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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Traveling Around

I've been married for over twenty-five years. When we got married, we didn't exactly have much. Instead of spending big bucks on a honeymoon, we put our wedding money towards a down payment on a house. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We lived off a street named Lakeside Drive, but there was no lake. Apparently, the Army Corp of Engineers didn't approve of the plan so...  talk about a dry community.... 

A wetter place would have been a Turks and Caicos honeymoon villa, just avoid the hurricane season there.

Since then, we've done a bit of traveling. Technically, I was even a travel agent when I worked for TripAdvisor. Being employed there allowed me to be a member of IATA, the International Air Transport Association. I never totally understood why employment lead to membership, but IATA membership offers various travel-related benefits that you would typically only see as a travel agent, like special rates or discount tickets. I even once booked a deal to Disney for my in-laws. I thought I was supposed to get a kickback for the reservation, but I guess TripAdvisor got that. At least my in-laws got a great rate. The membership even got me into an annual Boston travel show for free a few times. Entered lots of giveaways there, but never won anything.
One of my favorite places to travel to was Helsinki, Finland. I'd like to stress that it was June when I traveled, so not too cold. In fact, it was a fairly steady 70 degrees if I remember correctly. In June, there are 21 hours per day of daylight. And, many people were out late into the night partying because of it, myself included. It just felt odd with the sun still up in the sky at like 1 or 2 am. If you ever do get to Finland, be sure to do an island tour. Suomenlinna has a fortress on the island that apparently switched sides in the middle of a war. Some of the cannons there point in different directions depending upon who they were defending against at the time.
If you ever do get to Turks and Caicos, be sure to give windsurfing a try. Here in New England, it seems to be more popular than regular surfing. Paddleboarding is another popular water sport if you like being on a longboard and want to do something a little less stressful. If you've never gone windsurfing, the equipment isn't as easy to get around as you need both a sail and a board... but, it is a much easier sport to pick up. Surfing or windsurfing - which one is right for you? helps you to differentiate between the two if you've ever considered going out with a board but wasn't sure which.
Much of my earlier travels was associated with speaking at conferences. If the conference wasn't in the United States, I sent off a proposal to speak there. This worked out great for London as they had annual Java-related conferences there. It did feel odd being on the losing side for the 4th of July, but it was and still is a great place to visit. The furthest I traveled for a conference though was over to Asia, Singapore specifically, and I didn't even apply for that one. One of my co-workers had applied to speak there with plans to visit family in India after the show. The conference sponsor would pay for the bulk of his travel costs, while he got to visit his family. Unfortunately for him, something came up where he couldn't travel at the time of the conference, and I went in his place. I had the first talk after the opening keynote session, and the keynote session ran long. So... I had to fit my talk into half the time, while still trying to get the key points across. That was the only time I really spent at the conference. The rest of the time I explored Singapore. One of the more interesting places I visited was Sentosa, an island off the southern coast. I felt it was more geared towards the locals than the touristy crowd, but still worth a visit if you are ever nearby. I was tempted to take a ferry over to the island of Java in Indonesia but decided against it. Would have been fun to say I did that, but there was a bit of unrest on the island around the time. Did you know that the state of Rhode Island is more than four times larger than the whole country of Singapore? On the other hand, it is four times larger than Washington, DC.
With all the traveling I did, one thing I learned along the way was to not be afraid to try the local food. Prior to learning that.... I remember ordering a Big Mac in Paris, only to discover that McDonald's localizes their menu somewhat to the local tastes and doesn't use the same recipes worldwide. I'm no longer afraid to try things like reindeer in Finland, well it was bacon.... but reindeer bacon. Hmm... now I'm not sure if it was bacon-wrapped reindeer steaks or reindeer bacon wrapped (beef) steaks. For some reason, I now think it was the former and not the latter, which was what I thought I ate for the longest time. Another of the more interesting dishes I've tried is Beshbarmak in Kazakhstan. It was made of horse meat. Our hosts commented that we were the first who asked them to make the dish with actual horse versus a more normal protein. It was very good, and if nobody told you it was horse, you wouldn't have known, neigh.... Local farmers markets are another great place to visit while traveling. You do need to know how to say the numbers in the local language if you want to buy something and be able to think about exchange rates to do currency conversions quickly. Even in Helsinki, I ran across vendors who didn't speak English. In fact, that was the only time I ran across anyone in Finland who didn't speak English.

Growing up, I never thought of us as poor, especially since we went on vacations regularly as a family. It was just always in the states. With neither parent with a college degree, we had our financial struggles, which explains why our vacations were even more restricting, always being on the east coast. If you ever have the chance, though, do be sure to explore other cultures outside the states. If you watch the deal sites, you can grab some discounts and explore the world. And... even in the states, there are places like Alaska I'd love to visit, especially since the culture is so different there. Traveling is a great way to learn about the world and its cultures, and understand that not everywhere will you find an indoor toilet or even running water or someone to speak English. Having to lug water from the corner market daily helps to make you appreciate things back at home when you return.

*Read my Disclosure


  1. Wow! Helsinki Finland! How cool is that. Sounds like you went at the perfect time. I'd love to visit a country where the temp is 70 degrees and the sun stays up till 2 am. Great post!