Monday, June 25, 2012

Travel Doesn't Always Change You

I look back fondly at the experiences and memories I had from my first solo trips because they changed me so much. They were filled with a energy and purpose, also prompting me to start this blog, because I was so excited by what had changed in me and wanted to share it.

I may have gone into some trips expecting changes to take place and they may or may not have happened because of the trip. In other words, they may have simply happened because I was ready for a change.

I was in a very different place mentally for my most recent solo trip. I had just quit my job. I am mother to a young child with special needs. I went across the country to help a best friend - not because I was looking for adventure or particularly wanted to go there, but out of sense of duty. Still, I resigned myself to see it as a new adventure and make the best of it.

At 6am, I held my son and said good-bye. I took a cab to the metro station, where I caught a bus to the airport. I had a backpack and a small carry-on bag on wheels. I sat at the airport and ate toast and jam I had brought with me. I then went through security. I boarded a plane to Edmonton and the flight took four hours. I landed in Edmonton, bought lunch and a toy for my son. I waited an hour and a half for a bus to take me to Cold Lake. The bus to Cold Lake took over four hours. I was picked up by my best friend's husband at the air force base. I arrived there around 6pm their time (which was 8pm my time). That's 14 hours of travel time!
Believe me, the fact I could have flown to Europe or China was not lost on me!

Unlike other solo trips, I did not feel nervous at all. In fact, I may have even been too relaxed. But I felt comfortable in my homeland of Canada and I also stayed with my best friend most of the trip. I spent only one day and night alone in Edmonton on the way back. Unlike other times, it didn't feel liberating, it just felt good - like a comfy old sweater. I'm past the liberation stage and into the "Old Hat" stage!

In the end, it was more reaffirming that I still have some travel left in me. My life has changed drastically - I'm a mom responsible for another person - but I'm still the same old solo traveler inside.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Ethical Travel Eating

I recently got into a debate with a vegan friend of mine over travel hospitality and dietary restrictions.

His stance was that a host should know about your dietary restrictions ahead of time and plan accordingly to accommodate you and your needs. He also believes it is easy to find foods suitable to eat everywhere and continue to stick to whatever restrictions you normally keep at home.

My stance is that as a guest, you should eat whatever you are offered unless you are allergic/intolerant to it and it would kill you or make you ill. In other words, however you eat at home is a privilege and you should not impose your privilege on your host.

For the record, I'm not talking about visiting your aunt in the States - where you come from a similar culture and socio-economic status. I'm talking about visiting developing/impoverished nations.

Now his stance might be tainted by the fact he has not visited any developing/impoverished nations (as far as I know, I could be wrong, maybe he can correct me?) while I have. I have visited places where foods of all sorts were limited in general, so it was essentially impossible to be picky. I also believe that you can't always call ahead and tell people what you want to eat. For example, I would have missed out on a rich cultural experience in Morocco had I refused to eat the lunch I was spontaneously offered by a family. I think it would have been insulting to them to refuse to eat with them. When people do not have much to offer, and go out of their way to share with you, well I just can't see myself saying, "sorry, I don't eat ______, gotta run!"

Barring that, maybe never visit a country where it's hard to find the foods you want to eat? Sounds ridiculous. It also sounds like a great way to never immerse yourself in a culture!

What do you do when you travel? How do you handle travel with dangerous food allergies or religious/ethical dietary restrictions?

(Note, I'm not interested in debating why people eat or don't eat what they do, just how they deal with it on the road.)