Tuesday, April 7, 2015

50 Things Travel Has Taught Me About Life

Travel was always the form of education that made sense to me, and still does. I enjoyed school, I loved university, and I'm a passionate teacher, but there are some things that cannot be learned from a textbook. Personally, I started travelling because I was just sick of feeling ignorant about the world, of not knowing anything about so many countries. In an attempt to fill in what was essentially a mental blank map of the world for me, I ended up drastically changing the course of my life. What I wanted to share is what I've learned along the way. 

Perhaps some of it is too cliche or not original enough for you, but, one of the major things I learned while globetrotting is not to worry all that much about that. I can only hope that you enjoy looking over my thoughts, as much as I appreciated the opportunity to finally write them down. 

So, here are 50 things that travel has taught me about life. 

Manhattan, Atlantic Coast, Nicaragua

Çesky Krumlov, Czech Republic

1. Underestimate precisely nobody. 
2. Home is a place, but also an idea. 
3. The best souvenirs aren't found in tourist shops. 
4. Amazing food doesn't have to be expensive. 
5. No one likes the person who acts like they know everything already.
6. Beware, you can lose old friends chasing new experiences. 
7. Daydreaming serves a purpose. 
8. There's a gap between what we need and what we think we need.
9. You can be a hermit in a crowd.
10. Eat dessert, life is too short.

Ediburgh, Scotland

Angkor Archaeological Park, Cambodia
11. Fear can ruin everything.
12. There are incredible writers in every country.
13. Everything is truly interconnected.
14. Happiness is largely about attitude.
15. People are, mostly, good.
16. Though, some people are terribly bad.
17. Walk as much as you can.
18. You can do things you never dreamed of.
19. Making someone else's day can also make your day.
20. There is no such thing as a waste of time if you've got the right approach.

Nangyuan Island, Thailand 
San Miguel, Ecuador 

21. You can get used to the feeling of being lost.
22. If you're always worried about where you're going next, you'll never appreciate where you are.
23. We have instincts for a reason, trust them.
24. All we have is our memories.
25. There is a distinct difference between sharing stories and bragging.
26. Money, spent wisely, can go much further than you thought.
27. Everybody knows something you don't.
28. Wealth and happiness are not synonymous.
29. Never forget your family, they're always there, even when you're halfway across the world.
30. It's not realistic to think that you will be friends with everyone that you meet.

Istanbul, Turkey

Budapest, Hungary

31. Some who wander are lost.
32. Regret solves nothing.
33. If you can't control it, let someone else worry about it.
34. Don't forget to roll the dice.
35. There's always someone nearby who wouldn't mind making a fast buck off you.
36. You aren't better than anyone else.
37. I learned this one living in Norway - "There's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
38. Do what makes you happy, not what makes other people happy for you.
39. Artificiality shines through.
40. Laugh. It's good for you.

Eating a "rundown" that my friend Jimmy made in the Pearl Cays, Nicaragua

Banaue, Philippines
41. Someone I met in Ecuador brought this to my attention - "Be kind. For everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." - Ian Maclaren
42. A gorgeous view can provide as much fodder for contemplation as a good book.
43. Routine can breed apathy.
44. Some travel, some go on vacation.
45. Be confident in your beliefs, but be willing to alter them.
46. You need to pencil time into your schedule for reflection.
47. Most of your preconceived notions about a country will be well off the mark.
48. When in doubt, say yes.
49. Any day can be the day that changes you.
50. Life is even better if you share it with someone you love.

Lombok, Indonesia (see #50 for more details.) 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Photo Essay: Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Melbourne was a city I had wanted to visit since I became a conscious being. As a child, I was fascinated by Australia because I think I had some delusion that, due to its geographic placement, everything was opposite there. In Melbourne in particular, what I found when I arrived was not the opposite of Canada, but rather many of the elements that make me adore Toronto so much. It's a clean, vibrant city with a clear identity and seemingly limitless possibility. Like Toronto, it seemed to also be open-minded and welcoming, as evidenced by innumerable thriving sub-cultures in Melbourne, such as the street art scene. Melbourne felt so comfortable and familiar, that coming here was almost like coming home for me.

Also, coming from Istanbul, I was struck by how green the city was. In an urban center I can't ever recall seeing so many trees, public spaces with flowers, parks, and even well maintained beaches. Melbourne just clearly does so many things right when it comes to urban planning. It's no wonder that it regularly tops the charts of any international survey looking at the livability of cities.

I loved this city in February, and I love it now. I would, in a heartbeat, move to Melbourne and start a life there (with Bri's loving approval, of course.) That's the kind of love I developed for this city in such a short time period.

I developed much of this love through wandering, so, in an attempt to replicate that, I'll be framing this post as a photo essay, to allow you to simply see the things that I saw, and decide if it's a place you could love as well.

One day I hope to return to this city, so I can really do it justice. I've catalogued this city in my mind among a few other of my favourites, namely Kyoto, Kuala Lumpur, Vienna and Toronto (I'm biased). And for me, that's some serious company.

Until next time,


Thursday, March 26, 2015

7 Ways Road Trips are the Best Way to Travel

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

It's only fitting to start this post with such a picture because I'm nothing short of in love with road trips. There's just something about being behind the wheel of a car in another country that really gets my engine going (alright, no more car jokes.) It can be a tad expensive, yes, and dealing with the insurance packages can be a nightmare, sure - but that small touch of bureaucracy pales in comparison to the joys of having the keys to your very own vehicle in a foreign nation, whether it's economy class or not.

My love of "the road trip" was born on the North American roads, but I'll be damned if that love hasn't always travelled with me.

Here are seven ways that I feel the road trip just can't be beat. Seven seems like a nice, arbitrary number.

1) The Freedom

When you're gazing out the window of your less than comfortable bus and you watch a quaint village roll on by, all you can do is wonder what it would have been like to visit. When you're in your own car, you visit. It becomes a sort of game, you start to ask yourself, is that enticing enough to stop for? No, well how about that?

It's a wonderful way to live when you literally don't know where you'll be in 15 minutes. Take for example, the spontaneous stop Bri and I made in Radovljica, Slovenia. Yeah, we hadn't heard of it either. 

2) It's a Portable Hotel

It's not a five star hotel, and, more than likely it's not even a one star hotel, but you can sleep in it. I learned this lesson with Thevishka, Neil, and Grant while road tripping from Oslo to Stavanger in Norway. When we arrived in Stavanger, we just sort of parked beside a park, and then, lights out.

I'm not sure I would sleep 4 people in a Prius again, but we did do it.

Funny enough, on this particular evening I jolted in my sleep and cracked the windshield with my big toe. How does that even happen, right?

3) You Can Stop at the Strangest Music Stores Possible...

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, a few great friends and I found an absolute gem. A Bosnian rapper, or something like that, by the name of...

He exists, though...

4) The Views 

I'm not sure I need to say more here. A car affords you a beautiful opportunity to experience views that you may never otherwise be able to appreciate. 

The Julian Alps, Austria

Somewhere, Croatia

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia

5) The Possibilities

Anything can happen, anything. 

In the back of pickup truck on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua.

6) The Bonding

When you're packed into confined quarters with a handful of other people for long, extended periods, you're going to get to know each other, for better or worse. Luckily, most of my experiences have led me to believe it's for the better. Everyone shares their music, their useless trivia, and their stories. Not to mention, when you're together with people for such long, in sometimes stressful stretches, you get to see many sides of a person, whether they want you to or not. More often than not, I find it creates a pretty unbreakable bond. At the very least, you'll have a handful of inside jokes that will stay with you until the end of your days. 

Toronto, Ontario --> Manchester, Tennessee - that's why.

It's a road trip, after all.


7) Opportunities for Heroism

Something always goes wrong on a road trip, always, but it's the story of how someone steps up to the plate to fix that problem that defines the trip. You can be that person, but only if you're on a road trip, so say yes to the next available road trip, and save the day. 

In the pouring rain, my good friend Grant changes a flat in Philly while Bri holds an umbrella. Champions.

My trunk breaks, and I find bungee chords in a gas station in Michigan. They're the hero.


Now, my reasons may not have fully won you over, but let me say it plainly, when I think about all the experiences I've had in my life (travel or otherwise), the road trips I've taken are pretty high up the list. 

The best moment of the trip for me is always pealing out of the driveway or parking spot and heading straight into the unknown. But, then again, arriving at your final destination with the trip's events firmly lodged in your memory isn't half bad either. Because, undoubtedly, those memories will have been well worth the rental price.