I am not a linguist, so when people find out that I am conversant in five foreign languages (French, Estonian, Czech, Russian, and Spanish) – most of which I’ve picked up on the fly instead of through formal study – they often ask me how I do it.
I don’t have a “get rich quick” secret for learning how to speak a new language. It can be challenging, humbling, and frustrating. So why do it?
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Before we backpacked around Europe in 2000, I got my hands on a used copy of Rick Steves’ “Europe Through the Back Door.” (If you are inclined to do so, don’t hold it against me. I was young and impressionable; it was the only English language travel book available.)
Estonia’s capital city, Tallinn, was described as having “a frosted cake feel.” Sure, the old town is small, cute, medieval and full of cobblestones, but Tallinn is more than just a pretty dessert.
But maybe I’m biased. Continue Reading »
So their eyes are growing hazy ‘cos they wanna turn it on, so their minds are soft and lazy. Well, hey, give ‘em what they want.
– Natalie Merchant (10,000 Maniacs) in “Candy Everybody Wants”
Have you ever come across a photo in a magazine or on another website and thought, “Hey, that’s my photo!”?
We were poking around BBC Travel the other day and came across an article about a tango festival in Argentina. I looked at the lead photo and thought, “Hey, that’s our photo!!”
Ha! That’s everyone’s photo. Continue Reading »
When I think about my first contact with the concept of Argentine cuisine, I recall a discussion twelve years ago with an unassuming foodie friend in San Francisco.
“I bet the food in Argentina is great!” I offered with blind optimism as visions of gauchos stepping to a tango beat danced in my head. Argentina seemed so damn far away; therefore the food must be exotic and varied.
My food-wise friend brushed off my enthusiasm without skipping a beat, “Yeah, if the only thing you like is steak and wine.”
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Since our around-the-world journey began in December 2006, we have geotagged virtually all our photos so we can display a map with each one in our travel photo gallery. We do this for our readers; we also do it for ourselves as a step-by-step diary and reminder of where we’ve been.
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I recently shared our stories of Chandigarh with a group of new friends over a beer and was shocked to find someone who not only knew of Chandigarh but also asked me what I thought about the “Rock Garden.”
As cool as the Nek Chand Rock Garden is, the story of its construction and evolution in the unlikely city of Chandigarh is even cooler. Continue Reading »
In a future incarnation, we will run world tours that seek to deliver extraordinary travel experiences through encounters with ordinary people. And when we do, a road trip in Northwest Argentina will be one of our first stops in South America.
After stumbling upon a dazzling gaucho festival on the first day of a week-long road trip, we figured our travel karma would have run out. Instead, our journey across the valleys outside of Salta featured interactions with engaging people open to odd encounters.
Here’s a taste. Continue Reading »
Last week my grandmother died. She lived a long, full life to the age of 92 and she died peacefully. The news was not surprising, but it arrived earlier than I had expected. When it finally began to sink in, I cried. Then I wrote a few things in order to unpack and process my feelings – about saying goodbye to loved ones, enjoying them while they are alive, and trying to prepare for something most people don’t like to discuss: death.
Note: This is a personal story. But at the end, there’s some practical advice regarding travel, medical directives and handling the subject of death. Continue Reading »
The Incan ruins of Machu Picchu outside Cusco, Peru grab the lion’s share of that country’s travel press. But before the Incas stormed through this region in the 15th century, there were actually some other clever people living in Peru. They built an impressive city and lived in circular houses on a mountaintop in the north, near the town of Chachapoyas (meaning “People of the Clouds”).
A shot of the ruins of Kuelap, the citadel they built in those clouds, can be seen in the panorama below.
We tend to carry a healthy dose of skepticism with us when visiting ruins, but this particular pile of rocks — and its stories — exceeded our expectations. Continue Reading »
The key to eating grilled mutton is to chew and swallow it before the fat cools and congeals on the roof of your mouth.
— Our guerrilla eating tip for Central Asia.
“You guys seem to have only good things to say about your experiences, especially the food. Have you ever had a bad meal? Something disappointing, gross, or even repulsive?”
You bet. Continue Reading »