Only a 2-hour train ride from Brussels, Ghent is the largest Flemish city in Belgium with a surprising younger population flocking there, hipsters maybe disillusioned with the urban decay of Antwerp and Brussels.
It’s place that hugs a cosmopolitan feel with it’s historical past. During the Middle Ages, it was once the most powerful and richest cities in Europe.
A few friends urged me to visit Bruges, a stunning example of a well preserved medieval provincial town but word on the street is Ghent offers the same in a less contrived atmosphere.
I sadly only spent an afternoon there peeping around the castle, but enough to ask again, what about Ghent?
I once read a TripAdvisor review about Venice. It read, “There’s nothing to do in Venice, except walk around.”
This tourist was missing the point entirely. That is Venice, utterly and to it’s core. A breathing, organic, museum city.
It’s the kind of place that shouldn’t have even existed when you break down how difficult it is to build on a lagoon and interconnect 118 small islands. Like Amsterdam, many buildings were erected on wooden pylons which has its own challenges with rising water and rotting wood.
“Venice is sinking” has been a term tossed around readily by the media, due to the constant shift of the sediments that many buildings sit on and that water I mentioned sadly keeps rising.
So to urgently tell you to see Venice before it floats off to the Po River is not far from the mark.
I compel you to stop fighting what some tourists call boredom or tourist traps and simply accept Venice for what it is. A fascinating, otherworldly experience.
I kept imagining ancient times of men flourished in dress and flamboyancy, women asserting their sexuality and freedom in subtle and coquettish ways — my head swimming with bawdy festivals and lavishly adorned Venetian masks.
You’re going to hurl shards of glass and bitchy looks at me. For the longest time, I had an aversion to visiting Italy. There, I admitted it.
I’d find myself at the Milano train station, with the full intention to see Florence or Venice but then I’d freeze.
A faint voice originated from the arched ceilings of glass and light, carrying down, and then sonically landing in my ear. “Don’t go.”
It just never felt right at the time, so I’d book a train ticket anywhere else instead. Munich. Paris. Madrid.
It was unfair to Italy wasn’t it? It’s not Italy’s fault.
Once I finally got there a friend sternly reminded me of something important: 80% of the world’s art is in Italy.
I think Italy has forgiven me, so it’s my mission to do it justice. Thus, I’ll give you a teaser of my time there, with more to come!
“Costa Ricans know what they have,” declared my seat mate on our Nature Air flight.
Corcovado National Park trailed behind us as the small 15 seat plane dipped suddenly and levelled off. Golfo Dulce lay beneath us, a crystalline body of water that could hypnotize any creature who dared stare in its depths.
The tiny plane was trying to maneuver a tight airstrip and avoid the trees that cut close if a calculation was slightly off.
I prayed a little; the first time I had ever done such a thing on a flight. During the 50 minute plane journey, my seat mate introduced himself as John Lewis, one of the eco-resort founders of the Osa Peninsula, some 25 years ago.
This was a new discovery. I had no idea that fleas could live between sheets of plastic. Don’t they thrive on animal hosts, chew on the flesh of humans, but this?
Oh, how life throws in surprises.
Before we address fleas, let’s return to the beginning.
I’m a single female traveler. I had two beautiful cats, one passed away, the other one I tearfully let go to live on an urban farm in exchange for this rich, exciting thing called travel. I’ve also cared for numerous dogs in my time.
I rented apartments for years (also co-owned a condo with my sister and brother, though they lived here, I didn’t). I can clean, moderately cook and maintain a household. This is beginning to sound like my dating profile, but anyway…
Now that I live this unusual, but sexy existence (have to keep up that illusion) I am always hunting for ways to travel creatively.
Everybody needs to start somewhere. I was no different than you. You are no different than me.
Over a year ago Juno Kim of Runaway Juno asked me a question. Would you like to be a speaker at the first Asian Women’s Empowerment conference?
Gulp. My teachers had mercy on me during school presentations and ended them early after I sputtered and stuttered my way into another teasing session at recess.
But I accepted Juno, because I realized that my insecurities didn’t matter, what counted was being part of a movement to help others like me.
Who is that me? An Asian woman. Through will, a miracle and faith I broke through the pressures that were put upon me and forged a life, though not perfect, is the one I want.
And so I was ecstatic to give back to other Asian women in transition.