What did I learn while living abroad?

It is always hard to say goodbye!

This week marks my 15th anniversary of my returning home from a 4 year assignment in London.  I grew up in a small town in northern Michigan so this was the perfect way for me to experience a truly international lifestyle.   The decision of “Should I stay or should I go abroad?” is not one to be taken lightly which is featured in my guest blog post for Global Threads.   

However as I reminisce about all the ways my life has changed since my international assignment and the bottom line is I don’t regret living abroad for 1 minute.  Okay let’s be honest…I miss it!
    

        

 

Here are the top 15 lessons I learned that impact my daily life:  

 

  1. Tea is always served with milk.  
  2. BBC News is my daily source for news as it provides an independent truly international news report.
  3. Always carry an umbrella!  Also leave an extra umbrella in the car.  
  4. A solid understanding of history is critical to begin cultural interaction in any country.
  5. A Tuesday night at a local pub talking with friends is better than any TV program. 
  6. Always keep an open mind to reframe my perspective.  The British do not drive on the “wrong” side of the road –  they drive on the “other” side of the road.
  7. Marks & Spencers has the best knickers in the world!
  8. Public interactions go much smoother when everyone gets into an orderly queue (sorry…line). 
  9. Black clothing is always in style regardless of the garment item or season.
  10. Appreciate the importance of work life balance and the concept of “work only to live”
  11. Understand how “It’s a small world after all” when you can bump into old friends in India.
  12. Realize that home is truly where the heart is; however in time of an emergency when you need to travel it seems so very far away.
  13. Ability to portray a modest, calm and composed personality  
  14. You can live your life without a car!  Public transportation outside of the US can be utilized as your primary mode of transportation.
  15. Plan your weekly shopping time in advance.  Even today major stores in the UK are only open 11AM – 5pM on Sundays including grocery stores.  
Would you move abroad again?

 Absolutely!

 

St Albans: My British home townAbsolutely! 
Due to the opportunity I had to establish a life abroad I was able to experience many great adventures.   So many of these experiences would never be possible as a visitor or traveler passing through for a week.  Now let me be clear, every day was not easy.  There were certainly days when I thought what the $%@% am I doing here!  

 

As I reflect on this portion of my life it is impossible for me to believe that it has already been 15 years since I lived abroad.  It seems like only yesterday I was down at my favorite local pub having a pint with friends planning our next trip somewhere in Europe.  The most valued keepsake from my experience is the people I met!  I have been fortunate that many of my dearest friends in my life today were established from my experience living abroad.  Plus they all like to travel! 

  

Seek your adventure (living abroad?) 




8 Alaskan facts to impress your friends!

I recently travelled to Alaska and during my visit I learned some random interesting facts that will  impress you, your friends or help you win the next trivia game.  

  1. There is more coastline in Alaska than the entire lower 48 contiguous states.  
  2. In Barrow the only US high school football team north of the Arctic Circle has added a regulation for a mandatory timeout when a polar bear appears on or near the field.
  3. “Eskimo” is an offensive term for Alaskan Native people as it was associated with individuals who eat raw meat.  In 2016 Congress removed it from reference terms when referring to minorities. 
  4. Flight is an every day mode of transportation with 1 in 10 residents currently holds a pilot license! 
  5. Enjoy summer solstice with a Midnight sun baseball game.  It has been a tradition for over 100 years to take advantage of daylight that shines on through the night.  
  6. WW2 battles were fought on Alaskan soil and Japanese occupied land for nearly 1 year. 
  7. Alaska is massive with over 663,000 miles which can fit the equialivent of Texas, California and Montana combined.  While Texas logo maybe “Don’t mess with Texas”; Alaska responds with “Isn’t Texas cute?”.  
  8. Anchorage boasts the largest and busiest seaplane airport in the world

Seek your adventure!

Tai O: Historic jaunt from Hong Kong

Tai O village from the water

Earlier this year I visited Hong Kong for the first time.  The trip was full of delightful surprises but our day in Tai O fishing village was one of the most enjoyable.  As there are several fishermen in my family who spend endless hours reliving the highlights of the day it was an epic journey to witness lifelong multi-generational career fishermen.  

Local transportation

 

 

It is a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city as the village of Tai O will immediately transcend you back into a simpler way of life.  There are no trains to reach the village only bus or taxi.  Once you reach the village center your transportation options are limited to  bicycles,  walking or of course boats.  The waterfront brims of lovely stilt houses in many colors just inviting you to take it all in.  There are lovely cafes with waterfront views to relax and soak it all in.    

 

 

Fishermen homes on the waterfront

We took a 30 minute water tour for only 20 HKD ($2.60 USD) which was worth the money to check out the village from the waterways.  It provides an upfront view of the fishermen coming back with their daily catch.  You can find the locals scooting around the village on bicycles to complete their daily errands.   The village shops sell every type of dried fish imaginable including shrimp, jellyfish, squid, etc 

Shrimp dried
Jellyfish dried

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After you enjoy your time in Tai O you are a short ride away from Tian Tin Big Buddha which is a sight not to be missed.  

 

Seek your adventure!

Remember me! Got questions?

First my apologies for the several months gap in no new posts.  I have been on a whirlwind tour of the heart that abruptly ended and took the wind out of my sails.  However the open road calls as my passion for travel continues as I prepare for an upcoming trip to Alaska.  

This week One Girl Who Travels is celebrating our 2nd birthday!  I am happy to share with you that @1girlwhotravels has over 6200 followers on Twitter and growing daily with followers across the globe!   

I hope that you have enjoyed the 60+ blog posts, 90+ #TravelTuesday photos, 2 YouTube videos, 270+ tweets and 200+ FaceBook posts.  Once I return from Alaska I will have hot off the press savvy travel tips for you.    Please share your feedback on what travel topics you are interested in hearing about.  What travel questions are you curious about?  Don’t be bashful just email me at 1girwlhotravels@gmail.com

I have a long list of  blog post ideas and would love your thoughts on what you are most interested in hearing about.  Here is the list of future blog topic ideas:

  1. Hong Kong highlights
  2. Cebu Philippines highlights
  3. Alaska highlights
  4. Favorite airports
  5. Where is the 747 going?
  6. My top 5 favorite places
  7. How to shop on vacation and still carry on luggage?
  8. America’s biggest vacation crime
  9. Terrorist attacks: Should you cancel your trip?
  10. Fishing with piranhas
  11. How to maximize flight schedule changes?
  12. What happens when you are stranded in Europe?
  13. Travel gift ideas
  14. Wifi solutions for international travel
  15. Survival kit for visiting a developing country
  16. What to look for in tour companies? 
  17. Preparing for Machu Picchu 
  18. Do you hate to fly?
  19. Should you get an international SIM card?
  20. Where can you fly an A-380?

Seek your adventure! 

Airline passengers break the law daily: Are you one of them?

How many times during a flight do we hear “Please keep your seat belt fastened”?   Okay we have all been on that flight where the turbulence seems to keep coming in various waves and perhaps prior to take off the pilot announces it is going to be a bumpy ride.  We are prepared and go easy on the drinks to avoid having to utilize the rest room during the flight.  

Did you know that it is illegal to get out of your seat whilst the sign is illuminated?  

YES it is true.  You can be prosecuted for breaking the FAA Regulations 14 CFR 121.311(f) which requires passengers to wear seat belts when the sign is illuminated.

As a frequent traveler I am a strong advocate to follow the FAA Regulations.  I will never be the passenger who stands up 1 minute after takeoff to get a sweater out of the overhead bin.  Listen unless there is an urgent bathroom need I am not prepared to violate the law.  Safety first.  

While no one has ever been prosecuted for violating this regulation the flight attendants appear to have a general “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” philosophy  on this.  This philosophy seems to take on magical super powers when you are traveling in business or first class; as cabin roaming while the seat belt sign is illuminated is a regular occurrence.  Never directly ask for permission from a flight attendant to get out of your seat for a rest room break as it will conflict with their ability to support the regulation.  However if the flight attendant asks you to return to your seat while you are headed to the rest room you should comply.  You are more likely to be prosecuted for directly disobeying crew member instructions.   

So has anyone else noticed that many long flights reach cruising altitude with a smooth ride yet the seat belt sign remains illuminated.  Why is that?  

  • Did the pilot simply forget?
  • Or does the pilot have no regard that we might need to utilize the rest room during a flight over 4 hours?  
  • Or are the flight attendants trying to manage the crowd by forcing passengers to remain seated?  
  • Or is the airline trying to reduce cost on toilet paper?  

My money is on crowd control management or cost savings for toilet paper.  Let me know your thoughts. 

Seek your adventure!

Say it isn’t true; breaking up with an app is hard to do

May 2015: Cordoba Spain

 

I hope you are sitting down!  I have some bad news for you.  Our beloved Worldmate app is breaking up with all of us!  All  functionality will be no longer be available effective the 31st March.  Sigh!   We worked so well together and we were all so familiar with all the features.  After the 1st of April you will not be able to add new trip reservations to the app.  However until September 2017 you will have access to view all previously added trip reservations. 

 

After a glass of wine I began the search for my new guy; ahh I mean a new itinerary trip management app.   I checked out several apps that are available and I am currently “dating” a new app called TripIt.  I tested it with loading a few reservations and so far the functionality seems to work well.  Don’t tell anyone but it has some additional features that will be incredibly helpful.  For example; it will allow you to connect multiple email addresses to your account and automatically forwards the reservations into the system.  However it does not support automatically deleting any reservations that have been cancelled.  

Do you have any favorite travel itinerary apps to recommend?  

 

Seek your adventure!

Fasten your seatbelt for new American Airlines boarding process!

Starting next week on 1st March, American Airlines will begin a new “simplified” boarding process.  The protocol is very easy: everyone is assigned a group number and there are two boarding lanes.  The two lanes are defined as  Priority Boarding and Main Boarding lane.  Group numbers assignments will now include First Class, Business Class, active duty U.S. military, and higher tier status with American Airlines, Alaska Airlines,  or one world®. 

I am greatly looking forward to no longer hearing the boarding process drone on with, “Now boarding Executive Platinum, oneworld® Emerald,  Platinum, oneworld® Sapphire, Gold, oneworld® Ruby and so on”. 

The overall goal I understand is to reduce overall boarding time which could potentially work for the majority of travelers with a few protocols.  However, I think there could be a few outstanding gaps:

  •  Will boarding group will be clearly marked on the boarding pass?
  • What happened to the courtesy early boarding groups of “passengers travelling with small children” or “passengers needing extra time or assistance”?
  • How closely will carryon luggage be monitored in an effort to help speed up boarding time?

 

I like the concept, but “simplified” boarding seems perhaps a little bit too good to be true.  Let’s be honest with ourselves – this is all highly dependent on passenger compliance.  But I still look forward to the new process.  Bring it on!

Seek your adventure!

Pack your bags: Highlights from the New York Times Travel Show

As a fellow traveler, what better way to kick off the New Year, and celebrated Chinese New Year, than with a fabulous trip to the New York Times Travel Show! Inspiration filled the exhibit hall and the seminar rooms were packed to hear from the industry experts.

Top 5 destinations to consider for your 2017 travel plans:

1. Waldorf Astoria New York: Go right now before they close on 1st March! We were fortunate to spend the weekend in the historical luxury accommodations. The renovations are anticipated to take 2-3 years and will be predominately turned into condos. Treat yourself to an overnight stay, historical tour, or perhaps a Bellini at the bar.

2. Paris: Since the attacks in November 2015 tourism is down drastically with the ability to enjoy sites without crowds. You can easily  secure dinner reservations at top tier restaurants and enjoy lower hotel prices. Even better news for US travelers is the dollar is currently very strong against the euro.  Frank Sinatra said it best in his famous hit “I love Paris“.  So what are you waiting for!

3. Montreal: Well, if Paris is simply too far, consider its little sister. Montreal is your Parisian weekend getaway for anyone in North America. Once again the U.S. Dollar is strong against the Canadian dollar so great time to go. Oh and did I mention that Montreal is celebrating 375 years?  As the birthplace of Cirque de Soleil there is no doubt you will definitely be entertained with festival events.

4. Haida Gwai: Another option to take advantage of the low Canadian dollar is the hidden location of Haida Gwai. It was been nicknamed the “Candian Galápagos'” given all the engandered species living locally. 

5. Karasjok Norway: one of the best places to witness the infamous northern lights. Every 10 years the lights increase in intensity and 2017/18 is on schedule to become amazing. Plan your travels for September thru mid-April 2018 and get ready to enjoy the night sky. 

 

                                           Seek your adventure!

Chicago Travel Show: 1 if by land and 2 if by sea

July 2011: Queen Mary 2

The Chicago Travel & Adventure show was last weekend and I found a few new travel ideas that include 1 new city and 2 new sea adventures.

  1. I was introduced to Emerald Waterway which is a UK based company that focuses on river cruises primarily European.   The ships are small offering full service and high end amenities.  I will definitely be investigating for future travel plans. 
  2. For anyone considering a trip to Patagonia there is an option to take a cruise with Skorpios in Chile with amazing views of the glaciers and fjords.   The tours are limited to travel between October through April but bookings can be made over 1 year in advance. 
  3. After a visit to the Mexico booth I have found a destination that I will be adding to my list.  The city of  San Luis Potosi might be the best kept secret in Mexico with a castle hidden in the jungle and unlimited adventure activities. 

In other news while visiting with agents from Chicago US Passport agency I was very disheartened to learn that I do not own my passport!  My most prized possession is officially the property of the United States government and must be surrendered at any time upon request of an authorized member of the State Department or the government.  Yikes!  I solemnly promise to be a loyal steward of “my” passport.  

Seek your adventure!

 

 

Viva Colombia: Top 10 trip ideas you don’t want to miss

Hola amigos.  A few weeks ago I travelled to Colombia; yes the country.  Let me begin by resolving some of your possible current conceptions.  I have heard these common questions from many people:  “Were you ever scared or nervous?”  “Did you feel danger lurking around every corner?”   “Did you see any drug lords?” I can easily answer NO to all of these questions even though I travelled independently with only one female friend.  The country is full of beautiful landscapes, incredible architecture, amazing coffee, good food and friendly people. Our travels included a few days in Bogota, Salento coffee plantation region, and Cartagena.  

Here are the top 10 highlights I would recommend from our adventure: 

Cocora Valley
Cocora Valley

 1. Hike in the Cocora Valley among the 60 foot wax palm trees providing a truly peaceful and beautiful environment.  The photos are unable to do it justice as  unfortunately the weather was not very agreeable the day we went but trust me this is a must see item.  

2. Enjoy the local fruits such as lulo, feijoa,  and tomato de árbol that are only available in Colombia that will “knock your socks off” with flavor. 

3. Marvel at over 55,000 gold pieces at the Bogota Gold Museum which is one of the most visited tourist sights in Colombia.  This collection is unimaginable and will leave you speechless!

4. Cook local Colombian cuisine in the home of a local resident as a tour option through 5bogota.com

5. Stay in the charming and adorable town of Salento to observe all the vibrantly painted houses, doors and window shutters.

Colombia: Fruit & Juice stands
Salento fruit & juice stand
Salento
Salento

                 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PB240626
Don Elias Coffee Plantation

6. Drink coffee on a daily basis taking after the locals who will serve it strong and black.  I had the best damn coffee of my life at Don Elias plantation

7.  Wander the streets in the old walled town of Cartagena until you get lost.  

8. Taste chocolate samples at the incredible Museo del Cocoa in Cartagena.  There are also tours, cooking courses and of course many things you can purchase including chocolate candles.

9. Walk the wall which surrounds the perimeter of old town Cartagena built over 500 years ago nearing 7 miles long and at points over 30 feet thick.  

 

10.  Cherish the architectural beauty in any local church.  There are numerous churches we visited that were incredible in their unique way; however every church regardless of day or time had local patrons actively practicing their faith. 

 

Cartagena Old Town
Cartagena Old Town
Cartagena Old Town
Cartagena Old Town Wall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seek your adventure!