Posted by: Waheeda Harris | February 7, 2015

Travel soundbite – Graeme Sparks

Foreign lands never yield their secrets to a traveller. The best they offer are tantalising snippets, just enough to inflame the imagination. The secrets they do reveal are your own – the ones you have kept from yourself. And this is reason enough to travel, to leave home.

~ Graeme Sparks

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | February 6, 2015

Fri foto – snow snow snow!

Some of my favourite photos of snow:

Toronto - fresh snow

Toronto - snowy street

 

Ontario - Muskoka snow tracks

Niagara Falls winter

Colorado - Vail: Beaver Creek

Colorado - Aspen skis

Colorado - Buttermilk Mountain, Aspen

 

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | February 5, 2015

Throwback Thursday – Carnaval de Quebec

Bonhomme CarnivalSeveral Februarys ago, I brought all my layers and headed to the oldest walled city of North America: Quebec City, to celebrate the annual Carnaval de Quebec.

I met Bonhomme Carnaval, I wandered around in the snow and cold, I was the coldest I had ever been, and realized I had had the most fun ever outdoors in the winter.

The festival offers many distractions – wandering the ice palace and village of Bonhomme Carnaval, enjoying sweet and spiked treats to survive the cold and endless activities from sledding and dog races to zip lining and ice carving competitions.

Quebec City - dogsledding at carnivalMy favourite was seeing the dog races – people crowded around the streets of the race course and the dogs were excited to run. I admit it wasn’t something I had initially thought I would enjoy but I did.

Another reason to not prejudge a situation. I’ve travelled with fellow writers who have such a decided view of the world, that it often prevents them from seeing or enjoying. Isn’t it the best feeling when something surprises you while on the road?

My preference is still to avoid winter and think of it from a distant. Quebec City made winter feel fun – and reminded me how travel can change your perspective – even if just for a few days.

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | February 4, 2015

The local girl – thank you British Columbia

Whistler - Valley trail My parents didn’t grow up with winter that meant snow, ice and extreme cold. Their view of winter was rain and the occasional time it would drop below 15C. But immigrating to Canada changed them and had me dealing with winter every year.

I owe a lot to my parents – as an only child, I know that my life has been made much easier thanks to my parents, but I owe my winter smarts to my home province: British Columbia.

My view of winter was gentle snowfalls, sunshine and lots of opportunities to learn winter sports. I learned to ski downhill and cross country, to skate, to snowshoe and to krazy karpet like the best of them at school.

We would make trails in the school fields, have an ice rink created on outdoor ball court and have a designated hill to bring our karpets, saucers and toboggans. We made forts and threw snowballs and made snow angels and hoped to escape having our faces washed with snow before the bell went to signal the end of recess or lunch.

I learned to shovel and to use sand on the pathways and driveway, and only use salt where absolutely necessary. I also knew that layers was the key to being outside – and that if I kept moving I would withstand the cold a lot better.

My hometown taught me how to handle winter – pushing me get those felt liners for my boots and hardwarmers for my mittens and to deal with bad hair days and forever remembering the damp scent of wool and sweatshirts and polar fleece. I still dislike turtlenecks (and refuse to wear them) although they were a key to winter style back in the day for me.

Living in a much bigger city, winter isn’t the same. People are mad at the weather, the snow turns to dirty slush and the joy of playing with snow is pushed aside. But whenever I see a large patch of untouched snow, I smile, remembering my friends and I and how we would jump and run and play in the snow.

 

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | February 3, 2015

The local girl: fish out of water

Colorado - riding with a cowboyWhen I started taking assignments as travel writer I was eager to challenge myself to anything – give me an opportunity, I was willing to take it. I wanted to prove I could handle anything.

But I soon began to realize that there were things I couldn’t do and that I needed to be honest with myself – some places just didn’t make sense for me.

I took an assignment to check out a dude ranch in Colorado – part of a summer escape story to the wilds of this western state. The first part of my trip was to spend a couple of days at a dude ranch and I figured out pretty quickly this was going to be difficult and uncomfortable.

The fellow guests were all couples who had regularly come to the ranch each year. It was their yearly dose of ranch life. They had nicknames used when on the ranch and adopted personas like an old cowboy movie. It was their home away from home every summer.

Their devotion to the ranch life was admirable but their curiosity about me was uncomfortable. One couple asked many questions, unsure of my role as a writer, wondering why I was there and what I would write about them.

I was treated like the stereotypical reporter, as if I was looking to dig up dirt and expose the ranch for its weaknesses and problems. Their treatment of me pushed me away from learning and set up barriers to my interviewing the ranch staff. I was an outsider, a city slicker who couldn’t possibly understand their world.

Yet, I had grown up in cattle ranching country in British Columbia, going to school with many ranch kids and got to know many of their families. I knew what the  ranch life was like and how this ranch, like so many, had to transform into a vacation spot to preserve the ranch.

I realized my ability to learn wasn’t just blocked by the fellow patrons but also by the staff. No one wanted me to be there or experience the ranch. I was relieved when I left and I knew that I had to learn quickly what would work for me – and even though I didn’t love the experience, I couldn’t write a negative story.

A fellow writer I met a few months later was kind enough to offer a lot of advice, including the need to specialize and to not cover everything. In those words, he made me realize that the places I could relate to – even if I had never been to – were the best places for me and my stories.

How to figure out what places those are? And how to say no when an assignment is offered? Now that’s the challenge.

 

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | February 2, 2015

Snow day

Quebec - Tremblant snowshoeing trailDo you remember snow days when you were a kid? I certainly don’t – mainly because there weren’t any.

I grew up with plenty of snow in the winter – and snow was always a good thing – it meant I could use my krazy karpet, make snow angels, toss snowballs and after the snow plow came along, it meant I could make a fort in the snow pile.

But getting a day off because of snow? Nope that didn’t happen for me. Along with everyone else, I put on my snowsuit and slowly waded my way through the snow.

My Dad, a retired elementary teacher, told me that the one scent he never liked was the wet wool from all the kids mittens drying on the heat register in the classroom. But he also said that in all his years teaching, he never remembers having a snow day.

Somehow we managed to get to school, learn, play outside at recess and lunch and make it home after school when it snowed. But let’s be clear – in the interior of BC  there rarely would be a storm – it was just snow – falling from the sky on a regular basis from the end of November to the beginning of March.

I was reminded how much had changed when I read that my hometown got over 40 cm of snow in a short period, and had to call a snow day since it came down so fast and quick.

Now everything seems to be a storm and we get whipped up into a frenzy of trying to avoid it and complaining when it does happen in the big city. Guess what my friends – its winter, its Canada, it should snow!

And although I write many travel stories about escaping the clutches of winter – and avoiding snow – I can happily say that embracing winter and enjoying it makes it so much better. So get out there and enjoy the snow – before it turns brown (or yellow). The winter staycation – get outside!

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | January 31, 2015

Travel soundbite – Tahir Shah

In moments of great uncertainty on my travels, I have always felt that something is protecting me, that I will come to no harm.

~Tahir Shah

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | January 30, 2015

Friday Foto – a snowy morning in Aspen, Colorado

One of my favourite things – waking up in a new place. I arrived at night in Aspen, and the next morning this is what I saw when I woke up:
Colorado - Aspen snow

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | January 29, 2015

The Local Girl – the evolution of luggage

luggage - which bag is yours? I recently added a new accessory to my travel stash – a new carry-on suitcase. Although its rarely checked and most-often in my care, my last suitcase only managed to last 18 months.

I remember when luggage seemed to last a long time – like my vintage travel trunk. Can you imagine travelling with a suitcase that could contain clothing for a month? or longer? My trunk is a solid mass of brass and leather – and not easily moved without help.

As a child, my Mum had matching luggage – a set of three yellow hardcases that included a toiletry case with a mirror – an elegant oval shaped bag that was to me the epitome of being a lady. I always wanted to carry the bag, examine its contents and hoped that I would inherit the bag one day.

Ironic to me that although the style has gone out favour for travel, that toiletry case is often a coveted item to discover in a vintage shop and used by many as storage at home. How many times have you seen a Pinterest pin on what to do with vintage suitcases?

And hardcases have returned – thanks to new lightweight materials and those who fear theft, they’re now a regular for travellers again. But the majority of us still go with soft-sided luggage, that we can stuff as much as possible with our items, into overhead compartments and car trunks.

Oh those fabulous yellow suitcases – none of them had wheels. I remember the first wheeled suitcase we had, with two tiny wheels that didn’t seem stable at all and with a handle that was better served as decoration than actually helping to move the suitcase quickly.

Fast forward to the 21st century where I always stare at those who don’t have luggage with wheels – why would you want to carry it? When I spot old luggage, I marvel that it exists and hope the traveller will be able to survive the experience without the speed-inducing four wheels of contemporary suitcases.

So now I have returned to hard-sided luggage, with its polycarbonite exterior that is impervious to weather and prying eyes. And yet I still dream of a trunk that would need two grown men to carry or that little yellow case, just for my liquids and gels.

 

 

Posted by: Waheeda Harris | January 28, 2015

The Local Girl – my first travel memory

Travel memories

Travel memories

What’s your first travel memory?

For me its a flight – a return to South Africa with my parents when I was five years old. I don’t remember the preparations or the first flight – which was from Vancouver to London, England, but I always remember the next flight.

We flew to Switzerland, to spend a few days in Zurich before heading to South Africa. I always remember arriving in the airport, with my white purse with a red heart as my travel accessory. This was the 1970s, and even though so many things were laid-back, I remember being searched. The very kind lady asked me to open my purse, asked me about what was inside and then patted me down, which led to me laughing since I was ticklish.

I remember we didn’t have any luggage, and that my parents had to sleep without pajamas, which I found funny. But soon our luggage was there and we explored Zurich and lucky for me, I got my first watch.

And my next memory is being on the flight to South Africa, a lengthy flight down the coast of Africa. Because we flew South African Airways, and because of apartheid, we were not allowed to stop anywhere – so it was a very long flight. I’ve always wondered if that’s what prepared me for the long flights I do now.

I have a vague recollection of being sick, and being allowed to lie down on an open stretch of three seats, and having the flight attendant tuck a blanket around me. And then we were there, with so many family members waiting for us, excited for our arrival.

A few weeks ago when I arrived in Cairo, I noticed the crowds of people standing outside the airport waiting for friends or family. It reminded me of that moment so many years ago when I arrived in Cape Town. And I realized how much I wished there was an excited group of people at the airport every time I arrived.

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