Travel Style Q&A

(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)

Thanks to everyone who has been checking out the blog so far.  If you like, there is now a place in the margin of this blog where you can sign up to receive e-mail notifications of any new posts.

Only a few days until departure!  In the meantime, Ian B. has posted some interesting questions on my “About Me” page….and here are my responses.

Do you think you will be staying in more hotels or hostels?

The Orient Hotel in Victoria, Prince Edward Island, Canada (2009)
The Orient Hotel in Victoria, Prince Edward Island, Canada (2009)

I hope to stay mostly in locally-owned accommodations that have some character.  This translates to a lot of simple hotels, B&Bs and “pensions”.  Hostels are always an option, especially in remote areas, although I’m not keen on large dormitories.

Once you are in a country, how do you like to travel around most? Trains? Buses? Walking? Hitch-hiking and depending on the kindness of strangers?

For travel between places, I prefer trains because it is a lot easier to walk around during long trips (and to keep track of luggage). However, for short distances, I like to walk as much as possible.  You see so much more of your surroundings when you walk.

Do you stick closely to your itinerary or give yourself leeway to get taken off course as you are exploring?

There are certain “can’t miss” sights and experiences that I want to make sure I see .   However, I try to stay in most places long enough to have some free time to explore and see what happens.  The weather often plays a role in this, but I also make decisions based on what I think has been missing from the trip so far.  This leads to your next question…

What do you think you will visit more: cathedrals or soccer stadia? 

Brazil v. Sweden (Stockholm, 2012)

It will probably be about equal in the end!   I think the key is to have balance.  Too much of a good thing can lessen the magic.

I will say that going to a soccer game is a great way to truly experience a local culture (and be entertained at the same time).  I’ll try to see as many games as I can, although most teams play only once a week and it can be hard to coordinate that with my travel schedule.

Do you like to try out new tastes in each stop or hunt down familiar flavours?

I definitely prefer to try out new tastes that are specific to the region I’m in.  However, there are certain limits:  mayonnaise and tripe (together or alone), for example, are out of the question.

When you need to ask a local a question, are you the kind of traveller who would rather risk offence by asking (perhaps poorly) in the country’s native language or risk offence by asking in a lingua franca? (English, French etc.)

If the local language is French or German, I will try my best to ask in that language.  If it is another language,  I will learn about 10 key phrases in that language before I arrive…including “Do you speak English?”  I think it’s important to at least try to speak the local language, however poorly, when you first approach someone in another country.

Do you think you will go into a McDonald’s just once to try one of the unusual items they have on the menu in other countries?

It is a possibility, although it’s more likely that I would go to a restaurant chain that we don’t have in Canada.   Going to a local chain might also prove to be helpful later in that trip!

The Travel Checklist

(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)

OK, I admit it.  I am a travel geek and have recorded every trip I have ever taken.  I know how many countries I have visited and how many times I’ve been to each of those countries.  In fact, because of the vastness (and proximity) of Canada and the United States, I have recorded the same information for all of the provinces, territories and states of those two countries.  Alas, if this becomes the basis of your travel planning, it becomes a “checklist” approach to travel…and I am trying to avoid falling into that trap.

Having said that, I’m not going to throw out my travel records.  Tallying up the number of countries visited is an interesting, though easily manipulated, way to measure how much one has traveled.   Although my travel decisions will (hopefully) not be guided by these statistics, I will continue updating my lifetime travel stats as the year progresses.  And yes, when the 12 months are over, I will probably calculate how many countries I visited during this special year.

I will also admit that one of the destinations under consideration for my travel year is Saskatchewan:  the only Canadian province/territory that I have never visited.  But I won’t go just to check it off the list…there must still be something special for me to see or do that justifies a visit.  Will it make the cut?  Stay tuned and see!

Planning my Itinerary

(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)

For many years, I’ve had a list of places I’d like to visit during a year of travel.  However, even though a year sounds like a long time, I quickly began to realize that there simply wouldn’t be enough time to see every place on that list.  It also was important for me to truly experience each place, rather than race from city to city and from country to country.  Other considerations included climate, prices, visa requirements, safety, and some important family events that I didn’t want to miss.   Logistically, this has turned out to be more complicated than any project I have ever undertaken…but the complications have also made it an extremely rewarding exercise.

As of today, I have booked five trips and have a pretty good idea about several more.   Nothing beats the feeling of committing to a destination and knowing that imagination is about to become reality.

So what’s the itinerary so far?  As excited as I am about sharing my plans, I’ve decided not to set them out here in advance.  I’d like to share the thrill of discovery with you…and I can’t properly do that if you already know where I’m going!

Some of my destinations will be on the wish lists of many other people.  There will also be places that few travellers ever visit, much less *plan* to visit.  These less-heralded destinations are often the best, as they don’t carry the burden of unrealistic expectations.  They also tend to have fewer tourist traps and other barriers to genuinely experiencing the local way of life.  Regardless of where I go, I hope that my blog postings reflect the thrill and privilege of being “someplace else”.

Welcome to my Blog!

(Kingston, Ontario, Canada)

ORIGINAL TEXT (February 18, 2014):

After working as a lawyer for 15 years, I decided to devote an entire year to a lifelong passion:  travel.   This blog will record my adventures and hopefully enable you to share some of the wonder and excitement that I experience while traveling.

The first couple of posts will talk about my itinerary and about some travel traps that I want to avoid.  After that, I intend to post in more or less “real time” while I am on the road.   Stay tuned… and feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments!

UPDATE (January 11, 2016)

After finishing my year of travel, I posted a number of “year-end” entries and decided to continue the blog in its current form.  I now write  about my ongoing journeys as well as other travel-related topics.  However, as I resumed working after the end of my travel year, I now also include some “flashback” posts from pre-2014 trips.

The copyright for all content on this blog site is owned by Pierre Vanderhout.