Tuesday, May 31, 2011

#TTOT Roundup: Overnight Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : What destination has been your best stopover during night travel?
  • : Fell asleep in car Berlin-Budapest, woke up lost in Prague city centre. Most beautiful unintentional stopover
  • : Bangkok. Got a room, an excellent foot massage, wonderful Indian Food (The Dosa House), and much needed rest
  • : In Alexandria, Egypt - one night waiting for the train = many new friends! 
  • Arriving in Istanbul... Going to sleep for 30 mins only to be awoken by calls to prayer
  • : One word, three syllables: AM-STER-DAM

Q2 via : What is the most adventurous overnight travel you've had?
  • : On a bus in Bolivia trapped between two flash flooding rivers, waiting for bulldozer to drag us thru the flood
  • : Attempted a 17hr overnight coach journey after drinking a bottle of southern comfort, the trip was not comfortable
  • : I've been in a night bus where everyone weren't sleep..They were doing karaoke! 
  • : Driving along gorge-du-tarn in winter and got stuck in thick snow. spending the night in a cave next to frozen river 
  • : Climbing Mt Fuji in Japan overnight to be at the top when the sun rises Awesome!
  • : Tents in the Israeli desert - never heard so many Hyenas before
  • : Waking up at midnight (after about 10 minutes of sleep) to summit Kilimanjaro

Q3 via : Aside from earplugs and face mask what is you overnight travel must have? 
  • : Toothbrush and neck pillow!
  • : A warm jacket/hoody. Air-conditioning is a killer on overnight buses! 
  • : Don't make fun, but I always travel with a small quilt that my sister made me
  • : A bottle of water. Good for drinking, patting on face or washing under armpits 
  • : Pillow and blanket
  • : Tylenol pm

Q4 via : What's the most unusual place you've stayed overnight?
  • : Atop Cerro Negro in Nicagarua, sleeping in a volcanic crater watching the lunar eclipse 
  • toniwonitravels: A trapeze net. Let's just say that me & my company had a little extra bounce that night
  • : A wooden plank, 5000 metres above sea level in Tibet. With 5 strangers...
  • : In a small mosque in center of rain forest at Java Island, Indonesia
  • : Inside the plastic tube of a slide in a playground 
  • : It's tie between a tree house in Peru and a tent on the Masai Mara in Kenya
  • : Inside rented car!
  • : Camping in a beach cave on Tahiti where I was awoken to a view of frolicking dolphins
  • : A crappy bus in Laos cuddled up with a very large German guy

Q5 via : What is the worst overnight journey you have had to go through?
  • : 30+ trips to the toilet during a bout with food poisoning in Yangon
  • : Two large people trying to sleep in the cab of a pickup truck after one of them had several bean burritos
  • : On a cargo boat Pacific coast of Colombia. Everyone but us vomiting
  • : Coming out of my mother's womb
  • : Forced to watch Momma Mia twice (I can't sleep on planes) b/c the guy next to me fell asleep on my remote (Cape Town to JFK) 
  • : Working as a crew on sailing yacht, going from Newport , R.I. to Caribbean in Dec; 50 knot wind gusts, 20 foot seas, wet and cold
  • : Hong Kong-NYC flight waking up 2 stranger's old, yellowed, BARE FEET across my lap

And there you have it, "Overnight Travel"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Epic Journeys" submitted by . Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Sounds like some of these answers need explanations... =) 

Have YOU got anything to add to the Overnight Travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

#TTOT Roundup: Romance Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via What would you consider to be the most romantic place to travel?
  • : Prague: very romantic w/beautiful architecture, bridges, river, luxe hotels, free concerts, great restos & museums 
  • : I also thought Bruges, Belgium was romantic in that charming wanna-put-it-in-my-pocket-and-take-it-home sort of way
  • : 1st thought is Paris; art, architecture, food and ambience
  • : Buenos Aires - great music, dancing, wine, and men, what more could I ask for!
  • : One of the most romantic places I've been is Istanbul. Not Constantinople  
Magical Istanbul
Q2 via What nations makes the best lovers - and why? (dish the dirt!)
  • : Gotta be honest - as LUVAHS - love French, love the Brits, but my fellow Americans - I salute you! 
  • : The Irish. In the eyes, In the charm, in the craic and in the fab walks across Wicklow
  • : The Philippines put the 'P' in passion!
  • : A bit cliche, but Brazilians and French. They both kiss like nobody's business! ...and that's a tried-and-true opinion
  • : Italians. I can personally vouch for that one

Q3 via What is the *least* romantic place on earth?

Q4 via  Have you ever found romance while traveling? If so, how and where? 
  • : Met great Irish tour guide backpacker tour got married later now we run our own tour biz! 
  • : Buzios Brazil. She was from the amazon and worked at a favorite bar of mine
  • : Barcelona. If you are a little lost tourist girl ...there are strong men helping you out... 
  • : I was proposed to by a drunk Scottish man my first time alone in Amsterdam. In broad daylight. In the middle of the street
  • : American Summer camps. Never lasted beyond the summer though. Fell in love with a few countries though...
  • : Baltimore (no really!), San Diego, Ibiza, Mallorca, Menorca, Sweden, is that bad? 
  • : Hmm, while studying in Spain...ay mi! 

Q5 via Which famously *romantic* place was all hype? 
  • : "Love Land" on Jeju Island, South Korea - a sex-themed park. Hilarious, yes. Sexy? No
  • : Venice - so touristy, so overpriced, so much pigeon poo - no romantic mood in sight 
  • : The Eiffel Tower
  • : Canadian side of Niagara Falls

And there you have it, "Romance Travel"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Overnight Travel" submitted by . Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have you got anything to add to the Romance Travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Montage Monday: Kennedy Space Center, Florida

A photo montage highlighting my favorite memories from past travels!

NASA's last shuttle launch after a 30-year run is scheduled for later this year but I was able to catch one of the last few shuttles launches in 2009, crossing off a major item on my bucket list! The day at Orlando, Florida's Kennedy Space Center was a fun-filled day of wonderment for this space geek and I'm truly sorry that I will not have any future chances of catching another shuttle launch. It really is an experience that's "out of this world!" For more details on the actual launch, please refer to my 3-2-1...Liftoff! post.

As you can see, I'm very excited to be "holding hands" with America's pioneering astronauts, the Mercury 7! All those years working for the US Space Camp Foundation and learning about space history culminated in this moment when I first walked into Kennedy Space Center. It really was a dream come true. 

As launch time starts getting down towards T-minus one hour, the crowds gather at the designated shuttle launch viewing areas. Luckily, a friend of mine and fellow US Space Camp Foundation alumni managed to pull some strings for me at the last minute and I was on a bus, heading off towards the Eastern Causeway, one of the closest places you can watch a shuttle launch without causing serious damage to yourself!

Space shuttle Atlantis and the crew of STS-129 are leaving Earth's atmosphere with only a rapidly disappearing trace in the sky to remind viewers that mere seconds ago, they were right there in front of our very eyes. I'm still on Earth but feeling so ecstatic, so excited, so emotional (yes, I actually cried) that I felt as though I was the one flying above the ground.

Have YOU ever been to the Kennedy Space Center? Watched a live Shuttle launch?

© Connie Hum 2011

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spotlight: AbsoluteLEIGH

Leigh has been using his voice since he was very young.  Leigh quickly found performing to be an outlet for him and after graduating from the University of Texas in Austin, he moved to New York City to pursue his dream of becoming a musical theater actor. After moderate success, Leigh decided to change his focus.  In 2010, he committed to becoming a television show host.  On March 22, 2011, absoluteLEIGH was launched onto the internet for the world to see, and Leigh could not be more thrilled.  He also works as a Life Coach as part of his own company, Boldly Coaching.  For more information on all things Leigh, visit www.leighcambre.com

AbsoluteLEIGH, Leigh Cambre
1. What kind of person would benefit most from a life coach?

Anyone with the desire to live beyond their current life is a good candidate for life coaching.  I'm especially good at helping people make more money and create more time for themselves.  My specialty is working with artists, performers, and the creative minded and have LOTS of contacts within that world.

2. What is your best, unique quality as a life coach?

I walk my talk in a profound way. I not only coach people for success, but I LIVE my success and LOVE my life. I am not someone who, after failing at their dreams, decided to do coaching as a second option. Instead, I am pursuing my dream of being a talk show host WHILE coaching people for their success. My clients experience their dreams come true and get guidance from the coach that has experience doing it. I'm a dream creator coaching you into your dreams. Are you ready to step into it?

Leigh living his success& loving life in NYC
3. You're all about realizing potential. What do you think is the biggest factor keeping people from their own potential and how do you think people can overcome that?

The biggest de-motivator in a person's life are their energy blocks.  There are four big ones:  gremlins, assumptions, interpretations, and limiting beliefs.  In our coaching process, when we come across one of these, I provide some tools to help move beyond these so you can take giant steps toward your biggest self.  One of my clients went from taking effort to avoid even reading about auditions to working as a singer-actor-dancer (tapping!) in a multi-show regional theater!  All because of tackling ONE energy block!!!

4. What is the most difficult part of being a life coach?

I find it difficult to limit myself to 45 minutes of coaching each week to each client.  All I want to do is help my clients succeed, so while I know my clients are taking huge steps toward their dreams, I often wish I were a fly on the wall so I could be there to keep up the momentum!!

Smiling with true bliss
5. So you have YOUR OWN TALK SHOW now! That's so exciting! Tell us more about it!

AbsoluteLEIGH is the result of hard work, persistence, experience, and opportunity aligning at the right moment.  I am a believer that if you want something, CREATE IT.  Don't wait for a moment when you will get picked or noticed.  Make them notice you by manifesting it yourself.  The show is about living your life openly, honestly, and boldly.  It films biweekly and airs on eGarage.  You can find all of the details at www.leighcambre.com/absoluteleigh

6. What is your main goal with AbsoluteLEIGH?

I want to help people live their bliss. And I don't mean religious bliss--I mean the pure state of joy and happiness that comes from non-judgment, absolute passion, and creation. I believe that the topics I bring onto my show help align people with their true selves and, in turn, their bliss. That path only comes from self-awareness, so let's get that journey started. Who are you being today?

7. What are your own life goals in the coming year?

My goals are big and possible:  first 6-figure income year, first show on the actual television, 6-pack abs, and 100% contentment with my life. Let's do this! 

Looking forward to the coming year's goals
*Although Leigh is one of my best friends, he is also one of my greatest motivator in achieving MY dreams and living my life as blissfully as I can. I honestly don't know where I would be right now without him encouraging, pushing and motivating me to follow my heart and take that GIANT leap of faith in myself. Thank you, Leigh! 

What can a life coach help YOU with?

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

#TTOT Round-Up: Modern Wonders of the World

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : Which 'modern wonder of the World' left you almost speechless/breathless?
  • : The Sydney Opera House! I was totally dumbstruck by it
  • : I am pretty sure the Taj Mahal (Shrine of LOVE) will leave me breathless in October...can't wait 
  • : Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain even when it's not yet finished
  • : Not sure what you're calling modern, but the Eiffel Tower as first seen from the Tracadero was amazing! 
  • : The Empire State building was mind-blowing to someone who lives in a country with no sky-scrapers!
  • : Loved climbing the Great Wall and seeing the Terracotta Army in
  • : Petronas Towers. Stunning scary walk across! 
  • : Santorini and the Grand Canyon natural wonders that made me speechless
  • : The Karakoram Highway between Pakistan and China. Remarkable example of human will imposed on landscape
  • : Kidlet on camel playing violin at Petra certainly rocked!
  • : I've been to the Alhambra seven times. Never fails to inspire, impress, blow me away
  • : Bagan, Burma. No tourists, sunset light and two rainbows in the sky. 
Bagan, Burma
Q2 via : What ancient wonder would you have most wanted to see for yourself?
  • : Atlantis -I swear it's out there and I want to explore it!
  • : Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Such an extravigance for a desert culture in particular 
  • : Great Library of Alexandria. I've been to the new one, and it's cool and all, but not the same
  • : I reckon Colossus of Rhodes would have been pretty spectacular, especially for its time 
  • : All of them. Equally sorry not to have seen all the ruins destroyed in the recent wars in Iraq. Maybe someday.
  • : The pyramids in Egypt- people say it's amazing. A true wonder of the world
Giza, Egypt

Q3 via : Which 'modern wonder of the World' is all hype and disappointed you most?
  • : Stonhenge..interesting but doesn't compare with the others
  • : Chichen Itza - there were so many tourists. It took away from a place that should have felt very eery and spiritual 
  • : The Grand Canyon ... it's just a big hole in the ground:)
  • : The Leaning Tower of Pisa I guess...it was tiny!  
  • : Mall of America!
  • : Colosseum. Ok, it's big, it's great, but it's falling apart and not really at its best. Inside is disappointing!
  • : It has to be the Channel Tunnel! Very useful but visually a bit shit!

Q4 via : What are some sites that could arguably [be] a Modern Wonder of the World that isn't one already?  
  • : What about the underwater world of the Great Barrier reef as long as its still there?
  • : The MI6 building in London...may not be great for national security to publicise it as a modern wonder though!
  • : Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Brazil, it is really an amazing and unique place to visit
  • : I'd put the London Tube down as a modern wonder worth visiting
  • : The Astoria Bridge from Oregon to Washington is memorable and spans a beautiful river
  • : Trees. They are fighting a losing battle(against us) and all the time they are keeping us all alive. Now that's a wonder
Q5 via : If you had to pick one modern wonder to see before you died, what would it be?
  • : It's not an official Modern Wonder, but my answer is: Antartica - as long it's still there! :)
  • : Great Wall of China - love to walk the entire length for charity one day
  • : Everest. Someday, somehow
  • : That Heaven everyone has been talking about ...I fear it's a hype!
  • : Lady Gaga's penis 
  • : Petra
  • : Still gotta get my picture in front of the Taj Mahal
  • : I would like to see all the Wonders, one at time, for a life of travel
  • : Noctilucent Clouds are worth seeing
  • : UAE. Abu Dhabi and Dubai
  • : I would love to see Machu Picchu 
Macchu Picchu, Peru
And there you have it, "Modern Wonders of the World"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Romance Travel" submitted by mygo2it. Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have you got anything to add to the Modern Wonders of the World discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Montage Monday: Halong Bay, Vietnam

A photo montage highlighting my favorite memories from past travels!

I was really shocked to discover that I hadn't posted anything from my Halong Bay junk trip on the blog so I decided to feature some of my favorite photos from my two days cruising among the beautiful bay for your viewing pleasure this Montage Monday. Hope you enjoy!

My junk, my junk, my Halong Bay junk
Our arrival into Halong Bay was complete and utter chaos. There were so many tourists shuffling about and tour guides leading large groups this way and that. The Bay was chocked with little smoke-puttering boats waiting to chauffeur passengers further out onto their reserved junks. A thick haze of smog filled the air and I silently prayed that the next two days wasn't going to be as hectic as this first impression. Luckily, as soon as Matt and I boarded our junk along with a handful of other travelers, we sailed out into calmer and clearer seas.

All smiles as we set off into Halong Bay
We were pretty lucky with the weather during our two days of sailing in Halong Bay. The sky was slightly overcast so it wasn't too hot to sit out on the top deck of the boat, but it never grew too gray or rained on us. Hooray!

Secluded area of Halong Bay

It was really nice just cruising along Halong Bay, enjoying the cool breeze and the stunning scenery all around us! It was just the peaceful setting we needed after a few hectic days in Hanoi.

Lots of groups stopping for a cave tour
One of my least favorite aspects of traveling with a tour group is the generic, predetermined itinerary that they have for you... and everybody else! One of the major "highlights" of the two days aboard the junk was exploring a cave "hidden" deep in Halong Bay. I can't really say that it was a well hidden cave since just about every junk seemed to have made a stop there.

One of our last group activities on board the junk was a kayak excursion out in Halong Bay. Matt and I were really looking forward to this but we were disappointed to find out that "exploring the hidden cave" had taken up most of the time we had in the afternoon and our allotted time for kayaking was reduced to 30 minutes. We were further disappointed to find trash in the form of beer bottles, plastic bags and candy wrappers floating around. Matt and I spent most of our 30 minutes in the kayak collecting debris from the water. It was a shame to see such a beautiful setting carelessly littered. 

Because ships are pretty cool things in and of themselves!
Halong Bay is undoubtedly one of the more breath-taking settings I have found myself lucky to encounter. Cruising aboard a junk was also another great experience and although I usually don't recommend joining group tours that may limit you in terms of time and activities, I honestly don't know how one could work around an arranged tour of Halong Bay. Besides, most people come to see the natural wonder that is Halong Bay and you still get that and more with a organized tour. My only advice would is to pick up whatever trash you may encounter on the water so that future visitors can enjoy the beauty of Halong Bay too.

What's YOUR take on Halong Bay? Have YOU been? Is it a top travel destination?

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

#TTOT Round-Up: Wildlife Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via : Which animal would you most like to have an encounter with?
  • : Polar bears. Really wants to see them in the Arctic before the polar ice caps melt 
  • : Has to be a big 5 safari with the lion in Botswana!!!
  • : The gorillaz in Congo would be a highlight for me!
  • : I'm still itching to kayak with the Orca's in San Juan, WA
  • : Grizzly bear, wanna hug that thing
  • : Next to pandas, I'd like to swim with the whalesharks
  • : I have too many... I'd love to see bengal tigers in the wild, an albino alligator in the wild, any coral reef diving encounters
  • : Going walking with these furry guys in Zimbabwe (see photo below)
© Rae Kokes and Acacia Africa

Q2 via : What's the scariest animal encounter you've had?  
  • : Saw man bitten by (non-venomous) cave racer snake in Borneo. It dug teeth in and wouldn't let go, quite a lot of blood  
  • : Scariest & best: diving with Great Whites in South Australia
  • : A porpoise breaking surface next to my canoe in Cardigan Bay; me suddenly seeing this bloody great fin...
  • : Swimming in a mountain lake as a kid, had a moose raise its head out of the water less than ten feet from where I was
  • : I was also once sleeping in a room full of scorpions. Which I found next day when the sun came up 
  • : HUGE Centipedes crawling all over my camp after big rains at Uluru. Screamed like a horror movie victim 
  • : Snake charmer in Tunisia pushing snakes in my face when I was clearly scared out of my wits
  • : Mama sea lion coming after me because I did a cartwheel too close to the baby sea lion.
  • : Leeches in the jungle in Laos were pretty scary - they got everywhere!!!
  • : Me being bitten by a Lemur in Longleat zoo then taken to the vets!!!
  • : Charged at by a rhino in Kruger National in South Africa. Terrifying but exhilarating all at the same time

Q3 via : Which 3 countries are best for wildlife travel & why?
  • : Costa Rica for the monkeys and sloths, SA for safaris, OZ for kangaroos and the Great Barrier Reef 
  • : India for the tigers
  • : Nepal (Elephant trekking), Tanzania (the Ngorongoro Crater, what's not to love!?) and South Africa (diving with sharks!)
  • : Peru (Llama), Galapagos Islands (enough said) and Argentina (steak...)  
  • : Brazil, Botswana and Congo. I have no words to fairly describe it. JUST GO AND SEE!!
  • : The USA for diversity - wild Alaska to the Florida beaches, Australia, African Safari 
  • : Tanzania is our favourite place for the Big 5. Sri Lanka and Indonesia are great wildlife spots too

Q4 via : Where is the best place you can recommend for seeing wildlife naturally?
  • : Definitely African Savannah. Variety of animals in the open field. I think that's breathtaking 
  • : Látrabjarg in the Westfjords - Europe's biggest bird cliff! Millions and millions of birds!
  • It's hard to beat Alaska for seeing wildlife
  • : Raja Ampat in Papua, Indonesia...it's a heaven for divers
  • : Gallapo Islands, obviously. Apparently animals aren't scared of humans there because they are so well respected. Is this true? 
  • : One of my favorite places is right here in Cape Town! You can swim and spend the day with penguins at boulders beach!
  • : Tanzania, Amazon Rain forest, Galapagos islands, Australia and of course South Africa (yes Im being bias towards SA)
  • : Fish Markets in Amazonas ... Some crazy fish!
  • : Parismina, Costa Rica. Turtles!

Q5 via Do you think "wildlife tourism" is good or bad for animals?
  • : Not all tour operators who call themselves "eco" are that good, research to see if they help protect the wildlife
  • : I think it's hard. In one way it promotes awareness, but also risks ruining their environment
  • : Good to make lots of National Parks, but consider the indigenous population or it won't help
  • : People have to experience and appreciate nature to want to preserve it 
  • : Too many people involved in WT can cause exploitation. But, if too few are permitted then only the wealthy will enjoy them 
  • : They should limit the number of people visiting safaris or other places where animals reside. I think it's stressful
  • : The chances of doing it wrong are very high, but it's still possible and I think it's important to have wildlife tourism 
  • : i think responsible wildlife tourism raises awareness on problems the animals have and hopefully some people feel inclined to help  
  • : Tourism and the money it brings is by far the best way to get the funds to save the animal kingdom (and more)

And there you have it, "Wildlife Travel"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Modern Wonders of the World" submitted by insidetravellab. Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have you got anything to add to the Wildlife Travel discussion? 

© Connie Hum 2011

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Montage Monday: Travels with Mom

In celebration of American Mother's Day, this Montage Monday features travel with my own mom! Thanks for everything, Mom! I love you!

The last time I saw my mother, we were traveling in Burma in January 2010 with my two aunts (my mother's two younger sisters) and my maternal grandmother to visit our family who still live in Burma. It was a fantastic month-long journey and I had a great time spending quality time with my family, especially my mother.

I flew my mom out to Istanbul to visit me when I was living in Turkey back in 2009. It was her first exposure to a completely different culture and she did well in embracing it. There were a few trying moments during the two weeks we traveled around Turkey, but all in all, I had fun showing my mom around Istanbul and Turkey. Here, my mom and I are walking across Istanbul's Galata Bridge, with the New Mosque (Yeni Camii) in the background.

My first major travel with my mom was to Burma in 2005. If you can believe it, this was also my first international trip as well! To be very honest, I didn't want to go to Burma and my mother basically forced me to go to Burma to visit family. I'm not sure why I didn't want to go to Burma since I was very much interested in traveling. I suppose it was because I wasn't sure what to expect in Burma and the uncertainty scared me. In any case, I'm glad that my mother made me go.

Just another reason for loving my mother all the more: She forced me to get over my fear of traveling to an unknown foreign country!

Where's the BEST place YOU'VE ever traveled to with YOUR mom?

© Connie Hum 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I Am NOT Crazy, Or, Thoughts on My Second Meditation Retreat

A couple of things to clear up right away. 

First, I AM NOT CRAZY. Honestly I'm not!

Second, I AM NOT A HIPPIE. I may have dressed like one when I was traveling in India and Southeast Asia (come on, everyone does) but I'm really not.

Baggy linen pants? Ethnic garb? Looks like a hippie to me!

I did however, attend a 10-day no-talking Vipassana meditation retreat. TWICE. 

Does that make me crazy? Or a hippie? I don't think so, but I know what stereotypes pop into people's heads when they hear about meditation ashrams, vegetarian diets and vows of "noble silence." 

Leaving my first 10-day meditation retreat feeling GREAT

My first attempt into Vipassana meditation, or any type of meditation for that matter, was in Igatpuri, India in early 2010. I was initially drawn to meditation as a way to help relax and calm my frantic thought patterns. My experience in Igatpuri was a powerful one and impacted me in many positive ways. Unfortunately, as I continued to travel, I found it hard to continue with my meditation. 

Fast forward a year and I find myself living in Hong Kong. The stress of living among the crowds in yet another big. over-populated city started taking its toll. I found myself often flustered, frustrated, depressed and apathetic, with energy levels dangerously low. 

Thus I spent another grueling, yes, GRUELING 10 days forcing myself to sit still and focus on my breathing in a Vipassana meditation center in the outskirts of Hong Kong. At first, I struggled with the rigorous schedule of waking up at 4:30 AM and meditating for 10 hours each day. Within two days, 9:00 PM couldn't come soon enough for me to fall asleep and rest my weary body from the day's strenuous meditations. By the end of the week, the schedule of waking up before the sun and sleeping before most people in Hong Kong get home from work became second nature.

As I was returning to Vipassana mediation as an "old" student, I had the added difficulty of eating nothing (nothing!) after 12 noon. Let me tell you, for someone who loves to eat as much as I do, this requirement was the most difficult. Or so I thought. The first couple of nights I watched with jealous envy as the "new" students enjoyed their evening fruit while I grumpily sipped at my tea. By the third evening though, I was no longer feeling hunger pains and I think my meditation benefited from the lack of food. 

See how food makes me so happy?

Not speaking to anyone, in word or in deed, for the full 10 days was probably my favorite aspect of the meditation retreat. It's just such a nice change from everyday life and really allowed me to focus on myself. In fact, on the 10th day when we were allowed to start speaking again, I found it difficult to find my voice. Hearing myself talk seemed surreal and the act of speaking itself was exhausting.  

On the day of departure, I was extremely emotional. After leaving the retreat premises and returning to my Hong Kong apartment, all the sounds, lights and crowds of Hong Kong was so intimidating that I had to lock myself indoors for the rest of the day!

All in all, the meditation retreat with its vegetarian diet, strict schedule and vows of silence, was another beneficial 10 days. It gave me time to focus on myself, sort out my thoughts and brought a little bit of peace to me. Although I've since struggled with maintaining my meditation (life has such a way as to take over all other things, doesn't it?), I still do my best to meditate a little each day and I feel all the better because of it. 

And everyone could use a little help in feeling better, right? Even us non-crazy hippie types.

Have YOU had a spiritual experience while traveling abroad? Please SHARE!

© Connie Hum 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

#TTOT Round-Up: Round the World Travel

Every Tuesday it's Travel Talk on Twitter! Follow the #TTOT tag to see what all the commotion and Tweets are about! There are two sessions to join, one at 9:30am GMT and the other at 9:30pm GMT.

Here's the round-up of this week's #TTOT: 

Q1 via Robyn Boswell: What is the one unmissable country on each continent? Why?
  • : Oceania - New Zealand. Surf and ski in one day, can't beat it  
  • : If you can afford it, Norway/Sweden in the summer
  • : Oceana: French Polynesia- Flower scented grace, unfathomable green mountains, electric blue lagoons,soulful people 
  • : Latin America would be Argentina full of rich history and culture
  • : Asia- Japan. Sunrise over Yokohama when I was a student at Kanagawa. Happy days!
  • : Africa, Egypt. Just can't help my addiction to ancient history
  • : Europe = Ukraine. Tough travels, but damn worth it

Q2 via : What's the hardest thing about doing a RTW trip?
  • : The hardest thing for me would be the challenge of keeping my carbon footprint low 
  • : Packing to go home 
  • : Getting Past the toughest obstacle standing in your way - yourself
  • : Deciding on how long to stay in each place before you go as you may like or hate it
  • : Getting back to a routine life after the trip 
  • : Leaving my dog behind
  • : Overcoming the myth that it will end your "real" life. Travel is life. Not your desk job. Leave. Go. Discover
  • : Definitely coming home and that unshakable and rather depressing feeling that everything out there is carrying on without you 
  • : The world is a big place. Having enough time to see it without it being a blur is essential. Did it in 21 days, not fun
  • : Not losing my head...thinking I am invisible and going a bit TOO crazy whilst away just because I am away from my usual society!
  • : Paying for it 
Q3 via : How much money do you think is needed to travel the entire world via budget?
  • : I don't know. I don't do budget
  • : This just all depends. but I say $1,000/month average is doable  
  • : Depends how much beer you drink!
  • : We travel on $17 per person per day to go around Australia. Food is major expense
  • : It depends on the country, but you can get along well with €15 per day in many countries
  • : I'd rather spend more money and live at my level of comfort rather than less, see more and be miserable 
  • : I went round the world on $4. Bought a latte and let the earth spin under me
  • : Between $40 to $90 a day. Sometimes you don't want to share with 15 other people or catch the bus for 18 hours
  • : Hard question with all the variables.The figure of $20,000 USD seems to be thrown around as an average for a year per person
  • : WWOOFing i.e. working for food and accommodation, made my travelling so much cheaper (and more interesting)!

Q4 via : Any RTW destination that just was not worth it, wishing you had left it off your itinerary? Why?
  • : No, I do my research
  • : I hated kuta beach in bali and cabo in mexico, apart from those id return everywhere i think
  • : Venice was eh. I had high hopes. And I didn't like Barcelona all that much. Messy architectural styles and NYC-like odors 
  • : For me L A [Hollywood] bored me . Love the rest of USA 
  • : I thought Panama and Costa Rica were overrated. CR wasn't all that good value for money. I liked Morocco but way too many scammers 
  • : Tijuana isn't really a city for kids - except maybe the zonkeys (zebra painted donkeys)
  • : Any place at the height of tourist season annoys me. I want to see locals and pretend it's just there for me
  • : I'd plan to get out of Delhi and Cairo as fast as you can..

Q5 via : There are only 4 RTW stops allowed! Where would you go and why?
  • : India, Brazil, South Africa, Japan, and Indonesia because I have never been & I sooo want to! 
  • : My dream RTW: Africa South to North (pref by Land Rover), Trans-Sib Railway Russia-China, SE Asia/South Pacific
  • : I wanna spend my time to RTW Japan,Tibet, New Zealand because the landscape so amazing and for cityscape I choose Liverpool, England
  • : Sagres (old end of the world), Norway(fiords), Croatia (rakija), Slovakia (High Tatras). Focus on Europe
  • : Beirut/Lebanon, Sardinia, Iceland (+ Greenland if I may), Solomon Islands (+ all Pacific Islands)
  • : Ethiopia, Isreal, one of the stans, and any of those nice islands survivor was filmed on
  • : Morocco, Beijing, Havana, Galapagos...Casablanca, the future, the forbidden & the sheer beauty, respectively
  • : Brazil (to see mummys homeland) / San Fransico (music) / Moscow (vodka)/ Tokyo or any asian city really (food)/ Sydney (men) 
  • : Mexico: fish tacos / Argentina: dead cow / San Blas: Molas / Mexico again: Need me some more fish tacos
  • : Narnia, Middle Earth, Underland & King´s Landing

And there you have it, "Round the World Travel"!

Next week's #TTOT topic is: "Wildlife Travel" submitted by Roopunzel. Submit your questions HERE! And don't forget to tune follow the #TTOT every Tuesday at 9:30am and 9:30pm GMT!

As always, a HUGE travel community thank you to our #TTOT hosts and organizers: traveldudes, , , , , , and !

Have you got anything to add? 

© Connie Hum 2011

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