Where You Should Travel and the Five Things to Bring With You

download (6)One of the most common questions I hear when talking with people who are looking to travel is “where should I go?”. The answer I give them is a very simple one and that is “anywhere!”. What I’ve found to be consistently true with nearly everyone I’ve known that has traveled is that they’ve loved every place they’ve gone. Now, that’s not to say that some didn’t have a few rough experiences, but the consensus is that you’re traveling to see different parts of the world, every country has it’s positive aspects just like every country has some negative aspects. The first thing I would do is throw away every preconceived notion you have in your head about different countries. Now, that’s not to say go to places that are potentially dangerous, that’s common sense. But to really find out where you truly want to go I would look at why you’re interested in traveling. Are you looking to go to site see? Are you looking for a more natural travel experience I.e hiking, mountain climbing, etc.? Or are you looking for a nice relaxing vacation with beaches and palm trees? To be honest you could really be looking for all of those things! A great place to start is with convenience, do you know people who live abroad? That’s what propelled me to travel to Europe and gave me the extra push to really travel. Next, are you interested in any specific cultures? I recommend for your first time traveling, go see something that has caught your eye over the years! It’s a great way to ease yourself into the cultural differences the United States has with nearly every other country. Overall though, I truly believe that you can’t go wrong wherever you go, the world is a beautiful place. While traveling there are certain things you should never be caught without, here are my five most important items…

1. Passport.

This first one is very important. No matter where you go, to get there you are going to need your passport. It is necessary that you have this with you nearly at all times. While there are certain countries that are considered safe and friendly, it is always a good idea to have your passport with you in case of emergencies.

2. Money.

Wherever you are traveling to, make sure that you have your money exchanged into the currency that country uses. Don’t be that tourist that is trying to get locals to accept the U.S. dollar bill, nobody likes that guy. It is also important due to emergencies. There have been many instances in which my credit/debit card has not worked when I have been abroad and I needed the item right then and there. Always have cash (in the correct currency) on hand while traveling.

3. Dictionary.

Now I know this one seems a bit odd, but you would be surprised at how handy a dictionary really could be. Just by getting one word out correctly most people will be able to figure out what you are asking for or what you are trying to tell them. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a guide with you who speaks the natural language, a pocket dictionary could really go a long way.

4. Water.

This is another one that sounds odd but is a must while you are walking the streets of a foreign city. You have to remember that these cities are much different than american cities. When you go up to a restaurant and ask for a glass of water they will in fact charge you or even refuse. It’s a safe bet, especially when it’s hot, to carry a bottle of water for yourself. You’ll thank me later.

5. A Smile!

Cheesy, I know, but it really is so true! Be a happy tourist, be happy that you’re exploring new places. Even if it’s not what you expected, enjoy just being there. I see so many people that are miserable while they’re on vacation because it’s too hot or they didn’t get to do what they wanted to do. My advice, go with the flow and keep on smiling.

 

The Millennial Traveller – (What Am I Looking for?)

download (5)In the travel section of my library, skimming books on Costa Rica and Central America, I came across a book- misfiled I guess. Stuck amidst the vacation guides was “Travels with Charlie”, by famed novelist John Steinbeck.

Pulling it out, I retired to a corner chair. 1962, middle aged, renowned, Steinbeck had dropped everything to take a cross country trip, incognito, accompanied by his little dog.

Thumbing through, I noticed, wherever he roamed, the reactions were the same. “Take me with you” whether voiced or not. Why do we dream about getting away, the further the better?

Sites, tastes, lifestyles, travel in the past signified glamour, intrigue. Today, from the farthest outposts, innumerable videos exist on the internet. Why does it still excite so?

I think about people who quit jobs to travel. What did they hope to find? It couldn’t have been for just stories to tell.

I’m guilty of wanderlust myself, same desk job, activities, meeting new people but never deeper conversations. We live in the predictable, passive, commute to work, go out with friends, spectator sports, maybe jogging or to the gym. What good does that do for me or anyone?

A job with no future, frustrated love life, meaningless routines; maybe change will stir things up? Test your mettle; find your capabilities. That yearning, is it for answers? Where do I fit in, how can I make a difference?

When I think back on travel, I remember myself envious of those who found community- a horse race meetup ending the cattle roundup season in Australia, a kibbutz in Israel, meeting the extended family running a Costa Rican hostel. They worked toward a common goal, and mutual enhancement.

Journeying through Israel, staying with a family who were friends of friends, I encountered everyday lives. Theirs was like mine, only living on the edge as well. They knew that they may be called to war or bombed tomorrow and it made them humble. It also fostered a zest for living!

Memories envelop me, the spontaneous hikes, or mates preparing a shared dinner. The utility company went on strike cutting the power an hour before suppertime. No worries though, someone grabbed a guitar and everyone broke into old Aussie folk songs.

I went away to live in Australia, a guy not knowing how to have a good time. And I returned aware it’s an American problem- and an opportunity to teach my peers.

Without personal encounters or challenges, travel becomes an empty visage, of museums, architecture, restaurants and vistas. Hardly life changing, a postcard or video would do. Travel, when uneven, shows us alternatives; raw nature exposing what’s paramount.

So what are we searching for, running from or to? Despite what education and religion teaches us, there is no blueprint for a satisfied life. Even travelling in the US, other communities embrace different ideals too.

Perhaps, it’s the confusion of what isn’t familiar, or nature in her cruel precision Melding different worlds, we glimpse beauty and raggedness in other cultures which makes us reflect.

I have learned by traveling, living locally and hiking the less beaten paths. It’s freed my awareness and given me options- a more vibrant life in finding what I want. That’s what’s keeping me planning future trips.

 

The Sardine Run

download (9)Each year between May and July, countless millions of sardines begin their annual migration, dubbed the “sardine run.” The sardines, also called pilchards, spawn in the cool waters off of South Africa and then migrate northward along South Africa’s east coast. The run is sparked by a cold current that travels from the Agulhas Bank northward to Mozambique, where it veers away from the coast and east to the Indian Ocean. Visible even by satellite, researchers estimate that the sheer biomass of the sardine run easily rivals the East African wildebeest migration. This seething mass of sardines can be up to 15 km in length, 3 ½ km wide, as well as nearly 40 m deep and it sparks a feeding frenzy all along the coast.

As if the spectacle of the sardine run isn’t enough, predators arrive en masse to dine on the sardines and the result is an extravaganza that rivals any of Africa’s great migrations. The sardines shoal together tightly to minimize their risk of being eaten by predators. Birds by the tens of thousands plunge from above to feed on the fish while larger game fish as well as numerous shark species feed on them from below. The sheer numbers and variety of sharks is amazing. Zambezies, coppers, hammerheads, and great whites are all seen in great numbers. As the sharks and other fish feed below, gannets and other sea birds arrive by the thousands to plummet from the sky and get their share of the sardine run’s bounty.

Bottlenose as well as common dolphins also make their appearance to take part in the activities. One amazing sight is watching them employ a unique hunting strategy where they corral the shoals into what is known as a “baitball.” Cooperating much like sheepdogs, the dolphins circle the sardines and herd them into a tight group. The “baitball” is then pushed upward toward the surface and the dolphins gorge themselves on these tiny fish.

Tourists come by the thousands to see schools that number as high as 500 dolphins frolic and play while they dine on the migrating sardines. This event is something that everyone can enjoy, whether birdwatchers, experienced divers and snorkelers, or simply marine life enthusiasts. One of the premier places to view the birds and sea life is the main beach headland of Southbroom.The sardine run is amazing whether experienced from beneath the waves r above and is truly one of the most amazing marine spectacles in the world.

 

Chota Char Dham – The Hindu Pilgrimage Circuit

download (4)Char Dham‘, also written as ‘Chardham‘ is a pilgrimage circuit, consisting of four sites, (‘Char’ is Hindi for four) very important to the Hindu community. The four sites are, namely, Badrinath in Uttarakhand, Puri in Odisha (Formerly Orissa), Dwarka in Gujarat and Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu. There is also a smaller circuit of Char Dham sites, known as ‘Chota Char Dham’, with ‘Chota’ meaning small. All these four sites of Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath (Badrinath is common to both the circuits) are located in the state of Uttarakhand alone. In this article, let us visit each one of them.

Yamunotri: This village marks the source of the Yamuna river. To the Hindus, it is the seat of Yamuna, the Hindu Goddess, who is depicted as having black complexion, and over a tortoise, having a pot of water in her hand. (As described in the Sanskrit Agni Purana, one of the eighteen major Puranas of Hinduism)

The temple here, housing a shrine to the Goddess, opens in the month of May and closes the second day after Diwali.

Gangotri: While Yamunotri is the origin of the Yamuna river, Gangotri that of the Holy Ganges. For readers who are unaware, Ganges, or Ganga in Hindi, is considered very sacred in Hinduism, and bathing in its waters is believed to facilitate ‘Moksha’, i.e. one’s release from the circle of life & death. She is also worshipped as Maa Ganga. (‘Maa’ means mother) She is depicted sitting on a ‘Makara’, a mythical creature that has the head of an elephant, and the body of a fish.

The temple here dates back to the 18th century.

Kedarnath: The history of the town of Kedarnath dates back to the Mahabharata era. (The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit Hindu epics, with its origins dating back to 8-9th century BC.) The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, one of Hinduism’s three major deities, the God of destruction. He is worshipped as ‘Kedarnath’ here, which means the Lord of Kedar Khand. (Historical name of the region)

Due to severe weather in winters, the temple is only open from the end of April to the autumn full moon.

Badrinath: Badrinath is the most important of the four pilgrimage sites of the Char Dham. The temple here is dedicated to Lord Vishnu, one of the three major deities of Hinduism (The third one is Lord Brahma, the creator), the God who is the preserver and protector. He is worshipped as ‘Badrinath’ here.

Once again, due to extreme weather conditions, the temple is open between the end of April and beginning of November.