When people ask us this question, they are somewhat shy, assuming everyone asks the same thing. We agree, yes that is what happens. We all laugh. And then there is silence. An expectant pause, waiting for the answer. That part has become funnier still, for me anyway. How is it possible to distill all those kilometers into one favourite stop?

I guess I didn’t get the memo. I didn’t realize this question would come up so often. My only job is now to have my answer ready. Or maybe have some point of interest at hand, changing with my mood. Depending on what is going on in the world or in my life when the question comes up, my response changes. In truth, everything we did and everywhere we stopped could be a favourite in certain circumstances.

I learned the most in Cape Town. Actually, even getting down there was included in the lessons. We were denied boarding our back to back long hauls, Hong Kong to Doha and then down to Cape Town. Not only was that a first for me, I felt really bad for my family because all these details were my responsibility. I had to learn to get over myself, perfection is not possible. But the reason we needed the missing paperwork to allow easy transit into South Africa was because of the child smuggling problem. Learning about that caused my heart to ache. When we finally arrived, the contrast of the extreme natural beauty, endemic poverty and legacy of apartheid would make anyone’s head spin. All the while being cautioned about every drop of water we used.

I became a traveler in Cambodia. Our little ‘boutique’ hotel in Siem Reap was the first example of something lost in translation. It was not bad at all, just not quite what I had pictured in my mind. Which is part of the danger of making too many plans ahead of time. On the other hand, we got a great deal as a reward for booking so far in advance. What made this stop my favourite was the people we met. Some of the friendliest of our whole trip. Set against the backdrop of the ancient civilization who built magnificent temples, first to honour their Hindu gods and later converting to Buddhism. In the practice of this faith, the citizens have been able to forgive the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. I tried to see it that way, but struggled against my feelings of outrage for anyone who commits genocide.

I would like to go back to Trieste, rent a boat or join a cruise, along the Adriatic on the Croatian side. We saw these great, old wooden boats with about 8 or maybe 12 sleeping cabins lining the outer edge. The ports of call were dotted along the coast, presumably with the final destination being Dubrovnik. I think seeing the landscape from the water like that would be wonderful. Especially in a small vessel which picks its way along, with a small crew and only a couple of dozen guests rather than hundreds or thousands of people aboard.

The most famous sights were tough to experience in a good way. We felt a little bit like being in an amusement park, where those with a good plan of attack seemed to be having the best time. Even though it was early in the tourist calendar or in some cases low season, the crowds of people really took away from the fun. No matter what, standing in a long line, waiting to see or do something is a bummer. Those days were best when we got out of bed really early and were some of the first ones in line. My brother-in-law calls that first tracks, after his habit of being at the base of the mountain for the first chair lift of the day.

I had looked at too many Instagram photos and watched too many youtube videos of Bali. I had a certain romantic thought of what Bali would be like and the reality did not match. We tried it all, beach villas, family areas and a high-end resort. We took in all the famous sights which were considered to be a must do from the lists of other travelers. While we had some good times, for sure, this is the stop where I realized there are people who live while they travel and there are people who party while they vacation. Until our trip, I was in the party camp, desperately trying to get a break from my ordinary life. The question I started to ponder in Bali was, ‘how to create a life you don’t need a vacation from?’

Along the way, I tried to research and fully understand the history of a place to determine how that might inform the particular way the people live now. In some cases, there were social norms which were important to respect. Or the people might be trying to forget their past. There were also places like Turkey, where the government is making it difficult to access all sorts of information which has been deemed undesirable. For that reason, Istanbul was the most misunderstood place we visited. A traveler’s perception going into a country can inform their experience, in a good way or bad. It is only since being home and really digging into the historical record that I have a better understanding of modern Turkey and more specifically Istanbul. Upon reflection, I am interested in returning, if the opportunity presents itself.

To drive from one side of Canada to other is thought to be a formidable trip, but seven thousand kilometers across Europe is nothing to scoff at either. This leg and other exciting things we did were not planned out far in advance. Driving across was Europe was not on our radar, rather the idea bubbled up organically. One of the biggest benefits was to own a little piece of continuity. Our Reanult Kangoo was our real estate. We had the opportunity to have a few extra comforts which were not possible on an airplane. We bought a little cooler. I invested in several bottles of good olive oil. Gourmet salt and pepper. A kettle. Laundry soap. We created a little travelling pantry which sat on top of our suitcases. At the very least we belonged to our van, from Lisbon to Dubrovnik.

For those who followed my writing, you know I kept up a pretty good pace. My routine was established part way through our time in Barcelona. I do well with structure. It was interesting to realize I needed to be firm with myself. After being off work for eight months, before we left Canada, I had been taking each day as it came without much planning. That did not work so well. Not only did I create a publishing schedule for my writing and my videos, I undertook knitting projects along the way. I even managed to complete about 30,000 words of a travel planning book. Stay-tuned for more about that!

More than any of the sights, sounds, smells or tastes, better than meeting loads of amazing people, I learned to dance with my fear. I had no choice. When things were uncomfortable or I had to make a big decision, I had to make friends with uncertainty, which is not my natural state. This happened slowly. With each new challenge, I had to dig deep and brain storm the best solution. Then I would go into research mode. Finally, I could make a decision or take a step with the information I had at hand. This turned out to be a gift which keeps on giving. Now I am better able to quickly put situations into perspective and not over react. Well, sometimes. I’ll never be perfect.

#creaspatreat – Join me in this creative journey. I am on a mission to start a global movement, focusing on the importance of creativity in our daily lives. Together, let us see where we can take this. I look forward to hearing from you! Please share your thoughts. Feel free to send an email to: Christine@dailycreatives.com

My creative year:
: : Developing, testing and enjoying a life I don’t need a vacation from while working in an office and commuting on public transit! 
: : This is where my ideas for creaspatreat will come to life. Don’t miss any of it by joining us!
: : Check out new projects on my youtube channel called creative wandering. #dailycreatives

Published books:
: : “Fruitless at 40: Rediscovering My Creative Power

Daily Creatives Resources:
: : Travel changes a person
: : Consumer anarchy and the Buyerarchy of needs
: : Teach women, invest in a community
: : Crea.spa.treat. what do you think it means?
: : Living in stress, moving to relaxation, looking for ikigai

Would you like a free download of….
: : The first chapter from Fruitless at 40 and
: : My tried and true packing list, developed from long-term, around the world travel?
: : Join us!

Christine Westermark

I am a world traveller, lucky enough to have a loving family who support my dreams to learn, create and give back by designing creative content which enables a lifestyle we don't need a vacation from.

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What was your favourite stop?

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