if you ask me…

To travel is to take a journey into yourself.  ~danny kaye

If you ask me… is a collection of posts with insights and opinions on travel: the why of it all. Why travel long-term on some trips and short-term on others? Why pick one place instead of another? Why did the traveler cross the mine field? Why, why, why? For opinions on these vital questions, read on…

 

About Barbara-What's that?

Everyone who has ever packed a bag, tucked their passport in a safe pocket, and either flown, hiked, sailed, hopped a train or flagged down a passing horse cart has a viewpoint on travel. I have covered a lot of ground (and seas) in years of traveling and in the process, tracked down my own perspective on the why of travel. My views have adapted over time in response to my budget, age, the people and cultures I have visited and at times, to their reactions to me. Those are normal evolutions in the approach and thoughts of a traveler as they grow and flourish along the way. But the traveler’s philosophy also changes in reaction to searing heat and bone-crushing cold, discomfort, illness, border crossings, and land mines in your path (both literal and figurative ones). Often the bad bits make for great stories later. Sometimes it requires a fair amount of time to pass before a traveler can be objective enough to laugh or reflect on it thoughtfully. 

if you ask me… Dispatches

 

click to read World Heritage Day

Whenever I plan a trip, one of the first things I do is check to see if there are any World Heritage sites where I’m going.

 

 

Click to read "You Never Forget Your First Time"

You never forget your first time, right? Especially when it’s a food first time.

 

 

click to read about disconnecting electronically while traveling

Travel makes us promises. If we are always connected electronically to what we left behind, we may not allow the delivery of those promises.

 

click to read The Traveler as Ambassador: Around the World in 32 Teeth

Do your homework in advance about the locale, the possible scams, the culture. As a traveler, you are an ambassador. Be yourself, be respectful, and represent the best of your own country.

 

click to read Travel Journals: the Mundane and the Moving

Browsing through old travel journals makes me up my journaling game for the next trip.

 

read The Art of Eavesdropping

Eavesdropping and random conversations with strangers are among a traveler’s favored activities. Find out what happened to Flossie, the brawlers on the Moroccan bus, and the Irish kid on the train to Cobh.

 

read How I Almost Became a Professional Wrestler

Take a kid on a trip: across town or across the country, and you’re opening up doors and giving them a peek behind curtains. Trips with kids are the stuff of dreams.

 

read Traveler's Guilt: 5 Ways to Shut That Down

Have you ever felt the spasms of traveler’s guilt about getting away from home? You’re in good company. Here is how to fight it.

 

click to read Space Cowboys & Frontierswomen

Would you take a trip to Mars? Taken the Oregon Trail west to resettle? Do you prefer a resort or the shenanigans of a flexible plan?

 

Read On Beverages and Bonding...

Travel bonds you to people who were strangers just a moment ago, and sometimes, so does vodka. Rivers of vodka.

 

Read Scratching Beneath the Surface of Your Hometown

Some people say that if you live in a place, you’ll barely scratch the surface of what’s to see and do. Try being a traveler in your town.

 

read Mile-High Class Warfare

In which an upgrade to first class teaches me a lesson or two.

 

read about Irish radio & Green Pajamas and Reinvention

Listening to Irish radio, thinking about why people travel and how it changes us.

 

read 7 Airports, 4 Countries...

Travel is not a vacation for me. It’s a vocation. Like a mission, only without guns or religion.


Photography Class: Failure is an Option

Photography Class Failure

I lean toward the lethargic, work-wise. I’m not alone. There are others just like me, floating along on the stream of life only to discover (what, again?!) a chunk of time has passed with few of our vague ambitions achieved. But not this year. My plan this year was to turn the heat on myself, to make goals and get stuff done. Write better, …

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Traveler’s Guide to Dining in Cuba

Guide to Dining in Cuba

Because I lack self-control, I know long before my flight lands that over-indulging in food and beverages will be a highlight of the trip. Any trip. I plan for it. First thing, I do an online search: what to eat and drink in (insert destination here). Next, my pre-trip language studies focus on …

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Horse Riding and Travel: 5 Reasons to Ride

Horse Riding and Travel: 5 Reasons

Steel horseshoes struck 500-year-old cobblestones, echoing off brick walls of the homes and shops lining Callejón del Aguacate. Astride Frina, I tried out just-learned Spanish commands for horse riding and hoped she understood. I greeted children darting past on their way to school and the man peddling home-made hooch from his bicycle …

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World Heritage Day: Celebrate the Sites

click to read World Heritage Day

Did you know that April 18 is World Heritage Day? Well, I didn’t either until recently; a shame because I’ve been a grateful beneficiary of the fantastic World Heritage Program throughout my travels. What is the World Heritage Program? The UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) World Heritage program …

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Sick on a Plane and Stuck in the Middle Seat

Moments before boarding the plane for the last leg heading home, I felt that queasy belly badness that lets you know that food poisoning is taking over your body and you’re going to be sick on a plane. My flight was about to take me to one of Dante’s 9 circles of hell. Circle number 3, …

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You Never Forget Your First Time: Let’s Get it On

Click to read "You Never Forget Your First Time"

You never forget your first time. Furtive and fumbling, painful or sometimes (should we even admit this?) disappointing, that experience gets seared on your brain like grill marks on a prime steak. The memory is absorbed by every cell in the body and replayed throughout your lifetime just when you …

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Disconnecting to Accept the Promises of Travel

Travel Journal 2015, page 1

With a plane ticket and a smart phone, you can take the family and all of your friends along on pretty much any trip. Selfies and food photos, along with a wifi connection is all you need. I struggle with this constant connection while traveling. Sure, it’s great fun to share …

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The Traveler as Ambassador: Around the World in 32 Teeth

©BGabriel, 2003 stealjustoneday.com

My new dentist, Dr. Patel, took a trip to several of the world’s countries last week while examining my teeth. It went like this: Dentist: Hmmm. (Tapping a tooth.) Me: Cartagena, Colombia. Dentist: Excuse me? Me: That tooth. I had it filled in Cartagena. Dentist: Ah yes. Perilous country. And …

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Travel Journals: the Mundane and the Moving

©BGabriel,1992 stealjustoneday.com

Brian and I have recently considered drawing up our wills. So far, we mostly talk about it over rum and tonics with a healthy squeeze of lime, or a bracing prickly pear margarita. You’d think it would be an easy process. We don’t have kids, we’re not bazillionaires, we don’t have …

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The Art of Eavesdropping: What Happened to Flossie and Other Misadventures

©BGabriel, 2015 stealjustoneday.com

“Flossie died playing cards.” Like any good snoop and all-around Nosy Parker, my ears perked up as the unseen woman in the booth behind me spoke. Eavesdropping doesn’t get much better than this. I heard indistinct mumbling. Damn it, speak up! I silently urged her lunch partner, as my head …

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How I Almost Became a Professional Wrestler (and Other Near-Careers)

When I was 5 years old, I decided to become a wrestler. The All-Star kind, not the Olympic sort. My future lay within the confines of a black and white television, where the inhabitants sported thigh-hugging tights, sequins as blinding as flashbulbs, lace-up leather boots, and mullets. I had a …

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Travelers Guilt: 5 Ways to Shut That Whole Thing Down

©BGabriel, 2013 stealjustoneday.com

I blame Pliny the Elder. For the whole ‘home is where the heart is’ claptrap. For providing the ammunition used to torment travelers with travelers guilt. Whether you are a long-term, ‘round the world, endless adventure sort of traveler or someone who barely manages to stockpile two weeks of vacation …

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Space Cowboys and Frontierswomen

Space Cowboys & Frontierswomen

If you grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, you are forgiven for thinking that we would all be living in space ships by now, eating vitamin pills instead of actual food, and communicating using only our minds. We had it on good authority (after-school television) that each home would have …

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On Beverages and Bonding: Art, Chemistry and the Human Connection

Being a traveler can be isolating. Sure, you’re out there on the road, interacting with local people in fascinating places around the world, seeing the stuff of a Barcalounger’s travel dreams. You smile at each stranger you encounter, seeking connection. If you are lucky, or pushy maybe, you might even …

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Mile-High Class Warfare

Not long ago, I was accidentally seated in First Class on a flight from Portland to Houston. Accidentally, because there were no seats available back in steerage when I booked the flight, courtesy of my husband’s frequent-flyer work miles. The news of my good fortune came via my check-in 24 hours …

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Green Pajamas and Reinvention Through Travel

At camp in Sale,, planning route south

In a Dispatch a while ago, I mentioned an Irish radio show I listened to one morning while driving from Ireland’s south coast up to Dublin. The show was about why people travel. Although it happened to be perfect timing for me to listen to the show, since I was trapped …

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7 Airports, 4 Countries, 1 Carry-on bag, and Weather Systems up the Wazoo

I had managed to negotiate another Portland, Oregon winter without pepper-spraying anyone, which makes me a winner in practically anybody’s book. May was sliding cheeks first into June, the sun finally on a first-name basis with the earth and my adopted city was bursting with blooms and allergens and more …

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