, the customs, the Canadian Embassy’s phone number.  A friend of mine has a website called TheTravelingWaitress.com and she has a fantastic list of things to do before you leave, including: calling your credit card company and bank so they don’t freeze your account when they see them being used in a foreign country; photocopying your visa and passport;  packing so you don’t carry everything important in the same place; and bringing hand sanitizer (full list here).  I’m also a big believer in packing basic medical supplies and medication in case you get sick or hurt.

Being a woman and traveling also means I have to be very aware of my safety.  I don’t drink things given to me by strangers, I walk with confidence and avoid places I feel uncomfortable.  I leave an itinerary or keep my family informed of where I’m going to be just in case I go missing.  I also make sure I know what is appropriate clothing to wear in the country I am in.

I use these same skills at home.  Safety is important.  And my friends do always say I keep far too many things in my purse “just in case”. As much as I love to be spontaneous, I also want to stay alive and comfortable, so it’s important to be prepared.

I’m all packed and ready to go for my trip to Thailand, Cambodia and Melbourne, Australia.  I leave Friday and won’t be back for a month.  I will try to post something on the blog while I’m away.  If not, I will see you all at the end of February!

Six hundred and sixty-seven

The Life of a Traveler
Life lesson #2:
explore and talk to strangers

Off the beaten path somewhere on the east coast of Canada.

Off the beaten path somewhere on the east coast of Canada.

You can go on a great trip doing exactly what guide books say, staying in tourist destinations, talking to other tourists, eating at the restaurant in the hotel.  It will be safe, lovely, no surprises, in your comfort zone, and an absolutely great trip.  Or you can go off the beaten path, explore and experience something you never even dreamed existed.  You can go on a walk in the Australian rainforest, end up swimming by a waterfall with turtles, meet a random horse, and not encounter another person all day.  (This did happen to my “sister” and I, and yes, mom, we were safe and left where we were going with the bed and breakfast owners)  You can talk to locals and find out where they eat, drink, relax.  You can experience a tiny slice of their life.  You can go on an adventure.  (Of course as long as you’re safe, tell someone where you are going, and do your research for any dangers)

Some of my best memories traveling have been the days when I’ve ended up at a tiny jazz club in the back alleys of a city, or went on a hike on the less-traveled path, been invited over for dinner at a person’s home, or just sat on a patio with the locals taking it all in.  Actually in my day-to-day life, these are my favourite memories too.  It’s so important to listen to other people’s stories.  And although talking to strangers in my own city has never been a strong point of mine, I am much better at it when exploring a different country or city, and these encounters inspire me to be more open here in Toronto.  It’s also important to take chances.  I’m a big believer in stepping outside of your comfort zone.  It inspires and challenges you, makes you feel alive, changes the way you look at the world.  You never know what you’ll find – about the place you are in and about yourself.

On a related note, my “sister” and I (the one I’m going to Thailand and Cambodia with) are applying for The Amazing Race Canada!  Oh yes, we are.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if we got in and you could follow us traveling (and of course winning) across Canada?  I have so many dreams…  I will write my favourite saying once again, which seems very appropriate at this moment: “leap and the net will appear”!

Next week I’ll talk about one more lesson I learned while traveling and then I’ll be off to Bangkok!

Six hundred and sixty-one

The Life of a Traveler
Life lesson #1:
learning to deal with the unexpected

(over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be posting a bit about what I’ve learned in my travels over the years, in preparation for my upcoming month-long trip to Southeast Asia!!!!)

One of my favourite photos of me running through some trees in Wilson's Promontory, in South Australia (with crazy long hair)

One of my favourite photos of me running through some trees in Wilson’s Promontory, in southern Australia (with crazy long hair)

Although my desire to be kind to our planet does make me feel guilty about all the airplane fuel being used, my curiosity about different cultures and other ways of life always seems to win out.  I fell in love with traveling after a whirlwind trip around Europe taken with my friend/sister (we’ve known each other since we were born – our parents are friends) after we graduated university.  Since then I’ve lived in England, Australia, traveled all over Europe, been to the north of Africa, Hong Kong, around the States and Canada.  I have loved it.  Every few months I feel the urge to explore.  And I do.  I’m coming up on a month-long trip to Thailand, Cambodia and visiting my friends in Melbourne, Oz.

One of the biggest life lessons I have learned through all my traveling is learning to take life in stride, realizing that no matter how many plans you make there will always be unforeseen circumstances that change your direction a little.  There is always a delayed flight, or lost luggage, or unexpected weather.  There are hostel or hotel rooms that don’t look at all like the photos on their website, or a gecko who lives in the bathroom and you have to shower beside (this actually did happen to the same “sister” and I during a trip up the east coast of Australia).  The best thing you can do is go with the flow, look at the positives, laugh a lot, and make the best of what you have.  Either way, it will be a great story to tell your friends and family when you get back.

This lesson has really helped me over the past few years, dealing with big things like changes in life or in my world views, and little things like when a recipe I’m cooking doesn’t work out and I’m having guests over for dinner or the internet goes down and I can’t post my blog (which happened yesterday, hence the Thursday post).  There’s always something you can’t plan for and the best thing to do is make the most of it and smile.  This philosophy has made all those little and big things much easier to deal with.

My “sister” (who is also going on this trip with me), is a planner and I am not, which is the best of both worlds.  I help her plan a little and she lets me take the reins when the unexpected happens.  We’ve both learned a little from each other and we rely on each other’s strengths to make our adventure the best it can be.  I’m looking forward to it, what surprises we’ll encounter this time, and what they will teach me!

Next week I’ll talk about another big life lesson I’ve learned while traveling.

Two hundred and eighty-seven

Fundraising Events

My head hurts a little today from the alcohol I “had to” consume last night to help raise money to send  Thai children to school.  Oh,  the charity events.  It’s easy to get caught up in the joyous occasion and the “good deeds” of other people buying you drinks and you buying them drinks.  Before long you’re dancing on the table with reindeer antlers on…  (That last bit didn’t actually happen, but wouldn’t it have been funny if it did?!)

A friend of a friend’s girlfriend and her two other friends held a fundraising event at The Fox and The Fiddle last night to raise money to send kids from Grangkrajan, a rural part of Thailand, to high school.  Rachel, Tannis and Amanda had volunteered as English teachers at Ban Nong Puen Tag School, a small elementary school in a poor village in central Thailand.  The school only goes up to grade seven, without the money or means to educate the children past that.  The nearest high school is hours away and because of the poverty in the village, there is rarely a chance for those children to continue their education.  The poverty cycle continues.   Although there is no tuition for high school, the cost of transportation, books, school supplies, uniforms and food is high.

The three women were so touched by the amazing people there, the dedication and care that goes into keeping the school running, and the desire of these children to continue their education that they vowed to help as much as they could when they returned to Canada.  So they hold fundraising events, such as the one I attended last night.  You can read more about their journey and the school on their blog: Kids of Gangkrajan.

Map of Thailand highlighting Phetchaburi Province, where Gangkrajan is located.

They raised enough money last year to send two children to the complete four years of high school, and they were hoping to raise even more this year.  They charged a cover fee to enter, had raffle prizes and a 50/50 draw, with live music and a DJ.  It was fun and I felt like I was helping out.  And I won one of the raffle prizes!

Day one hundred and nine

Thai

I was taken out to dinner by a gentleman who claimed to know the best Thai restaurant in Toronto.  North of High Park and east of Keele is The Thai – a place that tends to do most of its business through take-out orders, apparent by the lack of diners and how loud my voice seemed in the almost empty room.  I chose Pad Thai – the dish that many people love to order.  According to BlogTo’s “The Best Pad Thai in Toronto”, The Thai doesn’t make the list.  I will dispute that.  The Pad Thai at The Thai was very yummy.  My companion had the Curry Pad Thai and his was a tasty alternative to the traditional version.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai originated in Bangkok – vendors at food stalls needed fast, nutritious and delicious meals to serve workers.  It is a stir-fry of rice noodles, bean sprouts, tofu, egg, chicken, shrimp, roasted peanuts, sugar, tamarind, lime juice, vinegar and fish sauce, combining sweet, sour and salty.  When in Thailand, an assortment of condiments are provided to increase the flavours, including white vinegar spiked with hot green chilies, white sugar, fish sauce, and dried ground chili. (templeofthai.com)

Today

Jambalaya – cuisine from our southern neighbours – before driving to London to see opening night of my first attempt at directing a play.