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Educate yourself: take a trip abroad Comment on this post ↓
August 3rd, 2013 by Warren Swil

Travel beats any classroom,

any teacher – hands down

Hotel Rui Plaza, an impressive 42 story high-rise with 557 guestrooms, is the newest addition to the Guadalajara skyline, which it dominates from every direction. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

THERE ARE FEW BETTER ways to get a real education than to travel abroad.
That from one who spends a great deal of time in the classroom!
No classroom – and no teacher, alas – can offer the kind of lessons one learns from foreign lands: the cultures, the history, the social norms (all different from one’s own, no matter where you call home)… even the different currency, drinking age and favorite local beverages.
Not to mention the local cuisine!
Then there are the survival skills required in the modern, high-tech world we live in.

Caution: large image files ahead: be patient while they load.

JUST RECENTLY, AIRLINES have been offering “speedy check-in” by downloading a boarding pass to a smart phone, and scanning the bar code at a kiosk in the airport.
Don’t count on it!

Relaxing in a hammock in paradise. Isn’t that everybody’s idea of the dream vacation? Your raconteur lived it at Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda Island in the BVI. There is no road. The only access is by yacht. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

The technology isn’t quite there yet. I’ve tried it at least twice this year, and was so glad I had also printed out the paper document when the scanner didn’t work.
Every country, it seems, has a different electrical outlet. Try finding one to charge your laptop … and you may have to get creative.
I forgot to pack the power cord to my laptop when leaving Falun in Sweden; by the time I arrived in London the battery was all but kaput.
The Apple store on Regents Street was just a five minute walk away. But that darn power cord was almost 100 British pounds! And I knew my soul mate, Bjorn, was bringing the one I left to California in a few weeks.
The salesman, however, was so creative. He advised me of the Apple 30-day no-hassle return policy. Smiling, I plopped down my credit card. Back at the hotel, I charged the MacBook Pro, and the next day returned the cord to the store for a full refund – no questions asked!
It is my custom – and good manners demand it – to try to learn a few crucial words in the native language, wherever I go. In Guadalajara, Mexico, it was “Buenos dias,” and “gracias.” In Stockholm, it was “bra dag” and “tack.”
Trouble was those two trips were so close together for me (mid-April and late May respectively) I found myself wishing bewildered Swedes “Buenos dias!”

Stained glass windows rise perhaps 30 feet above the altar in Exploratorio Gudalajara, a church that from the outside bears an uncanny resemblance to Notré Damé Cathedral in Paris, France. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

Stained glass windows rise perhaps 30 feet above the altar in Exploratorio Gudalajara, a church that from the outside bears an uncanny resemblance to Notré Damé Cathedral in Paris, France. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

FIGURING OUT MENU ITEMS can also be a challenge. Years ago in Austria I ordered “steak tartaré” – and was puzzled when raw meat was served.
Our trip to the British Virgin Islands in January was a yachting vacation I titled “Ultimate Adventure” (you can read the seven-chapter saga over several sittings; it is 11,000 words).
The title is not an overstatement at all, although Jim and I got a bit more “ultimate” than we bargained for.
The former British outpost retains a great deal of its charm, but the natives have been all but obscured by the elegant, modern facilities for yachtsmen and women. Every stop was a yacht club, some reachable only by sea.
We had carefully planned the trip (11 months in advance) to be in the area for one of the world’s top 10 New Year’s Eve parties: at Foxy’s on the tiny (pop. 200) island of Jost van Dyke.
I first visited there in 1997 as crewman, when it was little more than a beachfront ramshackle bar with stools. Today it has expanded to include a posh second floor restaurant, disco dance floor and several island bars.
It was one of only a handful of such establishments 15 years ago; today there must be a dozen lining the golden strand.

AS DUSK FELL ON OLD YEAR’S DAY, the twinkling lights of perhaps 200 yachts anchored offshore heralded the start of the festivities. Over the evening hours thousands of revelers poured ashore, and poured everything they could lay their hands on down their throats. So did we.

Mister Foxy, proprietor of “Foxy’s” world famous bar, is seen with your raconteur, left, Michelle, Jim and Don on New Year’s Eve, 2012 on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

Mister Foxy, proprietor of “Foxy’s” world famous bar, is seen with your raconteur, left, Michelle, Jim and Don on New Year’s Eve, 2012 on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the BVI. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

Rum, of course, is the native brew. But it comes in so many shapes, flavors, aromas and colors it is quite unrecognizable to a “septic tank yank” as we, affectionately, are known abroad.
At the stroke of midnight, every craft in the harbor – and a few on land – sounded its horn in a cacophony that I will take with me to the grave.
Many years ago, on my first trip as skipper with three crewmen, we snorkeled on the Great Barrier Reef, off Queensland, Australia.
The only living organism visible from space, the Reef poses challenges of its own. One is the barely submerged coral: on our second day at sea, I managed to ground our 41-foot Beneteau “Scallywag” on the reef, and we were saved only by a quick-thinking crew member who hoisted the sail which lifted us a few centimeters … just enough to get free.

Skipper – and your raconteur – cleans the deck of “Scallywag,” our fabulous 41-foot luxury yacht in the Great Barrier Reef in August, 2000. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

Skipper – and your raconteur – cleans the deck of “Scallywag,” our fabulous 41-foot luxury yacht in the Great Barrier Reef in August, 2000. Click image to enlarge. © SGE, Inc. All rights reserved.

You can read all the details in “Adventure of a lifetime
There is much, much more. If you explore the archives on In the (K)now you will find a treasure trove of memories made ashore and afloat.
In the final analysis, when it comes time to add up one’s life as the end nears, it is the sum of our experiences that makes us who we are. The “stuff” just doesn’t matter. Don’t waste a minute. Start building who you are, today! Take a trip… it doesn’t have to cost a fortune, and the return on your investment will last a lifetime.

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One Response  
  • Bjorn in San Diego writes:
    August 3rd, 2013

    YES! Traveling SURE broadens ones horizons! Traveling these days with airport hassles and what have you ,certainly can be frustrating these days, but when you get there (wherever “there” is!) you WILL have experiences that last a life time! Sometimes they are unpleasant, but even THEY will go down in your personal memory books! So go out into the world and experience life (beyond the couch!)


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