Travel, be prepared for the changes ahead.

7 weeks after arriving home from our adventures in Chile we’re getting ready to pack up our bags for sand, sea and surf once again.

We’re not rich, we don’t have the luxury of huge bank accounts and unlimited vacation days, but we choose to make travel an important part of our lives with our children.

When we visit our friend’s homes I envy their nice couches and fancy cars. Heck, I even dream about one day having clean matching fluffy bath towels and so does my husband but we choose to spend our hard-earned money on travel because that’s who we are.

It’s not about judgement. I don’t judge others for their choices I’m simply just stating mine so when you come to visit you don’t expect nice bath towels.

Lately I’ve ben trying to put a finger on what makes traveling so vital to my core being. It’s actually a hard question to answer because not every trip is relaxing and/or exciting.

What I know is traveling opens my eyes to the struggles of other people in this world some of which have been so shocking they’ve changed my entire perspective on survival, on life. You see, I have witnessed unwavering human strength. It’s quite a remarkable thing.

While volunteer nursing at Kanti Pediatric Hospital in Kathmandu Nepal some 10 years ago now I spent some time on the burn unit. Unfortunately this was the most overcrowded unit in the hospital because many families use open flame and oil for cooking. Children often came in with second or third degree burns. One child, a little boy around 5 years old, was brought in by helicopter from the remote Everest region just before my arrival.

This little fella was lucky to be alive his mother had been holding him when she was hit by lightning, dying instantly, his father carried him for 3 days until he reached help. Over half his body was covered in third degree burns from the lightning strike. When I met him it had been almost a week since his mother had died. During our first encounter he was lying beside his father on an ancient hospital bed; my heart sank a little. I knew his recovery would be a steep uphill battle, maybe insurmountable. Over the next week I watched his father care for him with trepidation he seemed to be floating through actions, holding his breath. There were 2 nurses on the unit and they did all the dressing changes, rationed the morphine, family members were to take care of the rest, feeding, bathing, comforting, etc. When this little fella needed blood I sat at his bedside while his father went to give his and read him a few stories. When the father returned I was right in the middle of pulling the sheet up over his son’s little body, my back turned to the door, all I heard was a small yelp and a thud. When I spun around I saw the father on his knees in the doorway. I instantly thought he was light-headed from having had his blood drawn and went to him. As I bent down to help him up his arms enveloped me and he squeezed so hard it almost took my breath away. I was motionless, frozen and barely able to breath. When the translator came over to assist me learned the father was profusely thanking me for being there with his son, shaking my hand, calling me an angel. The lump in my throat was overtaking my voice and I was struggling trying to tell him his son was only asleep. He thought I was pulling the sheet up over his son’s head. He thought his son had died while he was gone. He was devastated. The translator did not know the child was alive and he was wiping tears from his own eyes when I finally found my voice again, through heavy sobs, I got it out. Asleep. Alive. Not dead. We all crumbled into a flood of tears.

I can remember the hospital room this man and his son lived in for the rest of my time at Kanti down to the very detail when I close my eyes. It’s a thread sewn into heart and mind forever.

Sometimes when things are getting a little hectic around here well, I think you know what I’m going to say. It’s not just about counting our blessings though, every trip changes me a little, sometimes a lot, focusing my ideas, direction, the way I parent, be a friend, a co-worker, a wife. If you knew me 10 years ago you don’t know me now and I’m sure I’ll be different in 10 more years because our old dilapidated couches aren’t that comfortable so I’ll be out there in the world continuing to explore, the world and myself.

 

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“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about” Ben Franklin

I was recently having a conversation with an elderly gentleman who was emotionally very frustrated because he was conscious of his inability to remember some very important life events. He was very sad, wiping away tears with his shaky wrinkled hand, so I sat with him awhile and listened to the stories he could remember eventually watching the tears of sadness turn to tears of joy, sharing a few hearty belly laughs before the end. You see he was an adventurer and I could relate to many of his stories and shared some of my more memorable ones with him. When we were done we parted with a hand squeeze and a brief shared look that we knew acknowledged the suffering but also the joys of our moment of shared time together.

After our conversation the thoughts swirled and swirled in my head resulting in a bit of a tornado. You see dementia, Alzheimer’s, they all run in my family and I just kept coming up with the thought “was I just having a conversation with myself in the future?”

Sometimes in the dark recesses of my mind when I forget someone’s name or the exact details of an event this little evil thread runs through “is this the beginning?” It can be a bit daunting carrying this weight around somedays. I try not to ruminate on it because what will be, will be. Maybe it’s why I’m drawn to words, stories, the truer the better. I feel a deep need to get it all down. Have it somewhere my boys and possibly their children can come to and read. See the photographs, read the stories of their adventurous family roots.

I can’t get enough of hearing about people’s adventures in this big wide crazy world. We all might not be climbing mountain tops or exploring exotic rainforest everyday but if you’re willing to step out the door with bit of saved up money and two feet and a heart beat, take some risks, rise to the challenges I’ll be waiting at the end to hear your story beer in hand.

Who knows how long we each have to live our adventures, to remember our stories, to share them with others, so get out there make stories together even those terrible scary moments you may look back and laugh about one day.

The first time my husband and I traveled together to Mexico we were backpacking around the Baja for a week. I had booked the first night hotel as we were landing late at night then it was moment to moment. We didn’t have a lot of money we were both in college and we had booked our airfare on travel vouchers we had been given after a trip to see his family in Chile when our flight home was overbooked. We spent the first night at a cheap small hotel in Cabo San Lucas and the next morning set off on the bus to San Jose del Cabo. As we disembarked the bus at the beach my husband informed me he had left all our money tucked under the mattress at the last hotel then he went and phoned the hotel and asked the receptionist to look to see if the money was still there. It was absurd. We bussed all the way back holding our breath and finding hope in the smile of that Mexican receptionist envelope of cash in hand. We walked to the first bar we saw and laughed over cold beers breathing a sigh of relief we’d have a roof over our heads that night. We just weren’t really sure where!

International Women’s Day 2015

There’s someone I’d like to introduce you to. Maybe you know her maybe you don’t. We’ve never met I simply follow her blog and comings and goings on Facebook. I don’t think I’ve ever even commented on her stories publicly. I find her inspiring, brave, courageous, honest, and certainly a woman blazing her own trail.

Shannon O’Donnell.

Creative traveller behind A Little Adrift: the world’s too big to tell just one story. Shannon focuses on volunteer travel with meaning not just the fluff voluntourism but the real, honest to god volunteering that makes a difference. She’s written a book ‘The Volunteer Traveler’s Handbook’ which I have yet to read but when I’m ready to jump back into volunteering on my travels it’s a good bet I’ll be picking it up.

Admiringly, she supports her travel through consulting, writing and photography and her website remains ad free which makes her site more accessible for the reader and a much-needed break from distracting ads. Thank you.

Why am I writing about Shannon? Well, on this International Women’s Day of 2015 I felt moved to write about a woman of integrity who inspires me in my travels, someone who when I’m reading her words there never feels like a hidden agenda. I’ve always been a big believer of supporting woman in business and adventure. I’ve also traveled solo in this magnificently big uncertain world and I know the ups and downs, feeling a little out-of-place, feeling like a seasoned traveler and then doing something completely naive. Lessons learned again and again.

I also believe as women we need to lift each other up and celebrate our trailblazers, acknowledge the challenging paths they have walked, are walking and greet them with a hug along the way.

I encourage you to pop over to her website, read a few of her stories and be open to inspiration she’s doing what some of us have only dreamed about – how amazing is that!!!!

Happy International Women’s Day 2015 to you all much love from Araya Adventures.

My love affair with street food

I have no idea where it started but I have this love affair with eating food made on the street, from a cart, food truck, a small hot plate on the sidewalk, sold from the trunk of a car it always peaks my intrigue and then my appetite.

I’ve heard it a million times the “don’t eat that you’ll get sick” but I always throw caution to the wind and do it anyway and yes, I have been ill many, many times while traveling. I’m more skilled now though. It has to be hot, like scorch your mouth you have to wait 20 minutes for it to cool down enough to eat hot and I like to see it being made. I make exceptions though, rules are meant to be broken, right?

One of my favourite things to get in Chile is ceviche. Fresh, juicy, salted morsels of white fish “cooked” in an ungodly amount of lemon juice sprinkled with finely chopped onion and fragrant cilantro what’s not to love? With it’s long coast line Chile is a seafood lovers paradise. There are so many types of fish and seafood in two weeks of travel you will have barely scratched the surface. The best part, it’s cheap.

Ceviche can be found at vendors on the various beaches our favourite is Totoralillo (pronounced toe-toe-ra-lee-yo) just south of La Serena. There you can find multiple vendors barely arm’s length from where the fishing boats dock to unload their catches. We scooped up a couple of cups for $3 each.

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Maybe because it’s usually cheap or readily available or the food of the people I really don’t know but what I do know is my kids are already veterans of street food and I like it that way.

Ok, ok but what about the food in Chile

I’ve been writing a lot about traveling with kids, visiting in-laws, even doing yoga on vacation and a spontaneous winery stop but what about the food. Don’t think I’ve forgotten. I haven’t. I’m actually still dreaming about one place we stopped that stole my heart.

Pan Pan Vino Vino.

We stopped here on a recommendation from the fella at Estampa winery, which is just down the road and I couldn’t have been more overjoyed with the result. We hit the end of the lunch rush with the few remaining tables getting up to leave on our arrival, lunch is the main meal in Chile so you usually find full tables for most of the afternoon, and quickly nestled into a rustic outdoor table in the shade with just a slight breeze diminishing the hot humid day.

Since we were headed to my father in-laws for a BBQ that evening I choose to sample the appetizer cheese plate with four locally made cheeses, a few dates wrapped in bacon and complemented it with a Pisco Miel. Pisco Sour is the traditional drink in Chile at Pan Pan Vino Vino they substitute the sour for a slightly sweeter version with honey; a delightful result. With my Pisco Miel in hand I settled back into the chair to watch my boys finding their own shady comfort zone in the nearby hammocks. My husband ordered a fuller lunch opting for succulent stone oven roasted lamb and root vegetables cooked to perfection served with a side of mashed garlic cauliflower. Hearing him moan over the lamb, dripping hot savoury broth with every forkful, I admit to thieving a few bites for myself.

The food, the food, it was divine, but the atmosphere stole the show. Just off the bustling highway you enter into a completely different world. The quiet and understated front exterior opens into an open air courtyard dining experience where the owner has perfected old world rustic charm with touches of the modern perfectly placed as evidenced in the bathroom pictured below. Actually, I’ll just stop talking now and let you see what I’m talking about.

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DSC_0307DSC_0312DSC_0289DSC_0324 One thing I’ve learned while traveling it’s ALWAYS a great idea to get a locals recommendation, seek them out, most of the amazing places I have been directed to aren’t obvious but are always, always memorable.