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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

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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Adventure Tours

8 amazing places to travel and discover in 2022

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8 amazing places to travel and discover in 2022

What are the best places to travel in 2022? That’s the question Vogue posed to a group of hospitality experts , and their answers are literally very mixed. Some are classic destinations where new hotels have opened , others are emerging areas that are on the verge of becoming trendy tourist attractions . Black Tomato , a travel agency known for offering extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime trips, has its sights on Romania.)

Here are 8 ideas for the best places to travel , from a little-known Caribbean island, to a vibrant Mexican city, to the top of the world.

Merida, Mexico

‘ Merida, Mexico , continues to fly under the radar, despite its proximity to incredible Mayan ruins and neon-blue cenotes. In addition, it has a unique culinary offer , ranging from perfectly fried churros in street carts, to the most refined versions of traditional dishes by chefs like Pedro Evia, whose restaurant, Kuuk, is a critical favorite. Look out for some great accommodation options, including rooms in sprawling historic haciendas and small, stylish apartments in the city.’ —Laura Motta, Lonely Planet Content Director

grenade

‘We have long admired the beautiful Caribbean island of Grenada for its understated appeal, powdery shores and sensory stimulation upon arrival, where the sweet air smells of sea salt, nutmeg and mace. But now, more than ever, the sheer popularity of the Caribbean means that Grenada is poised to be ‘the hot spot’ to visit , with so much more to do than fly and flop on the beach. Plus, it’s a 4-hour, 30-minute direct flight from New York. Miles of unobstructed beaches are juxtaposed with rich, unspoiled tropical forests that are ideal for intrepid experiences and opportunities for retribution.’ —*Black Tomato*

Easter Island

‘Due to its small and remote location, Easter Island has been closed for most of COVID. For now, the plan is to reopen to visitors in February. 2022 also marks the 300th anniversary of when the island was first ‘discovered’ by Europeans (1722). Nayara Hangaroa is the perfect starting point for exploring the island: from guided tours of Taharoa to quad biking around the island, past secret caves and remote beaches , to watching the sunrise over the moai.’ —Misty Belles, CEO of Virtuoso

Romania

‘Transylvania, birthplace of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (actually Vlad the Impaler), is steeped in extraordinarily rich history and this year Romania hosts its ninth UNESCO World Heritage Site , the Roșia Montană Mining Landscape . The area has seen a recent surge in customer interest and Romania is, in fact, the most biogeographically diverse country in the European Union and one of the best places in Europe for wildlife viewing, for those in the know.’

‘The newly opened, Bethlen Estates , a luxurious and revitalized manor house, is the place to stay . The idea and vision of Gladys and Nikolaus Bethlen, wife and son of the late Earl Miklos Bethlen, have made it their life’s work to keep their ancestral ties alive and help preserve the region’s incredibly important biodiversity .’ —Black Tomato

Antarctica

‘I think Antarctica will be a tourist destination in 2022 . There are exciting new ways to explore the White Continent: Ponant and his new ship, Silversea’s Antarctica Bridge cruise ship, which overlooks Drake Passage, and White Desert for the experience on land. There is an untouched purity to the destination that makes it feel worlds away from the rest of life, not to mention a global pandemic, making travelers want to make the journey.’ —Misty Belles, CEO of Virtuoso

napa valley

The Napa Valley hotel scene is accelerating. Stanly Ranch, an Auberge Collection Resort, will debut in spring 2022 at the historic estate, Stanly Ranch Winery, a 700-acre private ranch dating back to the 19th century. This comes on the heels of other openings, such as Napa Valley’s first Four Seasons . Meadowood recently reopened and there have been a handful of major renovations at properties like Solage and Poetry Inn’. —Misty Belles

Okavango Delta, Botswana

We are seeing a huge increase in customers booking epic trips in 2022 to Botswana , marking the great return of safaris in a truly wish list -worthy place . Botswana is the quintessential safari destination, an ideal place to enjoy a slower, more leisurely pace of travel, and perfect for multi-generational families too. Start your adventure in the fabulous Okavango Delta, which has just welcomed the impressive new, Xigera Safari Lodge, and visit the Makgadikgadi swamps for incredible day and night safaris, where you will meet the extraordinary fauna that inhabits this landscape. apparently barren.’ —Black Tomato

Paris

‘ Paris is also luring visitors into its restaurants and museums with a full vaccination schedule, with a stay at LVMH ‘s newest jewel , Cheval Blanc , being a must .’ —Misty Belles

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Adventure Tours

Why traveling is good for your health

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Why traveling is good for your health

You can’t help it: happiness corrects the limits of your veins every time you step into a forest, leave behind the routine or cross a border . Adventure calls you but, also, be clear: traveling and embracing the unknown activates your brain and improves your health.

“When did you learn to fly? Yesterday!” Meryl Streep asked Robert Redford in ‘Out of Africa’. We discover why traveling suits you very, very well.

There you are, facing the sea, with your mojito. The breeze erases the stress of phones, emails, notifications from your select (and demanding) social networks… Your clothes become light ( we toast? ) and time seems to stretch to infinity. Invest in anecdotes! , we proposed this summer, but, in addition to investing in anecdotes, every time you travel you are investing in your health .

“ Traveling opens our brain, makes it more plastic, more creative , gives us more capacity to understand: in some way it activates it because we need to adapt to many new sensations (linguistics, visuals, aromas, flavors…) and that is always favorable for our brain”,

In addition, each boarding pass, each bus or shared car ticket (and its traveling lottery, worthy of Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente ) is improving your quality of life in the future.

“In the long run, a greater number of connections offers an advantage of greater cognitive reserve , of greater resistance to deterioration at older ages -explains Moltó- it is not only the advantage of the moment, which can be pleasant, but also, even, The richer our life has been , the more different experiences we have had, the more chances we have of reaching an older age in good mental condition.

RELAX, TAKE IT EASY…

Travel slowly. Traveling to try on other shoes also offers multiple benefits for your mind.

“It’s a break from your daily life, a break that allows you to put different issues, concerns, in their place ; it can help them take a certain distance, that allows you to see them from another perspective: and all of this can help or push decision-making , ”says Cristina Silvente , psychologist, traveler, co-author of Traveling with children

BORED WITH YOURSELF?

“ Our day-to-day behavior is limited by the roles we have acquired at work and in our personal lives ”-explains cognitive scientist Art Markman- “when we travel, we have the opportunity to get rid of these roles for a short time. of time and engaging in behaviors that we might not normally consider doing at home. This spirit of adventure can be liberating and can bring that excitement back to us when we return home from the trip.”

“It allows us to carry out rewarding activities that we may not enjoy on a day-to-day basis or we may not enjoy so much: photography, video, reading, sports… ”, explains Cristina Silvente.

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