As you all well know, Ric and I love to travel. We’ve been around; seen some really great sights, tasted amazing cuisines, and met interesting people. Well today I want to share some of that with you…
I am writing this from the balcony of our lovely seaside villa in the Philippines, in full view of one of the most beautiful bays in the world that breathes the fresh ocean mist on my face mixed with the intoxicating sweet scent of tropical flowers <g>.
Yes folks, I’m in the unspoiled paradise called the Philippines- that tiny speck of a country in Southeast Asia. Truth to tell, I can’t believe I’m here right now. People have warned me not to go, with talks of terrorists, kidnappers and whatnot. But I have to say, the Philippines is an amazing country. I can’t even begin to tell you why. And it’s so surprising that this piece of heaven gets very little promotion despite its incredible tourism potential.
For starters, it has more than 7,000 islands. I’ve just been to 5 cities on 2 of the islands and already I’m awestruck. Ric and I love the exotic food. The kids can’t stop raving about the water sports – from diving off of waterfalls in the crystal clear mountain rivers of the interior to snorkeling in the pristine beaches and bays, or kayaking out to the floating slide that is moored in the bay right off of our front dock – its been love at first sight, and second, and third… But what strikes me most are the people who are just so lovely and friendly.
I can go on and on. But I should reserve my Philippine travel blog to another time.
Enjoying all these, the culture, food, sights, Ric and I are once again reminded of how blessed we are to be able to explore nature’s magnificence.
The world is a book
“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
Decades ago, this quote would’ve sounded really “insensitive” because only a few could afford to travel back then. Traveling was considered a luxury.
Things have changed so much. Now, we have budget airlines, packaged holidays, and backpackers’ hotels, which have made traveling within everyman’s means. Even teenagers can afford long-haul travel.
While I believe it’s still true that it is best to explore the world when you are young (and when you’re middle aged, and when you’re old, and do we ever have to stop….?), it’s even more true that one of the secrets of staying young is to travel. Being a stranger in a strange land, you are bound to experience everything for the first time. First time to ride a water buffalo (Stefan, our 5-year-old, had an AMAZING time driving his first water-buffalo-powered ox cart. He really sat next to the driver and helped hold the reins – but HE thought he was driving). First time to taste duck embryo or balut (OK I confess – this is one “delicacy” I’ve decided to pass on, but who knows- YOU might like it <g>). First time to speak a new language.
Think of that moment when you did something for the first time. Quite exhilarating isn’t it?
Next chapter, Europe
Our time here in the Philippines has truly been amazing – and I’m sure I’ll have a few more things to report before we leave in early October. But all of these things wouldn’t have been possible if not for our very helpful Filipino friends who facilitated our extensive travel planning.
If there’s one thing Ric and I have learned in planning a meaningful trip, it is to always “ask the locals”. After all, a “meaningful” trip means learning about the country’s people and culture – not just doing a 26-countries-and-215-monuments-in-36-hours sort of experience. So we make an extra effort to avoid five star hotels (with the exception of the occasional weekend getaway), crowded sites, and other touristy places. We always remind ourselves that we are travelers, not tourists.
After the tropics, we are headed home to Virginia for a few months then off to the snowy slopes of Europe <g>.
And before heading to Europe next February, we would like to ask our friends from there to help us plan our trip. We would love to do all the “snow and winter stuff” with the boys that first month, then spend the next few months enjoying Spring in the warmer areas of the Continent.
We know we’ve got a lot of choices in front of us so we’re asking for our help…
As a guideline, we are not fans of packaged tours, which means we don’t stay in hotels and resorts. If you could suggest a charming cottage or inn in a town, that would be great. We want to spend time with the locals to experience their culture, customs and of course their food.
I’m also looking at brushing up on my French, both the language and the cuisine. I’m embarrassed to admit my high school and college French is getting a little rusty and my French cuisine could use a little “refining” <g>. You may also throw in suggestions on where I could expand my Italian repertoire.
Aside from these, we would love to discover Europe’s best kept secrets which we won’t find in a packaged tour. What are your hometown’s tucked away places? Any side trips we should consider? How about your most sacred sites or revered places?
Of course we are also looking forward to that European winter holiday. But we don’t have a clear idea yet what an ideal European winter vacation would be like. I would love to hear what you have to say. The boys are raring to ski the slopes. What is the best place where we can pick up skiing lessons?
I would definitely appreciate your suggestions and advice. Let me know by sharing your ideas here.
In the meantime, the South China Sea beckons. May you all have the best of life’s journey. <g>