I created the “Travellers’ Tales” section to give my readers and other travellers an opportunity to talk about their travels. Today I would like to introduce you to Amanda, a travel blogger from Canada, currently based in Bolivia. She blogs at "Amanda Around the World ".
I would love to hear about your travels too. Go to “Travellers’ Tales” , fill in the quick questionnaire and email it to me with your blog links.
My name is Amanda, and I grew up in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada). I have always loved to travel. In the last few years, I’ve decided that I can used my passion for human rights and economic development to work with NGOs around the world. I am currently in Sucre, Bolivia working with a technical school. My project involves helping them to open a store to sell the products hand-crafted by the students. I love travelling by moving to a new country and then exploring nearby cities and countries from there. It’s so exciting to learn about new cultures and try new things no matter where you go.
I’ve been travelling with my family since I was a baby, including trips to the Southern US to visit family, trips to the Caribbean on school holidays, and summer vacations at our cottage in Nova Scotia (eastern Canada). However, my first real time travelling solo happened when I was 15. I signed up to be a junior counsellor at an international camp with an organization called CISV (Children’s International Summer Villages), which focuses on fostering international relationships to create a sense of community and cultural understanding. Surprisingly, I was accepted, even though I was the “new girl” and competing with others who had been in the organization for years. I was over the moon! My mom helped me pack, and dropped me off at the train station in Ottawa. I was on my own to take the bus to Montreal, a flight through Amsterdam to Oslo, and then a train on my own to the small town of Gjovik (where the camp was being held). It was my first time having to repack my bag in an airport line (because I was never good at packing light), and the first time on my own in a country where the signs are not in English. Guess what? I did it! And I’ve been doing it ever since. Many people wouldn’t let their children travel so far on their own at such a young age, but it really helped me grow and learn as a person.
I am currently living in Sucre, Bolivia, which I guess would be considered as a “holiday’ by some but is actually my home for the year. We try to take weekend getaways to other Bolivian cities like La Paz, Potosi, and Tarija. My last official vacation was to Colombia (Medellin, Cartagena, and Bogota) to see my family for Christmas. We got to see beautiful old building, eat delicious food, enjoy stunning views over the city from a cable car, and check out the amazing street art - I really enjoyed it!
My favourite thing about Bolivia is how different each region is. For example, Sucre is known for its colonial, white-washed buildings (it’s a UNESCO world heritage site). La Paz is known for mountain biking down the most dangerous place in the world, Death Road. Tarija is wine-country, and makes some great vintages that are sold all around the region. Santa Cruz has a tropical climate and it’s possible to see things like monkeys and jaguars in the forests nearby. Potosi is located 4,000 metres above sea level, and hosts a wonderful mine tour and mint where over 50% of the world’s silver came from in the 1700s. The Salar de Uyuni is one of the most popular places for Bolivian tourism because of the immense stretches of dessert, the coloured lakes with flamingos, and the salt hotel. I love that living in a new country lets me go see all these wonderful places on weekends and holidays without spending thousands of dollars for plane tickets.
I think my best holiday ever was in Thailand. It’s a great location, but that wasn’t the reason it was so wonderful. I had been living in Bangladesh for four months, and was moving to Nepal for the next three months. I went to Thailand for two weeks over Christmas, and my boyfriend from Canada was able to meet me there. We loved seeing all the temples, seeing the elephants, and relaxing on the beach. I was also able to indulge in a little luxury of hotels with pools and yummy food before going back to working in a country with limited access to services and luxuries.
I think my favourite travel destination is Europe, specifically Italy and Greece. I love the combination of history, food, and beaches that you can find in those countries. It’s amazing to be able to go see a building that is thousands of years old, hike a dormant volcano, eat some gelato, enjoy a drink in a public square, and relax on a beach – all in one weekend! My last European road trip was in university with two of my girlfriends. We took a month-long design course all over Italy, and then explored Greece, Spain, France, Switzerland, and England as well. Compared to Canada, each European country is so small that you can easily travel for a few weeks and get to see so much diversity.
I’m a total beach girl so I love the Greek Islands. The best part is that each island has a different vibe. No matter if you like to party, if you want to relax on the beach, if you’re a big hiker and nature lover, or if you want to see some ruins from historical civilizations, you’ll find an island for you!
I love all my travelling companions to be honest. I’ve travelled to Mexico and Jamaica with my family, through South America and Thailand with my boyfriend, through Europe and the US with my girlfriends, around California with my mom, and through Australia with strangers (or just friends I hadn’t met yet!). I loved all of these adventures for different reasons. I guess the one characteristic that makes the best travel partner for me is planning and reliability. There’s nothing worse than planning with someone who just might not show up. I also hate spending all my time in a location just asking about tickets and what there is to do in town. Some people think planning and organization are boring and rigid, but I find that it allows me to fit in more fun activities so I’m not spending my whole vacation just trying to figure out what to do.
I’ve only been to South Africa once, on a conference in Johannesburg. I really loved the city, and felt it was very “European” with outdoor cafes, big shopping malls, and international food (which was very different to Ghana, where I was living at the time). The highlights of my trip include learning about the human rights history in Soweto, seeing the “Big 5” on a safari, and visiting the Apartheid museum. Although some of these events are not “fun” in a traditional sense, I loved learning about the history. It was incredibly sad, but I’m a big fan of learning about a culture instead of just ignoring the past.
I absolutely hate when people say “Don’t go to this city/country – everything there is awful!”. I think it’s really unfair because almost any country has something to offer. Whether it’s great weather, history, modern luxuries, or different animals, I have never visited a country where I hated everything. However, the one place that I had trouble with was Bangladesh. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a beautiful country and I’m so glad I went. The problem was security concerns. Not mine, but my organization’s. I felt safe on the streets, learning how to take the local buses. However, my organization wouldn’t allow me to venture out on my own and take trips to see the interesting cultural aspects of the country. I have high hopes in future years that the country can get safer and encourage more tourism. There are so many beautiful things to see! Fortunately, I was able to visit the mangrove forests in the south of the country by river boat, and see the beautiful weaving performed by the women in rural areas. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to visit the lush, green tea gardens or the surfing girls in the western regions. I think that you need to change your expectations when travelling to a developing country. Due to a lack of infrastructure, it’s better to leave extra time for travel between activities to ensure it’s actually possible to see what you want to see.
I’m a total “girl guide/boy scout” – always prepared for anything! I’m really bad at packing light and always bring too much stuff! This means that you can always rely on me for a band aid, a snack, or even an umbrella in a pinch. Since I travel to developing countries where power is often an issue, the thing I use every day is a portable, back-up charger for all my electronics – super useful to have. Another thing I ALWAYS have is a ton of snacks. I’m totally addicted to snacking, and always worry I’ll run out of food or water on a journey. If you ever took a weekend trip with me you would be well supplied with crackers, granola bars, candies, and juice for the entire time! My sister even brought me a suitcase of snacks over Christmas to re-stock my stash of Canadian treats for my second 6 months in Bolivia!
Be flexible! Things will not go exactly as planned. Flights will be delayed due to weather, the museum you wanted to visit will be closed for a random holiday, and the restaurant you go to for dinner will be out of your favourite food. It’s okay to be sad or mad, but you need to get over it and not let it ruin your trip. Come up with a plan B. Understand that you can’t do everything in a city anyway. Take it as an opportunity to try something new. For example, when flying to Australia from Canada, I was supposed to have a 12-hour layover in LAX. It turned out there were some terrorist issues the week before I went, so I actually spent over 14 hours in the Toronto airport and missed my flight to Australia. That sucks, right? I cried, I was worried, but I got over it. I got on my computer in the airport to book a cheap airport hotel in LA. Once I arrived, I advised my tour operator in Australia, I rebooked my flight – I did what I needed to do to get there and have a fun journey. If you let unexpected problems upset you for the whole time you’re there, you’ll never have fun and it’ll ruin your whole time. If you’re flexible, you’ll find a way to make the most of a bad situation!
One place? Wow, I can’t decide! I don’t really have a “bucket list” per se. However, whenever I travel somewhere new and meet travellers, I’m always inspired to add another place to my list of future travel locations. My current list of places I want to visit includes Kenya, Brazil, central America, and Morocco.
You can find more out the places I’ve been (like Ghana, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Peru) and read about my travel adventures at Amanda Around The World. I have a passion for visiting “developing countries” that other tourists are not as familiar with. If you want to see what that type of life is like, you can check out my Instagram account to see new daily images of travel/expat life.
Thank you, Amanda , for sharing your fascinating travels and great advice with us!
I would love to hear about your travels too. Go to “Travellers’ Tales”, fill in the quick questionnaire and email it to me with your blog links.
Who will I feature next? I’ve got an exciting line-up ahead. Make sure you subscribe to the free newsletter so you don’t miss out on some exciting travel tales.
Things you must do in South Africa