On a personal level, it’s been a tough few weeks for me. Lately it seems that nothing goes quite right and I’ve been stuck in neutral, unsure of where to go next. I’ve always been prone to far too much introspection, and so I’m sure a lot of this is self-induced, but this malaise along with the general state of the world at the moment has resulted in me feeling down more often than I should. So, with all of that in mind I thought today I’d put a smile back on my face, and hopefully yours too, by sharing a few experiences I enjoy when I travel – moments that never fail to make me happy and remind me why I love to travel so very much.
Dogs Around The World
I’m an unapologetic, unabashed, unforgiving and unrepentant dog person. I’ve always had dogs, I’ve always loved dogs and I absolutely cannot imagine life without these furry balls of love in my life. I have three at home, all rescued, and leaving them behind is one of the hardest aspects of the travel experience for me. That’s why I seek out dogs wherever I go, just to recapture a little bit of the love I left at home. I try to photograph them when I travel, especially since it’s not always a smart idea to pet or play with them. Some have been stoic, others mindlessly happy and a few that clearly had lived hard lives. It breaks my heart to see so many animals treated so badly around the world, helpless to do anything for them. So instead I try to tell their stories and share what life must be like for them. I need them though when I travel, dogs calm us, make us happier and are an important part of a healthy life. Plus there’s just nothing better than giving a dog a big hug.
The Unexpected & Quirky
The greatest aspect of travel is the totally unexpected and even bizarre. This takes a million forms and is just one of those things that you know it when you see it. Signs are always a favorite, be they misspelled, badly translated or just strange. Australia always provides those in spades, although they can be found around the world. It’s not just signs though, it is also juxtapositions that one would not expect. While in Tokyo I was on the subway when a group of young sumo apprentices in traditional garb got on. I know it’s probably normal and I was the only one who stared at them, but I never expected to see that. In a lot of ways, be it poorly worded signs or odd sights, it is these experiences that resonate most with us as tourists and which also say the most about a culture. What we may consider to be strange or offbeat is considered normal by others, but taking note of them helps us grow as people and travelers.
A Great Pastry
I have a fierce sweet tooth, so for me a big part of the foodie travel experience is discovering new sweet treats to enjoy. My favorite is a great pastry: doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, fritters – I love trying new ones wherever I go. Lately, this fondness has turned into a kind of obsession as I discover new versions around the world. While in North Carolina, I turned a standard press trip around the state into a mad frenzy of doughnut shops and bakeries. Some places are better at creating great pastries than others and believe it or not, but Germany is one of my favorite places to try new sweet delicacies. As far as pastries go, I found many new examples of delicious baked goodness, from rolls with sugar and raisins to small puffs made with chocolate and granulated sugar. German bakeries are amongst the best in the world and even the most common pastry found at a train station cafe far exceeds anything I can find here at home.
One of my favorite aspects of traveling in premium cabins when I fly actually happens before I ever board a plane – the airline lounges. Relaxing in a peaceful environment, enjoying a snack or just checking email in privacy – these are all reasons to love spending time in any airline’s lounge. But not all lounges are made the same and vary widely from just OK to over-the-top experiences that make them destinations in their own right. Over the years it has become an important aspect of my personal travel rituals and I almost always arrive a little extra early just so I can hang out a bit longer. While I’ve enjoyed many lounges around the world, some personal favorites include: Cathay Pacific Hong Kong lounges, Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul, Virgin Atlantic Lounge in London and the Finnair lounge in Helsinki.
I love museums, but I’m fairly picky about which ones I visit. Art museums can’t capture my attention for more than a few minutes, but anything to do with history or pop culture and you can’t pry me away. What many people may not realize is just how many small museums there are around the world, focused on just about anything you can imagine. While many of us visit them just to say we were there, in most cases they have been amongst my most favorite travel experiences. While sometimes off-the-wall, these small, niche museums are important. They highlight a theme or subject that many people find interesting and which, at some level, has had an impact on the local or regional culture. Some of my favorites have been:
- Museum of Broken Relationships (Croatia)
- Old Ghan Heritage Railway and Museum (Australia)
- Pig Museum (Germany)
- Globe & Esperanto Museums (Austria)
- French Fry Museum (Belgium)
Meeting New People
Although I’ve mellowed out over the years, at the core of my being I am an extrovert. I am energized whenever I’m in a group of people, almost to the point of becoming manic. I love it, I love meeting new people, I love the conversations and everything about the experience. Maybe that’s why it’s been fairly easy for me to meet new people whenever I travel, but more than just a byproduct of my extroverted nature, it’s an important aspect of the travel experience. Just as the world is not the dangerous place that the news would have us believe, nor is it full of rude and inconsiderate people. My travels are full of examples when complete strangers have dramatically impacted my travel experience for the better. This has meant everything from simple help with a map to inviting me to dine with them, to share their lives on meaningful levels. No matter how these strangers decided to interact with me, it was always positive. So go out, meet new people and surprise yourself at the world of opportunity that will open up as a result.
What makes you happy when you travel?