“If Life is compared to a book and you don’t travel, it’s like only experiencing one page.”
My beloved late husband Richard, and I travelled extensively in two ways, on our own or with our family and as tour leaders with Craig Travel. I am sometimes asked about this “retirement gig” and I am always surprised that anyone is interested, but then decided that it was a way to review and consolidate some of the questions I get asked. I enjoy it…the travel, the challenge, but especially the people. I meet the most interesting and engaging people.
I am often asked what are the most interesting places I have experienced; what are some of your greatest challenges and do you have some humorous antecdotes to share. It is hard to choose a couple of the most interesting destinations, as our world is full of the most fascinating places.
My favourite is probably South Africa, with its variety. I am sure you will remember the apartheid regime and the Soweto uprising and imprisonment of Nelson Mandela on Robbin Island, a black era in the history of civilization. It has been said that ”South Africa is like the whole world in one country.” It has the most amazing geography, including mountains, plains, deserts, grasslands, beaches and some of the oldest rocks found on earth. It is also home to many diverse cultures, sights and experiences….an unforgettable journey.
Galapagos Islands is another favourite due to its isolation and great variety of animal and bird species. I had the opportunity to experience this wonderful area of the world when my daughter went to Ecuador to teach high school and she organized a small ship experience from her school and we were the oldies on it. The Galapagos is where Darwin discovered that animals adapt to their environment and this observation became the basis of his theory of evolution. We saw the most amazing varieties of birds, including the blue footed boobies, as well as lizards that could swim in water or live on land. The wildlife did not run away from us when we approached them and wandered amongst them; they were not afraid, because humans had never harmed them.
Antarctica was spectacular for its vastness, and for containing the driest desert, but also the most fresh water anywhere in the world. Only 100 people are allowed on shore at any one time at a given spot, so that it will continue to be kept pristine and ecologically unaffected by people. Antarctica is home to many species of penguins and marine animals as well as the most beautiful icebergs in the world. I am so looking forward to once again returning in January 2018.
India was special for it sensory overload. A country where all five senses are on full alert….sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste. On my two trips to this unforgettable country, I can’t forget seeing the vivid colours in saris, countryside and Hindu statutes; the touch felt by the constant bumping of people everywhere and the feel of various silks and cotton in saris and outfits; the sense of hearing at the sound of beeping horns, constant talking of many different languages and calls to prayer over the loudspeakers; the smell of dung from the sacred, wandering cows, petrol from gas powered bikes and rickshaws and the cooking with many, many different spices, and of course the taste of spicy, sweet and sour and especially curry ladened food. After 6 weeks of rice and dal each day, I think that is why, to this day, curry is not my favourite food to eat.
When I think of some of the challenges of my work as a tour leader, several come to mind.
Medical emergencies…these seem to happen in the most out of the way places. I remember accompanying a lady that fell and broke a shoulder in South Africa. It happened just outside Kruger National Game Reserve and we had to go to the little rural hospital where they were hosing down the corridors with a water hose and then we were transported to help in one of the best hospitals that I have every been in. It was where the first heart transplant took place. Just this past summer, a passenger became very sea sick on our cruise around Iceland and I had to arrange a flight home from Reykjavik, the only part that she could leave from in this isolated part of the North Sea.
Weather issues….on the Douro River in Portugal, we were inundated with rain and flooding of the river so that the bridges and locks were unpassable. This resulted in much of our tour being by coach, rather than boat, which in fact, was very fascinating and delightful. And just this summer, on my cruise around Iceland and in the North Sea, we had gale force winds that forced our captain to change course and itinerary so that we missed the worst of the high seas. None of us has any say over the weather, so you must roll with the changes, be safe and adapt.
Luggage Issues….on Saturday night after a long twenty hour day, our group found out the baggage did not make our connection from Croatia to Rome, so when we arrived in Toronto, we all had to fill out delayed luggage forms: the upside to this dilemma was that we didn’t have to carry home our luggage.
Thinking of Thanksgiving, I was thankful to be coming home to Canada and my family and at the airport hotel, I met a young man from Croatia. I found out that he had lost his entire family in the Bosnia war and had come to Canada to start a new life. This put my small annoyances in perspective.
A couple of my most humourous memories always bring back a smile and a chuckle. On our Ireland tour several years ago, our guide, Willie, claimed he was a descendant of a leprechaun and actually looked like one. One of his many stories was the story that the roads in Ireland are so crooked because they were built around the hills where the little leprechauns live. I am so looking forward to reconnecting with one of my favourite guides, Willy Cusker, in Ireland next June on another tour.
My husband, Richard, always wore a red Canada hat so passengers knew where he was and who to follow. In Italy, we had three daughters (travelling with their mother) who decided to steal his hat and asked for ransoms all the way from candy to drinks to singing a song. It added to the enjoyment of us all.
On our first lunch in South Africa, we were served fish soup. As Richard was allergic to shell fish, he asked if it had shells in it. The server said no. I tried mine and there was definitely shrimp and lobster in it. Questioning the server again about whether there were shell fish in the soup, his reply was “No, we took the shells out.”
On a Russian river cruise, a lady was wearing a felted wool hat with a flower on one side every day and one day it got wet from the rain. At dinner that night she was telling her dinner companions that she had found a way to dry it out by putting it on the lamp in the cabin and leaving the light on. Soon after, Richard got called out of dinner by a cabin steward and was asked to investigate one of our passenger’s cabins, as there appeared to be smoke emanating from under the door. The passenger was escorted to her room and asked about this hat drying on the lamp. The next day, she showed up wearing the hat but had changed the flower to cover a burn hole. She and her hat smelled like burnt wool for the rest of the trip. It sounds funny now, but we often thought about how it could have had a very different conclusion.
I hope this captures some of my experiences and wonderful memories. I love learning new things, seeing new places in the world and enjoying my passion of travelling, but it is really the people I meet that are so interesting and make every journey worthwhile. A new quote for me is “I have not been EVERYWHERE, but it is on my list!”