Taxi Tales

I don’t take taxis often at home. When I do it is usually to get a ride to the airport or train station en route to a vacation or business trip somewhere. But, when I arrive in a new destination, taxis become a more common form of transportation for me. They are a great way to get from an airport to the city center where you can then get to know a place by foot or public transit.

Besides the obvious benefit of hailing a taxi (getting you from point A to point B), there are also other curious advantages and experiences one can glean from their ride.

On a recent trip I took to the East Coast, I had two such adventures in taxi-riding that I will lovingly call The Culture Cab and The Translationally Challenged Taxi.

THE CULTURE CAB
I arrived at Boston Logan Airport on the first day of my week long vacation. I got in fairly late that first night, so had booked a hotel for the evening before heading back to the airport the next day to catch another flight to TDot (Toronto). My “airport hotel” happened to be about 30 minutes from the actual airport. While I was able to catch a shuttle to the hotel that night, I missed the shuttle the following morning and decided to bite the bullet and pay for a taxi ride to the airport so as not to miss my very first Porter Airlines flight. (It is important to note the airline here because they are like the Canadian version of Southwest except their mascot is a raccoon. Both of these facts making them a NOT TO MISS ride in the sky.) After about a 10 minute wait, a nice gentleman pulled up in front of the hotel, helped me with my bag, and we set off for Boston Logan.

One of the first questions my taxi driver asked me was where I was from. California, I replied. That was all I needed to say for him to open up his heart, soul, and city to me for the next 25 minutes that we shared together. Dave, that was his name, used to live in California, but moved back to Boston two years ago to be with his family after his nephew was murdered. Dave told me about his nephew’s legacy that he left in their neighborhood in Boston. How he was always a sports kid, and while he never made it on a professional level, he dedicated his life to coaching kids in the neighborhood he grew up in. This nephew was all about giving back. He told me about the day of his nephew’s funeral, when over 1,000 people lined the streets to watch the procession of cars pass through the place where this young man had touched so many. Dave was so moved by this whole experience that he decided it was time to leave California and come back to his home, Boston. Thrown into this story were snippets of what life in Boston was/is like. He told me about the amazing Italian food, about the city’s love of sports, and about the friendships and bonds that Bostonians have with their neighbors. It was clear that if you live in Boston, you can count on Boston having your back.

Honestly, it was a lot to take in at 5:45am. But, by the end of the ride, as we pulled up to the Porter Airlines terminal, I knew that I had just experienced a sliver of Boston culture. That strong sense of bond and kinship that pulses through the veins of the locals and transplants that now call Boston home. One short taxi ride and I was convinced that Boston would be a great place to visit one day, and maybe stay for a while longer. As Dave once again helped me with my bag, I thought about giving him a hug. He shared a part of his history with me, what did I have to give him? Instead of a hug I promised him I would be back, and I would take the time to get to know his city. With a huge smile on his face, he bid me farewell.

THE TRANSLATIONALLY CHALLENGED TAXI
After having a fairly moving taxi ride in Boston, I looked forward to my next ride which happened to be a few days later when I was leaving Toronto to head back to the States. It was early morning again (no, I don’t know why I keep choosing stupidly early flights.) Thankfully I had some fresh Timmy Ho’s (Tim Horton’s… but the locals, aka my friend Lindsay, calls it Timmy Ho’s) in hand and was ready for the next leg of my trip. I hopped into my cab and the following conversation ensued…

Driver: How are you?
Me: Good, and you?
Driver: Happy to have you inside of me.
Me: (awkward silence)
…………..

Driver: How was your stay in Toronto?
Me: Great! But it was cold.
Driver: That’s OK, because you are hot.
Me: (more awkward silence)

The best part of this brief eight minute ride was that I honestly don’t think the driver had any intention of hitting on me and instead it was just some perfectly placed translation mishaps that delighted me so. As we rode up to the Toronto City Airport the driver told me to come back to Toronto, but never again in the winter time because it is too cold. I wouldn’t say he was the best brand ambassador for his city, not like Dave from Boston, but our chuckle-worthy conversation made me want to come back for more. Even if for just the self-esteem boost.

Those are my latest, and quite possibly greatest, taxi experiences. Do you have any good taxi ride stories to share from your travel adventures?

Starry, Starry Night

One of the most memorable experiences from my trip to Morocco was the night we spent in the Sahara Desert. From riding a camel into the deep orange desert, to singing and playing drums around the campfire while trying to stay warm in below freezing temperatures… it was all amazing.

But it was the experience of seeing the stars that night that is most memorable for me.

The sun was still setting when we arrived at our Sahara camp. We spent the last few moments of light setting up our sleeping tents and settling into our dining tent as we waited for dinner to arrive. After a while of playing word games while we waited for dinner, someone alerted us to the fact that it would be dark outside by now and we should go out to look at the stars. As soon as we stepped out of our warm tent and I looked up to the skies… I was floored. A vast sea of glittering stars were spread out above me. After the initial ooh’s and aah’s (think 4th of July  fireworks reactions), most people headed back to the tent for warmth. I knew I was experiencing a rare nights sky, so I grabbed a blanket, spread it out on the sand and laid down for the best seat in the house. In a unpolluted night sky, one can literally see layers of stars as if you were wearing 3-D glasses. And the milky way! It looked like a kid spilled milk on the sky and his mom tried to unsuccessfully wipe it up. With a sky so clear I spotted a handful of shooting stars. It was a truly magical experience.

Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult these days to find yourself below a clear night sky as I did, devoid of light and air pollution. The good news is, there is a group of people trying to preserve said skies.

As I was taking in this magical ceiling above me, I remembered that one of my tourism professors, Dr. Edith Szivas, had told us a about a project she was involved in with UNESCO and the UNWTO called the Starlight Foundation. The aim of the foundation is to “promote the importance of clear skies for the humankind, emphasizing and introducing the value of this endangered heritage for science, education, culture, technological development, nature conservation, and tourism.” The Starlight Foundation has created a certification process, to help promote clear skies for the sake of science and tourism:

The Starlight Tourism Certification System was created with the aim of encouraging, at world-wide level, the improvement of the quality of tourist experiences and the protection of the night skies in Starlight Destinations.The Starlight Certification seeks to guarantee the capacity to enjoy the view of the stars and to discover the associated scientific, cultural, natural and scenic values.

The Starlight Certification makes it possible for the first time to bring science and tourism together, It aims to ensure the quality of tourism experiences involving the nightscapes, the view of stars and the cosmos and the related scientific, cultural and environmental knowledge. Recognition of science as a tourist product and, at the same time, as a working method in tourism, is the foundation of developing this standard. – Source

Looking to find an unpolluted piece of the sky to experience for yourself? Use this Starlight Finder to start your search!

Weather

One of my favorite parts about pre- travel anticipation is when the first day of your trip pops up on the week long weather forecast.

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My Bucket List

A couple weeks ago, on a road trip to San Francisco, my friend and I started to talk about our bucket lists…

The conversation started when we were reminiscing about how we really need/want to apply to be a team on the next Amazing Race. (Something we have talked about for YEARS). The conversation reminded me about the time I auditioned for the Real World when I was in college because it was “one of those things on my bucket list”. That is when my friend jumped in and said, “we need to write out our buckets lists, see which items match, then go do them together!”

Normally, I am not one for writing down lists. I never write down new years resolutions, usually struggle at the grocery store because I can’t remember what I needed and forgot to write a list, etc. The only lists I am good at are letters to Santa with what I want for Christmas. But the idea of a bucket list intrigued me.

As defined by Urban Dictionary, a bucket list is a list of things you want to do before you die, or more specifically, before you kick the bucket.

So, as I started to day dream about my bucket list, I realized that everything I want to do/accomplish before I die generally ties into travel.

So here it is. My Travel Bucket List. This list is by no means exhaustive. I plan to add to it as inspiration hits.

  1. Audition for the Amazing Race
  2. Go on a hot air balloon ride
  3. Go on a safari in the Serengeti
  4. Go to Yellowstone National Park
  5. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  6. Go to the Galapagos Islands
  7. Attend a music festival in the UK
  8. Attend Coachella
  9. Hike to Machu Picchu
  10. Buy a summer home in the UK
  11. See the Northern Lights
  12. See penguins in their natural habitat
  13. Visit Luang Prabang, Laos
  14. Visit Meteora, Greece
  15. Visit all 7 continents (Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Antarctica, Europe, and Australia)
  16. Take a cruise to Alaska
  17. Go to Hawaii and hike to a volcano
  18. Learn a 2nd language
  19. Attend the Olympics
  20. Learn to tango… in Argentina
  21. Practice yoga in India
  22. Grow some cojones and go cliff diving

Does your bucket list look similar to mine? Should we go plan a vacation together and check some of these off the list?

Dancing Matt Does It Again

Remember Dancing Matt? The guy who taped himself dancing around in different countries from his travels, posted the video online, and then became an instant viral sensation?

Let me refresh your memory…

7 years later and he is still dancing, traveling, and living life to the fullest. He just posted his most recent “Where the hell is Matt” video.

I dare you not to smile/dance along/love the world you live in while watching this.

Books that make you go….

Ever read a book that was so good at drawing you into it’s magical world, about a boy who lived under the stairs, that you decided to plan your next vacation around it to experience the real thing?

The dining hall at Christ Church college at Oxford, aka what they replicated to creat the Great Hall at Hogwarts.

Ever finish a suspense novel and become convinced that La Pyramide (the inverted pyramid) at the Louvre isn’t just an art installation, but rather a pivotal religious site?

She must have read the Da Vinci Code too. I was a little less obvious about it.

Ever get the urge to Eat, Pray, and Love all over the world because it seemed to work out well for Elizabeth Gilbert?

Eating my way through Portland’s food trucks. Stop #1, the Grilled Cheese Grill.

Ya. Me too.

A good book transports you to another world, another life, a place you can create with your imagination. A great book does everything the good book can do plus it inspires you to get off your couch and travel.

What books have inspired you to travel? Books that made you go…

Why I work in tourism

Beauty In Your Own Backyard

All too often I find myself daydreaming about my next travel adventure. I would say 95% of the time, my mind wanders to international lands where I can find food, culture, and environments vastly different from my regular life.

But, then the financial reality of paying for these exotic trips that I dream of hits and I realize that the only way I can experience them as soon as I would like to is if I a) win a trip or b) win a trip. Seeing as I likely tapped out my trip winning luck for life, it’s time to look for alternatives.

Thankfully, last week I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 International Pow Wow in Los Angeles where Brand USA launched its first official marketing campaign for Discover America. Their ads are based on the four senses and how you can experience America through them.

See it. Hear it. Taste it. Touch it.

I got goosebumps when I saw this ad. Almost immediately my traveling mind started to wander to lands in my own backyard. Exploring the stunning landscapes of Yellowstone National Park. Enjoying the food, music, and culture of New Orleans. Experiencing the autumn glow of Vermont maple trees. I was excited about traveling and exploring the beauty and wonder that my own country as to offer.

Have you been surprised by what travel adventures your own backyard has to offer?

Make It Count – Travel Inspiration

The video is a great reminder of why I love to travel, and why I decided to make tourism my career. Enjoy!

The Colors of Morocco

As our plane left Paris en route to Casablanca, I closed my eyes and started to imagine what my next 2 weeks would be like in Morocco. Having never visited the country before, I let my imagination take flight. I pictured being surrounded by varying shades of desert orange. Sand in my toes, my hair, and probably my mouth. Men and women adorned in scarves that kept the wind and blowing sand at bay. So you might be amused at my surprise when as we were about to land and I asked my sister, who had the window seat, “What does Morocco look like?” She responded… “Like California…”

California? Yah, I guess we have a desert, but that is not the first visual association most people have with the state. So, in disbelief I leaned over my sister to get my own first look of Morocco. She was right. It looked liked we were flying over Central California. There were bright green agricultural plots of land, rolling hills, and snowy mountains. All I could think was, did we get on the right plane?

Over the next 2 weeks I was amazed and in awe each day as Morocco surprised me with a new landscape, a new set of colors, a new destination image to add to my travel memories of this magnificent land. Here is a taste of  the kaleidoscopic backdrops of Morocco.

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Ruins of Volubilis which are surrounded by olive fields

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Evening walk in Midelt, a town known for it's apple production

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The Sahara Desert

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Palm grove oasis in Todra Gorge

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Snow in the High Atlas Mountains

Sunset in Essaouira

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