Wednesday, 2 May 2018

5 Essential Packing Items

Everytime you travel, there is probably a mental or paper checklist that you walkthrough to make sure you are not missing anything. Some travelers would rather pack light and buy along the way, while others like to be prepared. This blog post is mostly for those from the latter category!

What I have learned I should never travel without:
  1. Working phone – I used it to take photos, access maps, order taxis, and Google top destinations I wanted to visit. I also kept in touch via WhatsApp with family and friends.
  2. Hand sanitizer and toilet paper – So very important when I needed to sanitize any injury, when I found myself dotted with mosquito bites, and when I needed to use the bathroom!
  3. Menstrual underwear (yes this is directed to women) – I wanted to make sure I did not leave behind a large environmental footprint and that I was travelling light.
  4. Medication, including painkillers and cold medicine
  5. Local currency cash, and a valid credit card – No matter what Google tells you, I have learned not everyone accepts US dollars!
Of all these, except for #3, you can find the others at local stores and at the airport.

My secondary list would include:
  1. Universal adapter with a high quality USB cable – I have come across so many types of plug outlets around the world!
  2. High-end portable charger – Smartphones run out of battery quickly. So annoying.
  3. Synthetic fibre clothes that can wash and dry fast. Super helpful!
  4. Excellent hiking backpack that won’t break your back
  5. Healthy snacks for midnight hunger pangs!

Of course, as you begin your own travels, you may refine this list or find new items that are absolutely essential to your individualized trips. So, the best piece of advice I can give is Be Flexible.

Happy Travels!

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

The Rebel

Some stories are meant to be short and sweet just like the encounters they describe. And although you know there is so much more to the story, you will never find out the whole truth no matter how much you try. Maybe that's the way it should be....

One of my favorite stories is about Evelyn. 

Evelyn has been traveling solo for some time now, duration unknown. In fact, most of my story may be my imagination of Evelyn, and that is just fine. Because sometimes we need to live in a world of fantasy, where reality vanishes and there is momentary relief from the rigamarol of routine.

So this is my story about Evelyn.

I met her when I first entered a multi-story, lean structure of a hostel in Morocco. The blue city of Chefchaouen. There she was, sitting on the couch in the most relaxed position, busy on her phone. A woman who seemed to know her place in the hostel, in the world. 

As soon as I had registered I joined her on the couch and there I stayed for the next few days staring out the window in silence next to her on her phone or napping. The sunlight streaming in, the hill in the distance with a mosque atop it. Looking at it everyday and imagining tourists visiting it in the evenings to watch the sun set on the blue city of Chefchaouen in Morocco.

It is just a dream now. Walking the streets with Evelyn, eating lunch and dinner with her (pho and fruits), and finally visiting that mosque not too far in the distance on top of that hill.

I still remember her tattoos and thick hair that fell around her shoulders. She spoke of her visit to India and laughs off the time she was brushed on her backside by a male stranger walking by her. I speak of going bald and she talks about her own desire to go bald. I invite her to help me and for two nights in a row we sit on the rooftop of our hostel, her gently shaving off my hair with my razor as I tell her the razor is pulling my hair on my scalp and it hurts.

A rebel, she herself goes bald many months later as she continues traveling and finding love on the other side of the world as I return back to Canada. I remember the burn on her forearm and her sunglasses, shorts, and tank tops. And I remember that attitude to be herself no matter where she was while I was too busy assimilating to keep safe.

She told me she would miss me and although we have not kept in touch over the last half year gone by, I know that when I visit her, although all my other relationships may have died or changed, mine with her will always remain the same. Sitting silently by each other watching the sun set on Chefchaouen's mosque on top of that hill in Morocco. A smile and a laugh intermittent but mostly just serenity and peace.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

How to be travel sensitive!

I thought this might be an appropriate post as we are nearing the holidays in parts of the world. In this holiday spirit which arouses in all of us a need to share and give, I have written a post about being travel sensitive while considering your options to give back!

One of the things that has been top of mind for me when I travel is the need to be culturally and environmentally sensitive.

True it may be a cultural shock traveling to a new country and the information overload is all too real when all we want to do is relax, enjoy and learn about a new place.

But trust me, a little bit of sensitivity goes a long way in building a relationship that will help you experience the country you are visiting in new and beautiful ways. 

Although, you may need to balance your appreciation of the history of the country with your own emotional balance, especially as you learn that every (or almost every) single city on this planet has had some conflict, loss, and pain. Because of this, I will of course also share with you some tips that have helped me to stay stable most of the time!

No, I am not perfect. But let's give this a shot shall we??

How to be travel sensitive:

I frequently find that many people travel to countries to volunteer and help out. I've been there and felt the need to help out whenever and wherever I can. 

Being from India, I can tell you that this is not wrong but there are ways to do it that can leave a positive impact instead of setting off a butterfly effect on the city residents, who may feel you are stereotyping them.

How can you approach your new city with sensitivity?

1. Taking photos

Ask the person whose photo you'd like to take for permission. This is a given.

Let them pose in ways that show their true identity and make them feel happiest. But also balance these photos with photos of people and parts of the city that are as or more modern than that your own home city.

When you talk about what you learned, remember, if you are surprised, you may have been prejudiced about their growth and intelligence.

Try to appreciate them as intellectuals and mentors. Trust me, I learned a lot this way and am indebted to those who taught me.

2. Donating money

If you want to offer your help, take out a day to talk to local NGOs and see what will benefit them. Or book an appointment with a local family after asking their permission to visit them and see what you can offer them.

You may be able to link them to local NGOs or giving them tangible products that will help them. Remember, they may not have time to meet you but you can always find a lot of NGOs online that you can verify as credible. 

This will show that you have a plan to execute your caring instead of adopting short-term solutions and feeling bad about being unable to help. You may also want to contact friends and family about the organization's needs.

Do your research though before donating! Not everything and everyone are as they seem.

3. Volunteering

Do your research before volunteering too. Research the negative effects instead of the positive.

If you volunteer at an orphanage for a short period of time, it will affect the children emotionally and not in a good way when you leave. If you volunteer with animals, too many short-term hands in the pot may not help them stay wild, which may be key to their survival. 

Remember that some organizations may not even allow you to interact with their clients because of your short-term involvement, so ask yourself are you ready to sit in an office and just prepare an annual report for them.

Are you willing to pay them to volunteer with them? Will you walk away frustrated if they are not as organized as you think they should be. After all, they are front-line in serving their clients.

Also ask yourself - are you going to walk away thinking that you helped them? Instead, you may want your goal to be filling an ad-hoc gap the organization has - did they advertise for a short-term gap they need to fill with expertise only you have and can provide?

There are many local volunteers who may be able to contribute so consider what is different that only you can offer. If there's nothing, you may want to just connect the organization with a local expert who can help.

4. Acting local

If someone offers to do your hair, wear local clothes, or eat local food, you may want to consider, first ask yourself whether you're exoticizing their culture and building stereotypes in your head about how it looks and feels, or are you learning something new that you will appreciate and share with others.

Recognize that what you are experiencing may not be daily life in the country or city you are visiting. You may have restricted yourself to the tourist hubs. The food you are coming across may be cooked in many different ways by different people, just like at home. The clothes may be worn because of weather or personality, not just because of tradition, and many youth in that country may be wearing western clothes.

Also consider whether what you are eating or wearing or doing has a religious significance that you may want to understand before any misinterpretations.

Remember to experience the culture you're visiting in it's variety and recognize that it is as modern and as historical as your own.

5. Following instructions

Practice attentive listening and observing. I am sure the readers here already do this, but a reminder never hurt, right?

There are large signs in most places about how you can respect the local culture - no footwear in temples in India; no climbing rocks that the indigenous mark as respectful or dangerous; no approaching wild animals.

Don't know the language, ask your guide or another tourist there.

Still not sure? Err on the side of caution and stay on your side of the fence or follow the trails. Do not venture off as it may damage the local flora, scare the fauna, or it may be a sacred place that should not be affected.

Tip - Research the place you're visiting to understand it's cultural significance in advance.

6. Leave the city cleaner or as clean

Do not leave behind garbage!

In fact, when you camp in the wild, rake the place to leave it as it was before.

Use biodegradable toiletries. You're visiting someone else's home - their city - it may already be suffering from pollution, so try your best to not add to it even if it's a tiny bit more costly for you.

Plus, some places may need you to throw your used toilet paper in a dustbin instead of flushing them down the toilet. Read the sign posted on the toilet doors.

And don't forget to take some time to rest in a public park or at an open festival; lie on the beach by the sea; sit on a mountain, in the desert sand, or by an old fort and listen to the wind; and just breathe it all in! 

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

The Believer

You may have read about her in one of my earlier posts, but I felt that my mention of her was too short and her impact quite large. So a post dedicated to her was necessary.

Who is Nimisha? 

She isn't famous or well-known. A regular woman you might say. But it is the regular women with the stories that connect to us the most, I feel. I hope you agree....

So, where did I leave off in my last brief mention about Nimisha? Ah yes, we were sitting in her car driving towards a get-together of sorts. I was there to learn more about her work and its impact after all. 

As we were driving, she pointed to a loud argument under the expressway, which by the way I likely hadn't noticed or accepted as part and parcel of life in India. Not her. She asked if she should turn back to help them. I said yes. A quick u-turn, smooth parking, and she was right in the middle of it all. Listening to each side intently, nodding her head, taking a moment to speak. 

Minutes go by, and the end result? Smiles and a dissipation of the argument. When she returned to the car, I asked her whether she would return the next day and whether she thought she had made a difference. A practical person, she responded that she may not have. 


A person who is confident in her love for herself. Refers to her childhood with a lightness, and describes herself as an adorable, attention-seeking child. Close to 40, and confesses to her unconditional love for her sister and brother. 

With a father who was a good businessman and an entrepreneur, she was always interested in starting a business venture and applying her creativity to develop and grow it. However, circumstances did not allow this as she came from a patriarchical family. 

She was still very close to her father and instead built her background in child development and psychology.... Her teaching career began with her offering tutoring to children outside school hours and although she wanted to open a formal coaching class, she couldn't help worry about those who would not be able to afford the classes. 

She never started the coaching business but instead began volunteering at a school for the visually impaired and was shocked to find no blackboard. Lol. Then, moved to a school for the hearing impaired and then an orphanage, finally ending at Jumbish, an NGO which ran a public school. A life-long teacher, this is where her heart finally fit in.

The need to help others has permeated through to other aspects of her life too!

In fact, she has even written a biography about someone she met with cancer who wanted others to learn from his experience and avoid chewing an Indian tobacco equivalent called panmasala which is known to cause cancer. The book, Achanak, was impactful and led to many quitting the habit.

Nimisha's favorite quote is a prayer:

Tera tujko arpan kya laage mera...
I have nothing of my own
Everything is given to me

So every day she practices to give all back to nature and the world. And although she has no advice for others based on her experiences, she hopes that the work she does passes on the message automatically. Her words, "My life will be my message". 
Is your life your message? I hope it is, even if it is just for yourself!

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

4 tips on travelling solo in Asia

In my last post, I talked about my top 5 suggestions for travel in Asia.

This post gives specific tips for how you can visit thiese and other countries that you may not be familiar with, or for which you may need refreshers. Some of this information is similar to my blog post on How to Plan a Trip, but a reminder never hurts!

My tip 3 tips for travelling solo in Asia:

1. Arrange your flights

First things first, you can either arrange a round trip to one destination - which may be cheaper. Or multiple one way trips if you plan a multi-city tour. My best piece of advice for multi-stop trips?

Use Google to find the best days (i.e. cheapest days) to fly on. For that, you will need to use the following phrase "(starting city) to (ending city) flight fare". And, you will only be able to check one flight at a time. But, the savings will be well worth it!

2. Pick your local mode of transportation

After you research your top destinations on Google, Lonely Planet, and Trip Advisor, you try and grab a map from the airport. What's next? How do you get there?

In Hong Kong, I preferred trains, while in India, I felt more comfortable using the app OlaCabs and for intercity and intracity transportation.

In some cases, like in Siem Reap, Cambodia, rickshaws are the only available and reasonably priced option, if you have done your research on prices.

Or, you can book a hotel tour, like in Malaysia which helps you see an entire city within a day.

3. Pick your accommodation

Listening to stories of how Couchsurfing is misused in some countries, I preferred the safety of hotels in India, which you can find through or

In other countries, you can do what our parents did - ask an agent at the airport for the best area to find hotels, reach there, and ask around for the cleanest room and reasonable prices. But, what if you have heavy backpacks or bulky luggage?

As I wanted to save time, I asked for suggestions from a trustworthy travel agent, or used for Asian countries outside India. I focused on the ratings, prices, and always reviewed the negative comments. Then selected my best option, and booked it online.

4. Rest-play balance

When I have had a hectic few weeks, I always find I need a week to rest. Otherwise my knee starts cramping, my breath gives away, and I fall prey to the evil cold!

Tune into your body and its signs. If you are travelling solo, listen to what your body wants to eat. In the heat, I prefer salads and curds, or juices. In the cold, I prefer noodle soups, and then of course my body tells me if I want a local delicacy like mango shakes in India, or dumplings in Vietnam.

If you are balancing work with travelling, dedicate a few days to do just that. Or build a routine so you do not feel like you are working more than you are travelling.

For tips on 5 essential items to pack, you can also read my other post. Oh and don't forget to roll your clothes - your body will thank you for it!

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

4 Places to Visit in Asia

While I was able to visit most of the places that I set my heart on in Asia, there is never enough time to do everything you want. Sometimes, it is because work takes priority; sometimes because health does; and sometimes because family does. But I am grateful for visiting the countries that I did!

Here are 3 places I would recommend you to visit in Asia:

Rajasthan, India

Forts, palaces, deserts, and wait lakes?! Yup, Rajasthan has all that and much more.

Start from Jodhpur, India by visiting Mehrangarh Fort and the hidden queen's stepped well. The Fort is so huge that you may need days to really experience every nook and crany of it with due appreciation. In fact, I would also recommend going up the Fort to the Mata's temple. Remember to remove your footwear before stepping up the temple!

Next stop, Udaipur - If you take a flight, you will land by a lake. Then take a taxi to the City Palace. In the early morning light, the quiet and solitude you experience around the Palace is refreshing.

Then, Jaipur - A different vibe altogether with busy streets that were wide enough from generations ago, to accommodate the increasing city population. Every few blocks, you will be able to find good eats, yummy local curdy drinks, and fascinating historical buildings like the Hawa Mahal.

And, if you would like to, Pushkar - You will find many tourists here visiting the Bathing Ghat. But beware those who ask for money in exchange for prayers. My recommendation - stay aloof and focus on the ghat itself as the sun sets behind the buildings in the city. If you are interested, you may even take a few minutes in the day to visit Hanuman Gali, named after a popular Hindi TV show.

Inle Lake, Myanmar

My favourite experience in Myanmar was the boat ride along Inle Lake, known for its fishermen who row the boat with one foot while using their hands to hold their coned nets and catch fish.

Taking the bus to the Lake was an experience in itself. On a top of the line VIP bus, served by an usher, provided fresh snacks for the night journey, and surrounded by earphones with which we could watch our own private movie on the seat in front of us. And, a reclining chair. Wow!

Once the bus stopped at the village close to the Lake, the next 10 minutes were spent in a private car, and the car (when requested) took us to a local service provider for boat tours.

As I sat in the boat, I covered my head with a scarf, to shield my eyes from the sun. We passed floating farms with cows and chickens, houses on stilts with clothes hanging outside to dry, and tufts of green dotting the lake. We also visited tourist centres where we could buy souvenirs, not my thing!

Soon, I was told I could lay on my back, while the boat drifted on the water. How could I refuse?

As I slept there facing the sky, I could see the clouds. And, each time the boat passed a fenced gateway, the water level would drop, and the boat would take a small nose dive into the water.

The best moments in life are in nature, silent, feeling fresh waves and a beautiful breeze.

Lantau Island, Hong Kong

Hong Kong is built for tourism you could say, with its transportation pass (Octopus Card) that allows you to access trains and buses, pay for food, and even jump the line at tourist attractions.

With a handy dandy tourist map from the airport, all you need to do is select where you will be visiting and take off to a nearby station. Then follow the train map that is pasted at the top of every door on the train and find your way to the train station closest to your destination.

In fact, I highly recommend staying at Beepackers; although the bathrooms in reasonably-priced hostels in Hong Kong can only fit one toilet seat and you must learn to shower over it. You will have fast access to the park close by, the harbour, and the station which I recommend you take to see the Big Buddha. Along the way, stare out the windows as you near Tung Chung station - you will be able to see tree stumps jutting out the waters, ship yards, and green islands.

Hong Kong was one city that proved that it can be a natural hub too!

Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia is known for Siem Reap, and Siem Reap is known for Angkor Wat. But did you know that Angkor Wat is part of a temple complex that also contains Angkor Thom and other temples.

Grab a map from the payment centre the day before, pay for your visual identification, and plan an early start the next morning. Arrive at Angkor Wat before sunrise and pick a spot within the temple to watch the sun rise in the distance. Make sure you have your day rickshaw ready to take you to the next temple - Google what you should be paying for a day rickshaw drive (do not trust the drivers).

You will be amazed by faces of the Buddha on the sides of the temples, large elephants carved into the bases, and the vastness of the temple complex is incredible too. Remember to carry multiple bottles of water with you, as you climb each temple!

Of course, there are also other places I would recommend that you visit like

Sri Lanka - a train ride is the best way to do this; Vietnam - to the stepped farms and national parks in the North; and Malaysia - to the Chinese temples with red lanterns showering wishes over your head.

But, the above three places gives you desert, lake, and green for the perfect trifecta!

Thursday, 26 October 2017

How to Plan a Trip

This blog has been a long time coming. I guess it was the perfectionist in me that didn't want to miss any tips for you, and also the possibility I'd be called out if I did!

As I have been providing tips over the past year to close friends and family though, there are some tried and tested checklist items that I can share with you.

I hope you can share your own checklists in the comments section as well for those of us who are embarking on their first, fifth, or tenth trip!

What to think about when planning a trip to an unknown destination:

1. Anything specific you'd like to experience?

If, for example, you are going to the Serengeti, you may want to look at what you may see in different seasons during the safari. Point in case - a wildebeest migration in Tanzania takes place at a different time than one in Kenya. The dry season may have less foliage so animals may be more visible but what kind of animals do you want to see?

On the other hand, are you more into active traveling? Cycling tours, snorkeling and scuba diving, skydiving, hiking and camping? If so, you may want to check out popular routes and see whether you want to be on a well populated hike through the city or are comfortable alone. If so, you will also want to inform others where you will be and when in case of emergencies. 

You could also group different countries together as a package such as some  countries in Asia. Or, if in Europe, stop over in Iceland coz it could be free on Icelandair on the way to the Americas. 

Finally, do you want to visit a place that will soon restrict the numbers of travelers such as Barcelona or Machu Picchu? Or that you've heard may change how its cities are built such as Cuba.

You can use other travel bloggers stories and Lonely Planet guides on Google to help you decide!

2. What kind of weather would you like to travel in?

If you're going to the Sahara desert or Rajasthan in India, summer days may be very hot and winter nights cold. Are you prepared for this? Does the weather matter or can you take some extra clothing and reflective blankets to bake the cold at night in your tent?

3. How much are you willing to spend and what is your luxury threshold?

Can you afford a trip to Antarctica on a ship or would you rather go to Iceland or Alaska on a cruise? Would you prefer to sleep in a tent in a safari camp without fences and hot water or do you want a hotel room with doors and windows?

If you're not on a tour package and don't know anyone you can stay with, book in advance using Or you can visit the tourist office at the airport if your landing airport has one. In some situations I wanted to fly by the seat of my pants, and I searched for hostels during my layover, but that is not a guarantee if you're traveling during tourist season and hate surprises! Ergo -

The other aspect of finances is related to your flight - Google the reviews for your airlines before booking and Google used to also show the approximate price on different dates in a calendar. Then use a website for flight booking that you're sure will give you a good rate - sometimes it's the airline's website itself. At other times it could be or another search site.

4. What are your absolute no-nos?

Where would you feel safe? If it is in your own home and need, let us rephrase the question! How uncomfortable can you accept feeling? 

For me, I am fine with a hostel in countries like Australia or a riyadh or hostel in Morocco, as long as it has no history of bed bugs and I have read reviews about the safety of the neighborhood and the reasonable cleanliness of the rooms (dirt is fine by me depending on how it got there!).

I also looked at how far it was from the attractions I wanted to see and whether I could get there easily, low money, safely.

But, I prefer tents on safari tours and calling excursions of course, and hotels or known family/friend's homes in countries on the African continent and Asian subcontinents. Why? I learned from close friends of a few sour apples in the couchsurfing bunch that are not easy to notice or pick out!

Know your pet peeves!

6. The three landing tips I can't live without!

When I land I look for three main things. It helps to limit the overwhelming anxiety of how to explore a new place, sometimes without knowing the language! - How will I get to where I'm staying? Where can I buy a cell phone sim? Do I have enough money?

The first question about how to get there can be sorted in advance by googling how others travel in the city you will visit and how much it should cost/ how to negotiate/ what do cabs there look like and how to know they are actually valid taxis. In India, the airport may have a country where you can book government taxis. In fact, if you are nervous, you may want to print a sheet of quick language words and phrases you can use right away. Also, print a Google map route to help you feel at ease. But how to get around can also be answered by an airport tourist office and they should have a map of tourist hotspots - double win! Some airports may even have free shuttles that drop you close to where you want to go like in Hong Kong! Still scared - Google cab prices in advance, keep a language sheet, print a route map. 

For the second question about cell phones some airports allow you to buy a sim while for other cities you need to get into the city to find one. A cell phone with data is key - you will be able to Google translate, Google maps, Google restaurants, Google tourist destinations, call emergency lines, get access to lost travel documents you should have scanned and emailed yourself in advance. Do not travel without a phone!

Lastly, don't forget to convert your money at the airport and then mostly in the city at a recognized (cheap) currency rate exchange office. Check out the currency rates on Google in advance to see how much you're willing to lose of the exchange rate isn't fair and how much you need to get to your residence before searching for a local exchange office.

Although this blog does not detail the logistical preparation once you plan your trip and before you land in your chosen destination, some tips for your information - look at insurance based on your age and countries you will be traveling to, do you need to put a hold on your health card, informing your credit cards about your travel stops, finding a credit card that doesn't charge for out-of-country payments, taking an e-copy of travel docs and taking photos of expensive items you are carrying with you, do you need vaccinations and does your current health insurance reimburse you, create a financial plan for your trip, apply for travel visas in time, prepare a comprehensive packing list you will use to buy missing items and forever onwards use for all trips (depending on what's relevant of course on the list), download the apps that you will need such a weather and maps, and create a family/friends whatsapp group to keep in touch and share your daily memoir!

If you have any questions or would like to add some tips, please respond in the comments below!

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Sea Mom

The stories of certain people require their own time in the spotlight. 

The story I share today is one that I have wanted to share for a long time now; of a mother I met in Antarctica. She was my first story on my first trip during my year of travel. 

I watched her daily, over the 12 days I shared with her on a ship. Always on the ship's bow, searching for wildlife, in the cold winds of the Antarctic. 

Natural for her probably, as I later learned she was a marine adventurer from a young age. I could not help but want to find out more about her story!

That wintery December on the way back from Antarctica two years ago, Gail sat in front of me, past the table, giggling with nervous anticipation, "I'm not so sure about this now". She is handed a certificate immediately afterwards congratulating her on her night of outdoor, under-the-sky camping on the Antarctic peninsula. An experience that is unparallelled!

Gail begins talking with her son, Dominik, about our conversation the previous night. We had talked about technology and its influence in disconnecting us from nature. As she was travelling without technology at the time (as was I since there was no network), we both connected with each other about the value of travelling technology-less and experiencing whatever is out there.

A single mother who wanted to be a nurse and ended up in teaching; the bigger story in her life is that of her marine adventure - her years-long travel doing odd jobs and finding herself. 

Gail has a love of sailing. In fact, right after I met her in Antarctica she planned a sailing trip to Cape Horn, to reach there on her birthday. Years ago, in her 30s, she had taken a much longer marine trip when she decided to respond to her friend's email by planning to sail from England to NZ.

At that time, like many people at differing stages in life, she was at a point in her life where she questioned herself asking, “Is this all there is? Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?”. Knowing she wanted to make changes but not knowing to what, there followed a long process of how, what, and where?

It was during this process that a letter arrived out of the blue from New Zealand from a college friend, and she suddenly knew it was where she wanted to go. The next question was how....?

Get on a plane and go...? Not really… Flying from one world city to another...? It was the journey , the journey is from where new beginnings can come.

She thought about what she liked to do (sailing). She collected a couple of charts, talked to a few friends, and mapped out her route to NZ. Once she found out that a boat needed to be delivered from England to West Indies, she sold her car, wrote a will, stashed her 4-month savings, ignored the words of those who felt she was being irresponsible, and set off on her journey...

A physically and mentally taxing journey of nearly 2 years....

As she set off, she shared a boat with two men and recounted how awkward it was, although one was polite and the other not so much. Nonetheless, she was on a journey and sailed across the Atlantic.

The uncertainty of facing the unknown was most acute at the first arrival point after leaving home - an island in the West Indies - a totally unfamiliar culture and new to being alone from the security of home. Many months later, she landed in NZ and felt like she was home. 

For her, in hindsight, the fear, trepidation, and uncertainty of tomorrow became easier as the months went by. There were difficult times but on refection she says she learnt to have a faith and trust in tomorrow.  As I sit there listening to her, I think about the courage she had to do what she did. She says that when you are younger, you can adapt to new situations. And I agree. 

After all, that is the reason I decided to take a year travelling alone around the world while I was still in my early 30s. Gail's story was remarkably similar to mine, waking up to a different story every morning, in new cultures I may not fully understand, and still adapting to new situations while experiencing the physical and mental struggle associated with responsible and respectful travelling.  

Yet, her story is much bigger than mine. Setting sail across the Atlantic, living on a boat, working odd jobs along the way. 

Gail is now a single mother to Dominik, now a young man likely with his own story.

When I spoke with her on the morning on the way back from Antarctica, Gail talked about an Argentinian pharmacist she met right before her trip to Antarctica. A cyclist who travelled by bike up to and past Istanbul – another story that is impressive in its own right. 

Gail talked about how the pharmacist travelled by cycle with a small stove. Her meal consisting mainly of rice, and her hospitality in offering tea to Gail and Dominik when they met were something to be admired. A sentence or two about her own journey would not be able to capture the difficulties that this cyclist must have faced on her trip; still persevering and optimistic to achieve her goal.

Gail has continued to travel to India, Spain, Ireland, France, Chile since I last saw her. And she plans to "set sail' again to somewhere in Africa next.

Over the years, she has not only sailed, but she has taught and worked on sheep farms - her personal, new-found passion. She and others like her prove that age is an overrated number. And, she recognizes "people out there (are) taking on (the) challenge of the unknown (all the time)".

Gail is one of those sea moms who has faced challenges of the unknown, and inspires those younger than her to dream big or go home. A force of wind that noone can stop… 

The trip she took in her 30s was a personal journey because she was questioning her life and wanting to take a new direction... It was a physical journey where she experienced some of the most beautiful places on earth, but probably the inner changes brought about through this process were very significant that she believes have given her courage, strength, and faith in tomorrow....

From me to you on the first blog I have written since many months, I wish you inspiration to embark on your own journeys. Please stay tuned for more blogs about the people I met on my trip, my own experiences and tips travelling the world, and some general checklists that you can use for your own trips to any corner of the earth!