Tag Archives: travel

From one bag to another

Last week I went down to my basement to check on something. I don’t go down there often – to be honest it is a bit of a mess. I totally forgot what I was looking for because there I saw my travel collection of bags. Small carryon with wheels for just an overnight trip, backpack for the plane, medium size case which has become my go to and an oversized mammoth of a case which I have no idea why I bought. What was I thinking of?

Oh – I was so sad. I sat down on the carpet next to the bags and had a chat.

“How are you guys?” I asked. “It seems like forever since we travelled together.”

Mammoth case “Well you got that right, lady. When was the last time you ever picked me for a trip. I don’t even know why you are hanging on to me.”

“Well you know Mammoth – you are a big lady – you might come in handy one day if I decide to emigrate – AGAIN! After all it is becoming a bit of a habit now. Emigrate from England to South Africa – emigrate from South Africa to Swaziland – emigrate from Swaziland to Canada – maybe a retirement emigration to – I dunno – Barbados – might not be a bad idea. Especially in view of the weather today.”

Of course medium sized fairly new bag couldn’t help but chime in. “Oh I remember our trip on Silversea Cruises. It was so amazing. The luggage crew with Silversea were so gentle and carried me up to your suite and laid me out on the luggage table so carefully. I felt so special and just sat there waiting for you to come into the room (which was amazing). I can remember smiling smugly to myself while you exclaimed with joy and ran around the room checking the bathroom and walk in closet and the balcony. My goodness, you were like a 5 year old at Disneyland.”

“Oh shut up” said Mammoth. “I am so sick to death of hearing about your special trips. You have only been part of this family for 2 years – wait my friend until you become old and tatty and then let’s see you get taken on a luxury cruise line!”

Medium bag sat and said nothing – probably sulking.

Backpack meanwhile chirped “well I go on every trip now that Mom has seen how much better it is to travel with a backpack on a flight rather than a stupid little bag on wheels”.

“Who the hell are you calling Mom?” said small wheely bag. “Let me tell you when she goes on a carry on only trip I am the one! So shut up! I have done a whole two week trip to Ireland and it was only me – all the way. Boy oh boy she had those clothes packed in so tight – my jaws were aching. But I did it. I was so proud of myself – and of her. Mind you I did notice that I never saw those clothes again. Rumour has it downstairs here that they ended up in the bin.”

Oh yes, travel memories. The excitement of which bag to choose, which clothes to pack, what to wear on the plane. Dammit – I miss it!

Follow your family line

With the advent of services like Ancestry DNA people are discovering who they really are and where they really come from.  For those who study genealogy this is a huge boost to filling in the gaps of the family tree.  Travel plays a big part in this story and I have lost count of the people we have helped in their journeys overseas to check in on ancestral homes, villages and towns.

It is always interesting because usually the places people want to go to are generally off the tourist radar.  Small villages in Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and the Czech republic are just a few of the places where people go to visit church yards, scan birth, marriage and death records and see if anyone in the village still carries the family name.

St Columbus Church Outer Hebrides (2)

Now this can be tricky.  This is why some people don’t like the idea of DNA at all.  Imagine getting a knock on the front door and a complete stranger is standing there telling you that he or she is your fourth cousin twice removed and they have travelled across the world just to come and visit you.  Mmm.  Might make you think twice?

stranger at the door

The other downside of a genealogy search overseas is that because you are probably wanting to get to very small villages or out of the way places you are probably going to be travelling independently – driving a rental car – staying in very small towns that have never heard of Sheraton Hotels.  The best accommodation might be just the small village inn.   This can sometimes be a challenge for us spoilt North Americans.  Bedrooms in European hotels are smaller and in some of the smaller villages you might even find yourself sharing a bathroom (horror of horrors).

Remember there is a reason for this.  You are not a tourist – you are a sleuth on the trail of your great great great grandfather – who was maybe a shoemaker in the Swiss Alps, or the harbour security man on a small island in the Outer Hebrides.  Enjoy the challenges and enjoy the discoveries along the way.  You might be obliged to eat Haggis in Scotland, Black Pudding in England or Grilled Pig’s ear in Spain.  If that happens follow Anthony Bourdain’s advice – never refuse a dish prepared for you by a local.  And when you are struggling to get that food down – remember – this is your ancestry – so enjoy it!


Avoid non-essential travel

You may have come across this advisory – “Avoid non-essential travel”.  It is currently in place at the moment with regard to parts of Egypt (to name but one destination).  It is wise to take notice of this advisories but I had to chuckle at one of our more adventurous clients who is currently planning a trip to Egypt.  When Donna drew his attention to the advisory he answered –

“But my trip is essential – I just HAVE to go”!

travel quote 2

It made me think about how important travel is in our lives.  It always is so amazing to share the joy that people experience when they first start to travel.  Sometimes they may be a little older …. maybe they have been busy working, saving up, raising families and then suddenly with a little more time on their hands and some savings in the bank they can indulge their life long passion to go travelling.

At first it may be somewhere that feels “safer”.  Maybe a trip to England where everyone speaks the language and the only difference is the currency and the fact that they drive on the “wrong” side of the road.


After this, our essential traveller becomes a bit bolder – venturing out into Spanish towns and Tuscan villages, bringing back tales of new friends and a vocabulary of foreign sayings.

tuscan cooking class

Now we are usually on a roll.  During these trips our essential traveller has met other essential travellers who have shared tales of exotic locations, strange meals, elephant back rides, temples and prayer meetings with monks.  Our essential traveller is intrigued.  Now that those first hesitant steps are in the past a trip to Vietnam, Cambodia, China, India …. it all seems closer and somehow even more irresistible.  And the friendship of strangers stays in our hearts for ever.


Each new journey leaves a lasting effect, a change in world view and an insatiable appetite to see more and experience more.

Is it a drug?  Is it an addiction?  No – it is essential to our growth as human beings.


I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook and I think that is the same for many people.  I notice that from time to time people will take a break from Facebook and suddenly it is as if they have disappeared off the face of the planet.  Others will be super vigilant with their Facebook settings and will have such high privacy barriers that all you see is their profile picture – and this is probably a good thing.

The fact is that Facebook is so dominant now in our society and so much of what we do, say, buy or feel can be linked to articles that we have read or shared on Facebook.

The reason for my current interest is that I just went through some Facebook training (yes there is such a thing and it does not revolve around how to post a selfie).  The statistics were quite surprising.  62% of people use Facebook to check out local restaurants, small businesses and local events.  Facebook users check their newsfeed an average of 11 times a day!  Wow!

A recent conference I went to featured Facebook as a stress break for workers during the day.  It’s like the new smoke break.  Working on a tight timeline?  Getting stressed out.  Take a couple of minutes break to check Facebook and then return to that cost analysis feeling de-stressed and revived.


Hmmmm.  Do you agree?  Does that really work?

Being in the travel industry Facebook is very important to me.  I follow Facebook pages of my various suppliers which are usually closed groups where they can advise us of special offers coming up and a forum to share problems and resolve issues with their representatives.  It can sometimes be a quick and effective way to get something done – maybe quicker than a phone call.  It is also an interesting platform to keep up to date with trends in the travel industry and see what people who are out there travelling really think of the tour / cruise / hotel.  Just recently I read an interesting article of how Medellin in Colombia is re-inventing itself.  It was on Facebook so it was a quick read and it was there – front and centre on my feed.  I doubt if I would have picked up a magazine and read that.  Private groups on Facebook are a great way of sharing advice with colleagues as well as having a shoulder to cry on when retail fatigue sets in.


So those are all the things I love about Facebook.

What about the thing I hate most about Facebook?

Those posts where you are expected to share it otherwise you are a bad person – usually prefaced by “I know 98% of my friends won’t post this to their facebook” …. Aaaargh – don’t do that to me.

only my true friends facebook

Those posts about what level of Candy Crush you have reached.

And the fact that – yes – my innate sense of curiosity and noseyness means that I am one of those 11 times per day newsfeed checkers.

And I must admit – I also check how many people like my Travel Lady Facebook page and I am thrilled to see new likes – because it means that somebody out there is listening!




The Great Escape

Life is all about escaping – which is pretty sad if you think of it.  There are even rooms that you can pay to be locked inside just so you can escape.  This is a booming business in Calgary now.  If you have ever tried this as a team building exercise you will know that different people behave in different ways.  Some relish the thrill of solving the puzzle that will open the lock – others (like me) get a little more impatient and if given the option of solving the puzzle or getting hold of a hacksaw I would probably choose the latter.
Image result for friday

For those of you who are still working (yes we do envy the retirees) then you will be very familiar with that feeling on a Friday night at 6 pm when you say – OK – that’s fine.  I did it! Let me out.  I am not sure why we wish our lives into fast forward like this.  We only have a certain amount of time in this world to enjoy so we should stretch out every single day.

Which brings me to my favourite type of escape – travel.  The thing about travel is that the escape is not just when you climb on that plane.  The escape is every time you even think about travelling.   The research that goes into a trip is half of the fun – if not more.  The anticipation of seeing the places you read about is quite delicious.  I usually like to try to read a novel that gives the historical background of the area.  It’s a great way to get a sense of history without having to read a boring guide book – and oh my goodness some of these guide books can be really boring.  Depending on your destination there are some really good reads that will give you a reliable rendering of the history of the area. You can even suggest one of these books to your book club…. if you are a member of one.

Image result for in bed reading a book humour

Then there is the shopping.  This is another form of escape which is essential when travelling.  It is so much more fun shopping for travel stuff than shopping for groceries. You know how you need those new walking shoes because the itinerary mentioned “join your guide for a walking tour of ….” and of course you need a new swimsuit and maybe one of those anti-theft back-packs.  Shopping is such a fun escape and it is even more fun when you can justify it.

One of the best escapes is during your flight.  It doesn’t matter if you are the CEO of Big Deal Corporation, you just cannot be reached while in mid-flight and please please people – let’s keep it that way.  I do NOT want to receive phone calls or emails during my flight.  I love flying.  This to me is a wonderful escape.

Then – before you know it – you have escaped completely into a different world.  That was how I felt when I arrived in New Delhi.  The traffic, the colours, the food, the people – amazing.  Funnily enough I felt the same way when I arrived in Hanoi.  The amazing ability of whole families to ride on one small motorbike is incredible.  Then again, nothing can quite beat the experience of being on the plains of the Serengeti during Earth Hour with just the brilliant stars and a few candles to light our table under the trees and – Oh Yes –  it is hard to describe the atmosphere of that brooding red rock they call Uluru.

So many beautiful places.  So many memories.  So many escapes.









When you don’t have it you need it

Insurance is such a pain to purchase.  There is no fun in it.  It just costs you money and you really don’t see anything tangible for what you have paid – until…….

I came across this story about insurance on a rental car –

(I work as the manager of a rental car office. It’s a slow day and so when the next customer enters, I take my time describing the extra insurance coverage benefits.)

Customer: “Seriously, do we have to go over all of this?”

Me: “Yes, sir. I want to make sure you are fully informed about what refusing the extra coverage means for you.”

Customer: “Fine, but let’s hurry up. I want to hit the road!”

Me: “No problem, sir. We’ve covered everything and you’ve declined all coverage. Please sign your contract and you are all set!”

(The customer signs and walks out the door. Not two minutes later, he walks back in looking sheepish.)

Me: “Hello, sir, did you forget something?”

Customer: “No, it’s just… Can I go ahead and get the extra insurance?”

Me: “I’m sorry, but why? You were adamant a minute ago that you didn’t want it.”

Customer: “I guess I changed my mind!”

(I walk out of the office and around to the back parking lot. Sitting on top of a decorative rock set to the entrance of the driveway is the car I just rented him – a brand new luxury car, with three of the four wheels hanging in the air.)

Customer: “I think I hit something. So can I get the insurance?”

Me: “Sir, you can’t get insurance AFTER you’ve damaged the car!”

Customer: “Why not?! I didn’t even leave the parking lot!”

(The guy ended up having to pay for the damage to the car, damage to the landscaping, the tow, and the days the car was unavailable for rent.)
(from http://notalwaysright.com/tag/car-rental)

So you see you really did need the insurance.  What about insurance to cover your vacation.  I have heard it many times “I don’t need cancellation insurance – I am going on this vacation come what may”…..

But it seems that a few clever clogs have taken it a step further with intriguing ways to work the system – take travel insurance and come back with a whole new outlook on life.
Here are some actual cases reported by BBC –

One involved a woman who said she had been forced to seek medical attention for several moles on her stomach. But medics assisting the investigators accurately spotted that the post-surgery scars were more likely to be synonymous with liposuction.

Here’s another beaut!  A man sent in a medical bill for a fictitious fractured ankle while abroad. When investigators overseas visited the clinic at which he claimed to have been treated, they found themselves face to face with “before and after” photographs of heads of hair on the walls. The fraudster had sent the bill from a hair transplant clinic that didn’t even deal with fractures.

A man claimed compensation for a missed holiday when his train to the departure point was supposedly cancelled. He tore the header off a genuine Transport for London letter, glued it onto his own word processed letter and presented it as evidence that his train was cancelled. Not only was this evidence false, but the train route he referred to did not exist.

And this guy certainly couldn’t be described as a “chinless wonder” – A customer claimed that he had been assaulted in Brazil, which led to his jaw being broken. Overseas enquiries revealed that the police report that he sent to support the assault was a false document. They also established that the hospital he named specialised in cosmetic surgery and when interviewed they said that the customer had had a cosmetic procedure to reduce the size of his chin. He had not told the hospital anything about an alleged assault.

Now that’s what I call a sexy chin!


Airport etiquette and strange sights

Honestly, airports bring out the worst in me.  What is it about an airport that turns ordinary sensible intelligent human beings into zombie like creatures who wander around aimlessly and get  in the way.  My pet peeves –

Checking the arrivals / departures board – Don’t stand right in front of the board so that nobody else can see.  Share the space.  After checking the board move away.  Don’t stand there having a long conversation on the phone because other people want to check their flights too.  

airport departures sign

Waiting for your luggage at the carousel – How does it help for everyone to stand anxiously at the very edge of the carousel thus blocking anyone else’s view of their luggage.  This results in panicked passengers pushing and shoving past people as they chase after their case.  If everyone stood behind the yellow line it would be much simpler for all concerned.

luggage carousel








The chair hog – You’ve seen them.  They commandeer the comfiest armchair and then proceed to sprawl across it so they take up two and put their feet all over where someone else will soon have to sit.
two chairs







Shame but I do feel sorry for her in this picture having spent a night on the floor in Dallas airport.


The techno maniac – Yep, he’s got an ipad, a cell phone, an iMac and he needs to charge them all.  Didn’t he think of charging them before he left home?  Never mind that he has taken up all the available charge ports.  But let’s face it – you have to have power and you have to stay in touch so businessmen will find themselves sitting on the ground in their suits.  There’s nothing dignified about travel these days.









Fortunately sometimes it is indeed a laughing matter – airports are like a little unique universe, a collection of the masses and if you keep your eyes open you will come away with a chuckle or two for your journey.  Like these beauties –

babeneck pillow

kiss and goodbye

need pants

Would you like bugs with that?

bugBugs can be a deal-breaker. Just as you have that tropical package all sewn up and ready to go THAT question jumps up. “Er, do you think there will be bugs there?”. Well, it’s Costa Rica. Pretty good chance of there being bugs. Same thing in Belize, or Mexico or Africa. Bugs kinda like hanging out in hot tropical humid destinations.

What is it about bugs that most of us don’t like?  Is it because they are small or that they scuttle (shudder) or just that they look so strange?  Maybe it is because we don’t like the idea of them creeping up on us and looking for one of those warm humid places they like so much!  When you see them in the jungle that’s no so bad.  After all that is their natural habitat.  But when you see them in your natural habitat – well that’s just freaky.spider toilet

I once had people come back from Anaheim telling me how their vacation was totally ruined because the room was full of bugs.  Upon examination it turned out that the bugs were actually ants – and I agree that is annoying.  When I asked if they had advised the management they said they sorted it out themselves by plugging up the ant holes with toothpaste….. mmmm – novel approach.  I wonder if the mint in the toothpaste made the ants’ eyes water.

And I must admit having been guilty of bug-fear too (before I was cured that is).  I spent an entire two nights at Umgazi River Bungalows on the Transkei Coast in South Africa just petrified of falling asleep in case one of the geckos on the thatch ceiling fell on me.  I learnt very quickly that you can get used to anything in time.  It’s so tiring being scared all the time, really!

And ignorance is bliss – young children haven’t learnt to be scared yet but copy our reactions.  So when I found my young son sitting on the doorstep in Africa with the remains of a huge millipede scattered over his bib I just had to merrily say “Oh dear – what have you been up to?” while I got rid of the debris.

We call the millipede a Shongololo in South Africa

We call the millipede a Shongololo in South Africa

Double shudder.