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Learning Who I Am Without Travel

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Learning Who I Am Without Travel

When my kids ask me where I was when the coronavirus pandemic of 2021 hit the world, I’ll tell them I was on the shores of the Indian Ocean in Bagamoyo.

En route to the airport on Monday, March 16, a humid evening as crows circled the sky above our safari truck ride, young men shouted “corona corona” from the streets.

The traffic cops in white with orange glow sticks let out laughing sneers as they waved us by. An older woman selling passion fruit pummelled her hands at the air with frustration saying something in Swahili. Haraka haraka. There was no mistaking her feelings or the others who stared at our group of mostly Canadian students, so different from the friendly and smiling faces from earlier that week. She wanted us to leave.

Mukhtar, our Indian Kenyan local transportation and food logistics honcho said, “They think the disease came from you white people. Imagine if you’d gone to Zanzibar, this is what people would’ve been saying to you on the street. It would not have been nice.”

“They’re not wrong,” said a student. And a silence fell on the bus.

Six months later, I’m still left processing the unprecedented times unleashed by March 2021. International travel has come to a standstill and the future of tourism remains a question mark. As someone who is able to and chooses to see the world, travel is an integral part of my identity. Without it, who am I? And how do I refigure how I participate in the world?

A childhood dream

From a young age – before I knew there was something called a world, and that I inhabited it – I knew I wanted to see places and help people.

Growing up, I watched Frontline documentaries on PBS and read Nicholas Kristof’s column in the New York Times. I studied International Development Studies and Economics at university (like Baby from Dirty Dancing). I took opportunities to intern at nonprofits in the Himalayas and at the United Nations. This path organically led me to Africa. 

In an introductory Swahili class, my Kenyan teacher asked us why we wanted to learn the language. I answered, “I’m going to East Africa for study abroad. And maybe I’ll volunteer afterwards.” (I cringe when I think back to this – well-intentioned but so, so ignorant.)

Thankfully, I did go on that study abroad program in 2018, and not only did I begin to decolonise my notions of Africa, it was also the most joyful time of my undergraduate years.

A semester-long program in Eastern Africa, we travelled through Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania taking field courses taught by North American and African professors in geography, anthropology, biology, and more.

Class ranged from ethnographic research in rural communities to observing red colobus monkeys in the rainforest. We celebrated a birthday under the starry skies of the Maasai Mara and had deep conversations over bonfires and beers. It was as wonderful as it sounds. 

The experience instilled a love for Africa’s landscapes – the thorny acacias on the water-brushed Kenyan plains to the misty Lushoto Mountains in Tanzania. It showed me that Africa was not simply a monolith “where conditions are worst” but full of beauty and complexity as all places in the world.

I took in several positive images of the continent, all of what was missing from the newspapers and television I consumed. But more than love for a place, the unique study abroad experience inspired an affinity for the road.

Inspired by the unique study abroad experience, I launched a life abroad after graduating university. I returned to the continent for a post-graduate fellowship in Johannesburg and found myself working in the media industry in Mumbai.

In the last three years, I’ve been to fifteen countries. Beyond the childhood impetus of helping others, which now felt embroiled in moral quandaries, seeing places off the beaten path and taking notes retained its meaning.

So much so that when the opportunity arose to take part in the study abroad program that changed it all and return to Eastern Africa, this time as staff, I heard the road calling and said yes. I dusted off my big red 45L backpack from Costco, the same one I’d taken roughly two years ago, and got on a plane.

Returning to Eastern Africa during the pandemic

We arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on January 12 to Christmas decorations adorning the exit, a warm welcome from our local team, and a monsoon downpour (the rains were a good indication of what was to come). 

The voyagers included: thirty undergraduate students, professors, a risk and logistics coordinator, a doctor, our Kenyan logistics team, and myself. We shuttled back to our hotel, still mostly strangers, ate samosas or samoosas as they say locally, and took a long night’s rest from jet lag.

As the student affairs and welfare coordinator, I was the primary communicator of the day’s schedule, academic advisor and support person for the students. The work was hectic but felt natural, and the students were amazing. The next few weeks saw us taking class by a hippo pool in the Maasai Mara, speaking to women of the Lake Nabugabo region about their livelihoods, and playing soccer with kids in Arusha. 

Our itinerary planned to take us from Nairobi National Park to the beaches of Zanzibar by the end of March. Of course, it didn’t go exactly to plan.

There were early murmurs. We met a researcher from Tsinghua University staying in an empty hotel for Chinese roadworkers off the highway in the Maasai Mara who said all his funding had dried up.

One of my students, in tears late January, told me her parents were under lockdown in Beijing and stressed about her travelling. Without grasping the gravity of the situation, I reassured her with the fact that for now she was safer where there were no cases and resolutely forgot about it – there were too many pressing issues to think about.

Then in early March, things began to unravel. The news reports, which had previously presented it as a niche story, sounded more anxious. Then on March 12, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson are reported to have the coronavirus. And I knew once Forrest Gump has it, this is getting serious.

Any misnomers I had that this might not affect our band of Canadian university students was shattered the next day, when news came in that Sophie Trudeau has it too. In a sudden span of 24 hours, a distant possibility had become reality. We were going home. 

At this point, we were in Bagamoyo, an old town on Tanzania’s Swahili coast with miles of Indian Ocean shore and Omani-German colonial influences. At dawn, the fishermen collected their findings against an orange sky. The water was warm, the sand soft against your feet, palm trees framing your view as you looked up.

On our last night together, the students held a prom night, a semblance of normal under the abrupt circumstances, dancing and illegal night skinny dipping at the brink of a world rupture. It felt like we were leaving paradise for a dangerous reality.

Over the next few days, we departed in groups for Paris, Montreal, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. The three-hour road journey was quiet beyond the shouts of ‘corona corona’ from the streets. The airport was full of other foreigners wearing  N95s and squeezing tiny bottles of scented sanitiser into clammy hands.

Before landing, the captain of my fully-seated Swiss Airlines flight transiting through Zurich said, “On behalf of the whole crew, I wish you the best for the ahead, not so easy times.” A German gentleman seated to my left reacted with uncharacteristic emotion and said, to no one in particular, “I’m so ready to be going home.” I felt more conflicted.

Navigating a world without travel

It’s been a difficult last few months in quarantine. 

After days of adventure and a dramatic departure, it felt abnormal to adjust to the monotony and anxiety of the early days of the pandemic. I constantly worried about my friends in tourism in Eastern Africa whose work had come to a standstill.

I felt trapped by unrealised plans – Zanzibar, a long-planned family vacation, a job offer contingent on moving to a new country. Despite being grateful for my relatively sound circumstances, I couldn’t stop myself from ruminating ‘what could have been’ over several crisis-of-soul nights sobbing into pints of pistachio Haagen-Dazs. I got over it. 

The moments I was pining for were conjured under a paradigm of possibilities that was rendered untenable with the reality of COVID-19. Life as we knew it is changed forever. But just because travel isn’t an option, that didn’t mean the things I most loved from it – exploring cultures, talking to people from different walks of life, nature – were gone too.

As I slowly began to accept the new normal, my days began to find a new rhythm of living in place. I bought succulents, read more books, and tried to find joy in smaller expanses. I found I can still be curious and learn within four walls. I used the newfound time to reflect and process my adventures, and to circumvent any despair on the death of travel.

Travel has been around since Odysseus and Ibn Batutta and Nellie Bly, it will find a way to exist in new paradigms. So while I still have nights of tears and Haagen-Dazs (the weird times keep rolling after all), they’re with greater equanimity. 

Who am I without travel? It’s the wrong question. I am who I am because of the experiences travel has given me.

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Adventure Tours

10 Mysterious Caves In India To Visit Before Death

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Caves In India

Caves In India

India is definitely home to some of the amazing historic monuments, popular religious places and mesmerizing landscapes. Along with natural gifts and heritage walks, India is also known for its numerous mysterious caves. Here, the discussion is not only about the famous caves of Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta. There are a lot more beautiful caves in India that one should definitely explore. Some caves have spectacular sculptures and carvings, while some have gorgeous mounds on them. Most of these caves are the greatest examples of the architectural skills of that era.
Know about the most mysterious and striking caves in India, which you would definitely love to explore.

1. Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra

Located close to Jalgaon in Maharashtra, Ajanta Caves in India have 30 rock-cut Buddhist caves dating back to the 2nd century BCE. As per the Archaeological Survey of India, many sculptures and paintings of these caves are finest examples of Indian art and paintings. These are inspired from the religious art of Buddhists. There are depictions of Jataka Tales in these caves which will take you back in your childhood. Along with Ellora caves; it turns into the major tourist attractions of Maharashtra.

2. Borra Caves, Andhra Pradesh

Situated in the Vishakhapatnam district of Andhra Pradesh, Borra Caves in India is one of the largest in India. Located at an altitude of 705 meters, these caves showcase striking variety of speleothems in different shapes. The Borra Cave is 80 meters deep, which is supposed to be on one of the deepest caves. Borra Caves has a Shiva lingam and some interesting myths are attached to it. Due to being located in Araku Valley of Ananthagiri hills, the caves enjoy magnificent views.

3. Bhimbetka Caves & Rock Shelters, Madhya Pradesh

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site demonstrating one of the prehistoric traces of human life in Indian sub continent. This used to the foundation of the South Asian Stone Age. Situated inside the Ratapani Wildlife Sanctuary of Madhya Pradesh, Bhimbetka Rock Shelters cave is one among the most amazing caves displaying the early traces of dance. A team of archaeologists have discovered many more prehistoric rock shelters in this cave. The main attraction of this cave is the rock paintings and sculptures that are around 30,000 years old. Colors of the most of these paintings have faded as natural colors have been used to paint. It is really interesting to visit the caves in India.

4. Amarnath Cave, Baltal, Jammu and Kashmir

Amarnath Cave is one of the holiest places for Hindus, which is among the biggest tourist attractions of India. Situated in Jammu and Kashmir in Baltal, the cave is situated at an altitude of 3,888 meters and has a great significance in Hinduism. There is an ice stalagmite symbolizing the Shiva linga. This attracts lots of tourists from all over world and supposed to be one of the most admired shrines in the country. Pilgrims come at this gorgeous place while facing the extreme climates. As per the religious beliefs, this ice linga changes its shape according to the different phases of moon.

5. Undavalli Caves in India, Andhra Pradesh

Located at about 6 km away from Vijayawada, Undavalli Caves in India (Andhra Pradesh) is a wonderful example of the Indian rock cut architecture. Formerly, it was a Jain cave that represents the Khandgiri and Udaygiri architectures. Undavalli Caves are made of sandstone and were made in the 4th and 5th century AD. There are several caves here and the largest one has a huge and eye-catching idol of Vishnu in a reclining position. The cave depicts how Buddhist architecture led into the creation of these stupas and artifacts that were later converted into Hindu temples.

6. Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves, Orissa

Located close to Bhubaneswar of Orissa, Udayagiri and Khandagiri Caves are perfect blend of man-made and natural. The caves enjoy highly religious and archaeological significance. The caves in India are dotted with complex and decorated sculptures and formations. It is said that these caves were originally created with a purpose to provide dwellings to the Jain monks. Literal meaning of Udayagiri is sunrise hill and Kandhagiri means broken hill. Beautiful sculptures of these caves are considered as treasures.

7. Vaishno Devi, Jammu & Kashmir

Vaishno Devi is one of the most popular caves in India, which is also one of the holy Hindu pilgrims of the country. The cave temple is dedicated to Shakti and located in the Trikuta Mountains. The idol of the main deity in this temple is a stone structure that represents three goddesses- Saraswati, Kali and Lakshmi. There are many legends attached to this temple that add a mysterious element to this temple.

8. Badami Caves, Karnataka

Badami Caves are a total of four caves, which are perfect illustration of the Indian rock cut architecture and the Badami Chalukya architecture. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected from all types of damage occuring. Some of its temples depict really great Hindu temples. Designs on these caves have transformed the Malaprabha River valley into a formation of temple architecture. The caves depict the original evidences of wall painting and Indian art. Architecture of these caves is inspired from the Nagara and Dravidian style. Each cave has a mandap, stunning pillars, a stately verandah and a sanctorum. If you love to click pictures of mysterious ancient sculptures, it is a place for you.

9. Elephanta Caves, Maharashtra

Elephanta Caves in India are the collection of the sculpted caves on the Elephanta Island in Mumbai Harbor. It can be reached through the ferries available all through the day from Mumbai. The island features two groups of caves — the first one is a group of five Hindu caves while the second is a group of two Buddhist caves.

10. Ellora Caves, Maharashtra

Ellora Cave is an archaeological site, which is located 29 km away from Aurangabad in Maharashtra. It is known for its monumental caves and is a World Heritage Site. There are 34 caves, which are in fact structures excavated out of the Charanandri hills. There are Buddhist, Hindu and Jain rock-cut temples and religious structures here that were built between the 5th century and 10th century.

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10 Great Outdoor Adventures in Switzerland

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Adventures in Switzerland

Switzerland may be known for many things, including the beautiful snow-capped Alps. But there are many adventures in Switzerland (a mountainous central European country),as there is no snow all year round, and in the great Switzerland there is something to do in the fresh air, in addition to conquering the slopes on skis.

Enjoying a winter adventure in the Swiss Alps is definitely high on many outdoor enthusiasts’ bucket lists, but there are wonderful sights, scenic hikes, and even the opportunity to take to the skies to enjoy Switzerland’s stunning scenery when there’s no snow. Here’s a look at what Switzerland has to offer at any time of the year.

ADVENTURES IN SWITZERLAND

WINTER: Skiing in the Alps

The top ski destinations in the Swiss Alps include Zermatt, below the magnificent pyramidal Matterhorn, and St. Moritz, considered the world’s leading winter sports resort and is one of the best adventures in Switzerland. Linking the cities of Davos and Klosters, Parsenn is also a winter wonderland with its many ski playgrounds.

Most of these Swiss ski resorts offer a variety of amenities for a wide variety of adventure seekers. There are challenging trails for die-hard experts, as well as gentle slopes for families and beginners.

Open: January–February

WINTER: Sledging from Preda to Bergün

Ride the Albula line of the Rhaetian Railway to Preda on one of Switzerland’s most popular toboggan runs. Train travel offers you breathtaking Swiss scenery as you pass the Landwasser viaduct and through the spiral tunnel. The 6km trail here is breathtaking, offering alpine views of the viaducts as you turn around its bends.

Riders who are looking for a more challenging course, steeper and tighter, can take the chairlift up to Darlux and enjoy the thrilling descent. Both races will finish in the picturesque mountain town of Bergün.

Open: January–February

SPRING: Hiking in the Jungfrau region

In spring, the Jungfrau region is a mountain paradise (a site for adventures in Switzerland). It is ideal for hiking thanks to its collection of hiking trails. These trails showcase stunning alpine views with green slopes, blue lakes and beautiful flower fields, as well as snow-capped peaks.

Popular trails include the Eiger Trail in Grindelwald and Blumenthal and Via Ferrata in Mürren. Many adventurers often stray off these trails towards quieter trails such as the Obersteinberg which starts in the village of Stechelberg. Most of the trails are clearly marked and walkable.

SPRING: Whitewater rafting down Lütschine River

In spring, some of the best Swiss rivers become places of pilgrimage for rafting enthusiasts. Lucine in the Bernese Oberland is especially popular with fans of this adventure sport. Rapids flow from Zweilütschinen to Lake Brienz, north of the Alps in Bern.

The Luchin Rapids are breathtaking class III-IV rapids that will take you on an exciting journey through the picturesque Interlaken Valley. Most rafting operators offer a photographer to capture moments of your activities along the way.

Open: March to June

SUMMER: Sightseeing on the Gelmer Funicular

Summer brings bright days to the Swiss countryside, and one of the most peaceful ways to take in the panoramas is by riding the Gelmerbahn funicular. What was once used to transport materials for the construction of the Helmersee Dam in the 1920s is now one of the steepest funiculars in Europe.

Descent from slopes with a slope of more than 45° delivers a unique experience. The funicular transports 24 passengers at the same time. Round-trip tickets cost about 32 francs for adults and 12 francs for children from 6 to 16 years old.

Open: June, September and October.

SUMMER: Paragliding at Lauterbrunnen

You can take to the skies and soar over the stunning Swiss countryside with a tandem paragliding flight. Several operators offer tandem flights from Lauterbrunnen, the central city of the Jungfrau region. After a few safety briefings, you’ll be heading out for a few practice rides before the actual run down the gentle slope.

Together with your guide pilot, you will fly over distant mountains and meadows and make a circle to capture some of the most breathtaking scenery in the Alps. You can also admire mountain towns that are usually hidden from view in their mountainous surroundings.

Open: July-August

SUMMER: Jetboating in Interlaken

Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies enjoy high-speed swimming on Lake Brienz in Interlaken. The jet boats can accommodate up to 11 passengers for an exciting ride as the pilot turns on the engines for high-speed runs, spins and full 360° rotations. There will be many moments of wind in your hair and dew on your face to remember.

The tour also includes a stop at the foot of the Giessbach waterfalls. You will have plenty of time to stop in the middle of the excitement to take in the breathtaking view of the turquoise lake framed by nearby forests and the distant Alps.

Open: every day from 9:00 to 17:00

SUMMER: Sliding down to Oeschinen Lake

The Rodelbahn or Alpine slide is a fun summer sleigh ride on a specially designed toboggan run through the picturesque landscape above Lake Oeschinen. You sit comfortably on a hill with wheels as you ride straight and winding for a distance of 750 meters.

You can find the start of the Alpine slider at the Eschinensee cable car station. The slide is open only in summer and only in dry weather. This very exciting trip starts from 4 francs for adults and 3 francs for children.

Open: from May to October.

AUTUMN: Camping in Arolla

Autumn brings out nature’s most changeable colors, and what better way to enjoy the splendor than spending a night or two outdoors adventures in Switzerland? The village of Arolla offers one of the best campsite adventures in Switzerland, as it hosts one of the highest campsites in Europe.

At an altitude of about 1998 meters above sea level, the campsite is surrounded by dense pine forests against the backdrop of the glacial peaks of Mont Collon. Despite all the pristine nature around you, you will still find modern and comfortable bathrooms and showers with hot water.

Open: September-December

AUTUMN: Mountain biking in Zermatt

The mountains around Zermatt offer many exciting and scenic mountain bike trails. Some of the trails here are made from natural materials over steep terrain, while others use man-made materials. But, natural or not, they all share the same spectacular landscape.

To experience mountain biking in the Alps for the first time, you can ride the moderate trails of Moos and Sunnegga. While more experienced cyclists can test themselves on the Obere Kelle trail, which has more challenging climbs punctuated by great views.

Open: September-December

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The best free tours in Spanish in Europe

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The best free tours in Spanish in Europe

More and more cities have free tours in Spanish among their most contracted and best valued excursions. These guided tourist routes, which do not have a fixed price, have become a perfect option through which you can get to know the most famous places while learning the history, anecdotes and legends of the city.
In addition, we cannot forget something very important and that is that free tours are a perfect way to save money on your trip, since the price is the will . That yes, as much as it is like that, try to scratch your pocket a little and have the good will to value a good guide and that thebest free tours in Spanish in Europe continue to exist.

All the specific data of the free tours, such as their duration, meeting point, ways to reserve… etc. You can find them in each of the links that lead to the free tours in Spanish .

Free tour of Amsterdam Free!

Known for being one of the most open cities in the world, Amsterdam is also a city that never disappoints. Canals, flowers, places full of charm and terraces where you can sit and enjoy watching life go by, are just some of the many things that await you in this incredible city.

Amsterdam free tour itinerary

Starting at the Train Station, this free tour of Amsterdam will continue through Zeedijk street until reaching the Oudekerk church, the oldest in the city of Amsterdam and the starting point of the Red Light District, one of the most controversial locations. from the city.
From here you will continue the route entering the Chinatown, and then continue through the Nieuwmarkt, the Jewish Quarter, where the Rembrandt house and the Waterlooplein flea market are located, and then arrive at the Flower Market, one of the most iconic points and beautiful of the city.
The free tour of Amsterdam in SpanishIt will end in Dam Square, another of the best known places in the city, where you can’t stop taking hundreds of photos, which will be one of the many memories of your trip to the city.

Free tour of Barcelona Free!

Cosmopolitan city where they exist, Barcelona is one of those destinations that will not disappoint you, whatever you are looking for and it is an ideal city for all types of travellers.

Itinerary Free tour of Barcelona

Starting in the emblematic Plaza de Catalunya, this free tour of Barcelona will take you to see some of the most interesting points of the city such as Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter, where you can see the Plaza de Sant Jaume, the Cathedral of Santa Eulàlia or the Plaza del Rey in addition to entering the incredible Call or Jewish quarter.
The free tour of Barcelona ends at the famous Els Quatre Gats and the Palau de la Música Catalana.

Free tour of Berlin Free!

Berlin, a city in constant evolution after its destruction in World War II, is known as the city of a thousand faces , as well as being one of the most visited destinations in Europe and a place with one of the most heartbreaking stories in the world. .

Berlin free tour itinerary

The route of this free tour of Berlin in Spanish begins in the Lusgarten gardens, on the Museum Island, where after learning about the history of the city and many details about it, you will continue the itinerary to Bebelplatz, a place known for the famous burning of books that took place during Nazism.
You will continue the tour of the city until you reach Checkpoint Charlie, another of the city’s iconic places, and continue to the Berlin Wall, where you will continue to learn details of the city’s history, until you reach the
Holocaust Memorial and then continue to Unter den Linden.
The free tour of Berlin will end at the Brandenburg Gate, one of the most famous and emblematic points of the city.

Free tour of Bruges Free!

Known for being one of the most beautiful cities in Belgium, and dare we say even in Europe and the world, Bruges is a perfect getaway from lively Brussels, where you can spend a day or several enjoying its incredible and magical atmosphere. .

Bruges Free Tour Itinerary

This Free Tour of Bruges in Spanish begins in the beautiful Grote Markt square, the nerve center of the city, to continue through the canal area, one of the most beautiful in the city, and continue to Minnewater, known as the Lake of Love.
From here and after getting to know the area, the history and many curiosities about the city, the Bruges Free Tour will take you back to the Grote Mark, where it will come to an end.

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