Travel, similar to other activities, requires inspiration. When I was at the beginning of my travel adventure the bucket list included destinations like Paris, London, Rome, Berlin, all those big European capitals which I heard about at school. Later the bucket list evolved to destinations like Thailand, China, Brazil or Israel. Now it includes Peru, Bolivia, New Zealand and Cuba. All nice and good but the inspiration needs to come from somewhere. Not denying that geography lessons at school were a huge inspiration in the beginning. Later books, especially those by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Alexandre Dumas or Agatha Christie. Speaking to fellow travellers when on the road or my travel obsessed friends was also a huge inspiration. The largest of all however are documentaries, movies and all the cool filming locations you see on screen.
Geography Lessons and Friends
Apart from English, my most favourite lesson at school was geography. When the teacher was talking about volcanos or the mountain creation process I was visualising how a volcano might look like in reality. The best fun however was memorising all the world’s countries and capitals, yeah I always had a bit of a geeky side. Lately I wrote to my geography teacher from high school – wish I could go back to school to have those lessons with you again. Now I would have some cool stories to share and the world map test would look quite funny. For example, please mark volcano Teide. Oh Tenerife, I was there.
A big chunk of my travel inspiration comes from hanging out with fellow travellers when I’m on the road or from exchanging experiences with my friends. My bestie PRS planted the idea in my head of going diving to Borneo. The pictures she showed were incredible and the passion in her voice when she was sharing stories from her trip was just dazzling. Another time on a dive boat in Egypt a girl from Australia was describing the beauty of the Great Barrier Reef. She also gave me some good pieces of advice that the best way to explore the reef is to get on a safari boat from Cairns or Port Douglas in the north of Australia.
However, there is one person I absolutely admire when it comes to travel and adventures. Everybody calls him Kleo but I refer to him as my Fun Sport Guru. He got me into scuba diving by explaining how and where to start but most of all how to stay safe underwater to have the same amount of submersions and surfacing. Kleo told me some really cool stories about trips he went on, like his safari in Kenya or elephant adventure in Laos. Guess what, those stories were so inspiring I actually went to Kenya and Laos.
Lately Kleo helped me in getting my ski equipment together and after I started skiing lessons, he wanted to have regular updates on how it is going. That was truly adorable. After the lessons I got a bunch of good tips from Kleo where to go skinning in the Alps, hence I planned a skiing trip to Austria and Italy in December. There is an insight joke we have which includes trying out paragliding. Kleo has three major fun sport hobbies: scuba diving, skiing and paragliding. I did the first two, third one is just a matter of time 😀
As a kid I loved the book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess. Reason being, the way India is described there. Read that book at least three times and every time I was fantasising about going to India. After some years I went and the air truly had the intense smell of spices. Everybody warned me about going to India alone, saying how dangerous it is to go to India alone being a woman. You know what, I faced nothing but kindness from local people.
Especially I remember the fabulous hotel owner in Jaipur who was asking me every day if the breakfast was good, if I wanted the chai waiting in my room every evening after returning from sightseeing and warning me that I should be back in the hotel before sunset. When leaving the hotel, I wanted to leave a tip for the extraordinary service, but he categorically refused to take it.
Later I fell in love with Agatha Christie’s books and not hiding that Poirot is my most favourite character ever. The stories based in Egypt especially sparkled my fantasy. When I had the chance to go and see the pyramids I went. Impressions? The pyramids are amazing, when you think, how was it even possible to build them without having nowadays modern technology. How much time, human effort and unfortunately deaths it took to construct those wonders of the ancient world. However, what is around the pyramids is less amazing. Huge amounts of garbage in the canals and the city of Cairo doesn’t make an inviting impression either.
Crowded, polluted, traffic is a nightmare not only due to the amount of vehicles but also the driving regulations and habits. Apparently a modern city but at some point you can still see wagons being pulled by donkeys. Ofcoz the Egyptian Museum is impressive as for example King Tut’s masque is there but apart from that it has nothing from the charming, romantic or idyllic book descriptions. You might ask, what did you expect Alice, that it will be the same as described in the books? No, I knew it won’t be the same as in the books but I didn’t expect Cairo to be so chaotic and disorganised. Well, romantic visions do not always go with reality. I’m not implying that reading books leads to travel disappointments, exactly the opposite, reading books keeps the imagination going even when you go to a place you read about and it’s not meeting your expectations. Fine at least you have something to compare.
Movies and Documentaries
Being a moviegoer as well as fan of Discovery and National Geographic documentaries a huge chunk of my inspirations comes from those sources. In some movies the city or country names are clearly visible like in the majority of James Bond movies, others require some research, like Game of Thrones. My whole trip to Andalusia was dedicated to finding GoT filming locations. I was quite successful as I found Dorne, Volantis, Dragon Pits in King’s Landing or the arena in Meereen. Watched the whole series at least three times – apart from the last season but let’s not go down that road, I’ve read the books so to be perfectly frank I was screaming like a kid on Christmas Day when I found those places. Same was when I went to Miami Beach to see the Ocean Drive which was visible in the opening scene of the first season of Dexter or Corleone in Sicily, the town which in the movie and book is portrayed as the birthplace of Vito who later became the Godfather. I know it might sound silly but it’s always huge fun for me to chase after filming locations. There is also a habit of mine, that before going on a trip I watch a movie associated with the location I’m going to. For example, before going to Kenya I watched The Lion King and Out of Africa. Well, at some point before each trip I used to watch the first part of Final Destination… yeap that’s the one with the plane crash. Hey, I’ve never said that I’m normal 😛
Documentaries are another inspiration piece. There was a time when I couldn’t stop watching programmes like Extreme Engineering, Megastructures or The 10 most for example dangerous airports. Some really cool trips were triggered by that, Taiwan being one of those. The moment I saw a documentary about Taipei 101’s construction and the wind damper that protects the building from strong gusts, I knew I wanna see it with my own eyes. My chance to visit Taiwan came when I was living in Hong Kong and Taiwan is a popular long weekend destination given its short flight from HK.
Although the building and the damper are extremely cool the thing that made the biggest impression on me is the staircase view from the eighty ninth floor, it just goes down and you can’t see the bottom.
There was also a different reason I wanted to go to Taipei and it’s not trying stinky tofu. I saw a documentary about unusual restaurants. One of the restaurants was called Modern Toilet and was located in Taipei. As the name might indicate, the main theme of that place was everything around toilets and bathrooms.
The meals were served in toilet shaped bowls and people were sitting on toilet bowls. Now guess what shape did chocolate ice cream have? Yup, exactly… It was in the shape of a poo. No wonder I went there. Experience? Amazing, a bit odd but still it was the funniest served meal I ever had. Although drinking apple juice from a urine bottle was a little out of the ordinary. But hey, it’s better when I attach some cool pics, as they speak louder than words 🙂
Out of all those examples there is one eternal source of inspiration. Your own personal curiosity, which I think will never expire. I have a map over my desk with marked countries that I’ve visited. When I look at it and I look at it every day given the home working situation, I think, hmmm wonder how Greenland is or hmmm I haven’t been to many African countries maybe I should do something about it. There are still so many places I would like to see, so plenty of inspiration for the years to come.