Becoming a World Traveler

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


 

My curiosity for exploring the world began when I was a child. After being cooped up in the backseat of our family vehicle for 24 hours, we finally arrived at a beautiful place that I would soon learn was Naples, Florida. I immediately felt the warmth and the sunshine, as I jumped out of our cramped car. Back home, the weather was freezing cold and snowy. I noticed long sandy beaches and countless large palm trees that I had never seen before. It would not take long for me to appreciate how much I would enjoy spending time in this beautiful sunshine State. Luckily for me, I have returned to Florida almost every year for the past 50 years. From that very first cross-country road trip, my passion for travel was born.

In my twenty’s, I introduced my husband to Florida, and fortunately for me, he loved travelling as much as I did. We established a travel fund just as soon as we began working full-time. Vacations were spent visiting all of the different Caribbean islands and skiing on various mountains throughout Canada and the U.S.A. Every new adventure was exciting and thrilling for me. We always met so many interesting people from all around the world. I loved hearing their stories about where they were from and how different their lives were from my life. It always made me chuckle whenever we told Americans that we were from Canada, and they asked us if you knew so and so who didn’t even live in our province, let alone city.  We learned that most non-Canadians have no idea how vast and populated Canada really is.

I discovered a favorite destination and/or a special attraction, as our travel adventures expanded. Our yearly vacations were split between a beach holiday and a ski destination. After touring most of the Caribbean Islands, Aruba and St. Maarten became two of our preferred islands that we often returned to. We felt safe and fit in comfortably with the locals as we rode the public buses and ate where the locals frequented. Aruba has a refreshing trade wind, so it never feels too hot. St. Maarten has a French and Dutch heritage, providing two uniquely different cultures to experience on one island. One of the best sites in St. Maarten was watching the planes take off and land from Maho Beach or the infamous Sunset Bar. Whistler, British Columbia, was the first mountain that I skied, and after a full day of skiing, I especially enjoyed the lively après ski life in the upscale village. On my very first ski run, I didn’t stop until I reached the bottom and learned very quickly that skiing mountains would require a different pace than skiing the hills that I was used to back home.

Before children, we also planned many getaways to exhilarating U.S. cities such as Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego, Boston, San Francisco, and New York City, to name a few. I especially was drawn to the high energy and diversity found in New York City and loved walking around Time’s Square and seeing the new plays on Broadway. We became enamored with the walkability in Boston and how lovely the city is. Our best excursion in Vegas was our V.I.P. seats to see the musician Carlos Santana play live. In Los Angeles, we loved the miles of coastal bike trails. One of our most enjoyable activities in San Francisco was biking over the Golden Gate bridge to the town of Sausalito. We also toured the Sonoma Valley wineries where we found several of our preferred cabernet Sauvignon wines that we still purchase today.

In my thirty’s, after our two daughters were born, my husband and I both agreed that our travelling souls needed to continue on their journeys. Travelling with family was a little more costly and often required much more planning, but we obtained four passports, packed four suitcases, and travelled anytime that we could get away. We made yearly trips to Naples, Florida, to visit my mom. It was so fun for me to watch the girls enjoy all of the things in Florida that I enjoyed doing. After crossing the border, we anxiously anticipated when it would be time to stop at Cracker Barrel, just as I had remembered from my childhood trips. Homemade biscuits anytime of the day are always a welcome treat for tired and cranky long-distance travelers.

We introduced our daughter to the Caribbean islands, ski destinations, Mexico, and ocean cruising, when they were in grade school. We often planned our trips to different ski resorts with our friends and their families. Our oldest daughter learned to ski for the first time in Vermont. Mont Tremblant in Quebec became one of our best-loved getaways. All the kids loved getting maple syrup on sticks that had been swirled in fresh snow. We enjoyed the quaint French village so much, that we purchased a vacation property that we stayed at in both the summer and winter for several years. Ocean cruising was high on the girls’ list of beloved getaways. They loved getting dressed up for nightly dinners and tried lobster and other delicacies for the first time while on the high seas. We were seated for dinners with so many wonderful table mates, and the girls learned about different lifestyles and cultures from the families that we met. The girls especially enjoyed the all-inclusive features of our Mexican and Caribbean Island vacations, where they sipped virgin cocktails and ate ice cream whenever they wanted, and we enjoyed a week away from the daily grind of work, structure, and routine.

One of our most exciting trips was to California on one of their summer school breaks. We visited many Los Angeles tourist sites, such as Disneyland, the Santa Monica Pier and Hollywood. We didn’t pack warm clothing because we thought that it would be hot that time of year.  The unusual California cold spell required us to immediately purchase hoodies and sweatshirts that we ended up wearing the entire trip. Driving in California was scary. There are six lanes on many of the freeways and traffic is always horrendous because everyone likes to drive. My choice for a place to stay in southern California is a fishing village called Redondo Beach, where you can buy fresh seafood right off the pier and hear the seals barking during the night. It is a lovely seaside escape that is far enough away from the hustle and bustle of touristy L.A.

On rare occasions, we left our daughters with my mother so that my husband and I could celebrate special milestones. Our most memorable getaway was for our 15th wedding anniversary, when we hopped on a tour bus and visited many of the capitals of Europe, such as London, Paris, Rome, Venice, and Zurich. I don’t know if it was the bliss of discovering Europe for the first time, or just being away on our own, but we were giddy like teenagers, while uncovering this whole new world that was so foreign to us. We adored the rich history, architecture, stunning cathedrals, cobble-stone streets, and culinary cuisine in all of these very alluring capital cities. We were the only Canadians amongst a bus filled with American tourists who were similar in age. Every morning while getting on the bus, Roger from Texas greeted us by saying “There’s them Canadiens”. We became a close-knit group and enjoyed cocktails and dinner together after touring all day. One night while staying in Venice, Italy, we all took turns buying ridiculously cheap bottles of good Italian wine from the hotel lobby bar. Many in our group almost missed our early morning wake-up call the next day. My foggy husband left his expensive suit hanging in the hotel closet (that he never saw again) because we had scurried out that morning, trying not miss the bus. We noticed other passengers also frantic to get on the bus, or already sleeping in their seats, and not even Roger greeted us in his usual way that morning.

I discovered something unique that I appreciated in every country. Switzerland was the most scenic, England was the most interesting, Italy was the most fun, and France was the most romantic. The food in both Italy and Paris was phenomenal and we enjoyed exquisite dining at the beautiful outdoor cafes. I remember in Paris sitting next to a pilot and his girlfriend who we chatted up as we dined on escargot and filet mignon. He had flown her from the United States to Paris for a special date night and it happened to be the most beautiful night with a clear sky, full moon, and stars in the sky. After dinner, we walked along the Seine River where everything was beautifully lit and you could see reflections in the water. I know we experienced one of our most romantic nights in Paris that night, and I’m pretty certain the pilot and his girlfriend did as well. When our whirlwind trip was over, we vowed to come back to Europe just as soon as we could, and we have since returned many times to London, Paris, and Rome.

In my forty’s, our family travels continued to new and wonderful places. One summer we drove throughout western Canada and visited many of our relatives from both sides of our families, who lived in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. We especially loved spending time with our extended family and seeing mountainous Banff and stunning Jasper for the first time. Our most memorable family adventure was our Mediterranean cruise and trip to Italy. The girls met friends before we even boarded the ship that they became inseparable with throughout the cruise. Our rule was that we all explored the ports together during the day, met up for our later dinner, and the girls could attend their teen club with their friends in the evenings. At our first dinner, our daughters reported that the teen club started at 11 pm every night. We told them that they were mistaken, and that it should finish by 11 pm, and even that was a little late. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we were no longer in Canada and everything in Europe, including dining, started so much later. We ended up taking turns with the parents of the friends they met to ensure that the girls returned back safely to our cabin. We were all a little tired every day on tour but became mesmerized by the new sights and cultures that we were introduced to each day. Touring Rome was just as magnificent as we had remembered. We relished in all of the delicious Italian food such as the homemade pastas and pizzas and especially the gelato. We copied the locals, walking the cobblestone streets around the entire island of Capri, which was stunningly beautiful, and also walked the entire city of Rome, on one of the hottest days. We learned that the taxis and tour companies in Rome were on strike and so our only mode of transportation was by foot or public buses. At the end of our tiring day in Rome, we became completely lost. We asked many Italians for help, but nobody understood English, and unfortunately, we didn’t speak Italian. We hopped on a bus even though we had no idea where it was going. Our saving grace was that a lovely lady who happened to speak English was also on our bus, and she directed us back to our hotel. Even with our language barrier, our European trip was the highlight of our family travels and the one that we all still fondly reminisce about.

In my fifty’s, my husband and I became semi-retired and empty nesters. Travel became a priority for us (until COVID. Semi-retirement has allowed us to spend extended periods during the winter months, in Florida, and we have visited much of eastern United States along our way. Nashville was the most entertaining State, with superb live country music playing all day and night long in the myriad of bars along Broadway Street. Hilton Head is a bike lover’s dream, and we rode for miles on the beach and bike paths everyday, while spending time there. We enjoyed the boardwalks of the entire eastern seaboard States and particularly fell in love with charming cities of Savannah and Charleston, South Carolina.

Two of the most beautiful places that I have visited happen to be right in Canada. We spent a week one September driving around Vancouver Island, after staying in Vancouver. Upon arriving in Tofino, the front desk attendant of our hotel told us to immediately go the beach before even unpacking, because sunshine was a rarity. We did as we were told and learned that we would need to wear our raincoats while hiking the rugged trails on the Pacific coast. The highlight of our trip was catching forty pounds of salmon, while fishing in Campbell River. We even brought most of it home to our freezer and eventually served our catch to friends at future dinners where we shared stories about our fishing expedition and all of our adventures on the picturesque Island. I can now understand why many couples choose to retire on Canada’s west coast in beautiful cities like Nanaimo, Tofino, and Victoria.

My husband and I drove to the East Coast and visited New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island early on in our marriage. We adored the magnificent views from the Cabot Trail and devouring buckets full of muscles at church suppers and fresh scallops directly from food trucks. But we mostly loved the friendly people. We had not been to Newfoundland yet so decided one summer to fly to St. John’s for a quick getaway. It is true that the Newfoundlanders are the most welcoming and nicest people we have ever met. We loved hearing their stories just as much as they enjoyed sharing their island pride with us and the rest of the world. When it isn’t foggy, the views from capital hill are spectacular and one of the most colorful sites in St. John’s is the houses along what they have named “Jelly Bean Row.”

Another memorable trip for us was our Greek island cruise. Santorini was my favorite Island, with the village built on a cliff overlooking the ocean. I witnessed the most glorious sunset in Santorini that I had ever seen in my life (and I am a sunset lover). My husband and I chuckled at the primitive conditions of these islands, where often the mode of transportation from the ship to the village was via donkey. Other unique cruise itineraries that we fondly remember are out of Quebec to Eastern Canada and out of California along the Pacific Northwest coast to Vancouver. Both have stunning landscapes and lovely ports to tour. I fell in love with cruising since my very first cruise and likely have been on more than a dozen cruises. We have been fortunate to meet wonderful people from all around the world, including Asia, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and throughout Europe. We found the Brits to be the most entertaining and fun; they are often the last to leave the pub or party and they have the greatest laughs.

We had enjoyed our European capitals coach trip so much that we decided to tour Spain and Portugal by bus. I was smitten with everything about both Spain and Portugal, especially the quaint villages lined with myriads of olive trees. This coach tour was filled with predominantly older passengers from all around the world. This group didn’t congregate nightly for cocktails, but we got to know many of the passengers who asked if they could join us as we explored the various stopovers. Whenever we arrived at a new town or city, my husband and I laced up our sneakers and set out to explore by foot. We became known as the “Canadian walkers” to our tour group. I particularly enjoyed discovering the smaller towns but found Madrid and Lisbon enchanting cities with so much to see and do. Porto in the Douro region of Portugal was enchanting, with the town built along the water and Porto is home to some of the finest port in the world.

Our oldest daughter moved to England several years ago, so we have been fortunate to tour much of the UK during visits with her. I especially love the historic old towns with their shops and pubs, and we have learned how to order our morning “white coffees” in Costa and other charming cafés. My daughter and British son-in-law have recently added our grandson to their family so we will be travelling regularly to Britain to visit them, and we look forward to travelling to other European countries while spending time across the pond. During a future visit with them next year, we will also be embarking on our first river cruise, going from Budapest to Amsterdam.

Another continent that we decided to explore while semi-retired, was South America. We flew to Buenos Aires, Argentina and hopped on a cruise ship that went south down through Argentina and then north up through Chile, disembarking in Santiago, Chile. Two other couples who are our close friends, joined us on that exploration, and every night we became the boisterous dinner table that conservative cruisers wanted to quiet, and lively cruisers requested to join. We laughed nonstop as we exchanged stories about our adventures of the day, all while sipping way too much wine (and rusty nails for some) and eating the scrumptious multi-course meals. We talked about how different the landscape is in Argentina, from Canada. The trees looked barren and there wasn’t the outstanding natural beauty that you find in Canada, with the exception of Ushuaia, which was breathtaking. The mountainous village is the world’s southernmost city and everywhere you walked provided magnificent mountain views. Chile is known for their wineries, and we passed many wine vines while driving through the Santiago region. The wine was particularly good value for the price, but I must confess that I am somewhat of a California cabernet sauvignon wine snob. However, the cost for dinners, wine,  and other living expenses were considerably lower in South America than we pay in Canada. I can see why South America is alluring to many foreigners.

I am so thankful that my passion for travel began when I was a child, and I am so grateful for my traveler's soul. I have been blessed with the opportunity of exploring so many amazing places, learning about so many diverse cultures, and meeting so many wonderful people from around the world. Every new adventure has been fascinating, enlightening and has provided me with beautiful memories that will last a lifetime. In fact, my passion for travel led me to become certified as a part-time travel consultant with Expedia Cruises and Travel. I love researching destinations and itineraries just as much as planning, organizing, and travelling to all the captivating new places. There are still more continents that I still need to explore, but I am well on my way to becoming a world traveler. Australia and New Zealand are next up on our bucket list, and I cannot wait to start researching and planning that exciting new adventure!

 


Submitted: October 14, 2021

© Copyright 2023 Denise Svajlenko. All rights reserved.

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88 fingers

That was an interesting story on your travels. Hope many more will come once this covid goes away.
In the late 90's, I travelled across the US and Canada. Mostly on Greyhound Bus or Amtrak with one trip on Via Rail from Montreal to Toronto.
I stayed and worked in youth hostels to help pay my way. Met a lot of great people from around the world. A lot of Australians I would come across on my journey. Spent eights weeks travelling with a woman from Perth. She never saw snow before as we were heading to Philadelphia. She was like a little kid playing in the snow.
Lived in Norway for six months because of a woman I had met on my travels.
Went to England, Denmark, Sweden.
Travel is a great experience, no matter what the distance.
You learn things from other people and you learn things about yourself in the process.
As for Newfoundland, my mom came from there. I've been up there a couple of times.
Very beautiful with its own character that isn't totally quiet Canadian I think.
Ever try Newfie Screech?
.


.

Thu, October 14th, 2021 8:02pm

88 fingers

That was an interesting story on your travels. Hope many more will come once this covid goes away.
In the late 90's, I travelled across the US and Canada. Mostly on Greyhound Bus or Amtrak with one trip on Via Rail from Montreal to Toronto.
I stayed and worked in youth hostels to help pay my way. Met a lot of great people from around the world. A lot of Australians I would come across on my journey. Spent eights weeks travelling with a woman from Perth. She never saw snow before as we were heading to Philadelphia. She was like a little kid playing in the snow.
Lived in Norway for six months because of a woman I had met on my travels.
Went to England, Denmark, Sweden.
Travel is a great experience, no matter what the distance.
You learn things from other people and you learn things about yourself in the process.
As for Newfoundland, my mom came from there. I've been up there a couple of times.
Very beautiful with its own character that isn't totally quiet Canadian I think.
Ever try Newfie Screech?
.


.

Thu, October 14th, 2021 8:02pm

Author
Reply

Your travels sound very interesting as well. No I've never tried Newfie screech but we are planning a trip back to Newfoundland to see the entire province so maybe we will then. Thanks for taking the time to read my article and comment.

Thu, October 14th, 2021 1:28pm

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