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Tag Archives: A to Z Challenge

“G” is for Gifts and Souvenirs

I’m blogging A to Z in April! No, really. Check back daily, because you’re an optimist! And I am NOT so far behind that I won’t catch up.

“What did you bring me?” It follows on the heels of “Welcome Home!” more often than you’d think. But it’s not a sign of your loved ones’ greed; it’s simply their way of travelling the world vicariously through you. They want to know that the postcard message “wish you were here” was sincere – that you thought of your mother, kids, neighbours, etc, while you were away. And really, you did, right? At least once, for half a second?

Gifts from your travels are a way to share your discoveries and adventures with those around you. No matter where I’ve gotten to, it’s second nature to want to bring something home for the kids -and sometimes my mom, etc. I don’t spend a lot, but I do enjoy searching for things that they’ll like/use/appreciate. Even if it’s just a “My mom went to the Andes, and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” kind of thing. It doesn’t even have to be something place specific – I’ll often see something cute or different that you could probably get just about anywhere but I haven’t seen before. My last travel gift was actually an IKEA purchase (we don’t have an IKEA at home) I hauled home a tabletop greenhouse from Ottawa for my urban farmer husband so that he could start his herbs inside in February.

I think of gifts as the things I bring other people, and souvenirs as the things I buy for myself to commemorate my trip. Again, sometimes it’s just a keychain, but I do keep my eyes open for something different. The ceramic pig in my living room came from a darling little store called The Back Door in Kimberley B.C.  I loved that store, visiting several times during my visit out west, and the memory it provides always brings a smile to my face. And you should have seen the look on airport security’s face when they realized I had a “pig” in my carry-on.

The best, most different souvenir I have is technically contraband from the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. The year was 1985, and I was standing in line for It’s a Small World. The decorative ball atop the queue stanchion came off in my hand – so I put it in my camera bag. Yep, I’ve got a ball of lead from WDW. Can you imagine bringing that through security these days?

I encourage my kids to souvenir shop too, and offer them tips -don’t buy what you can buy at home, try for something a little different. They’ve gotten into the habit of bringing things home as gifts- I have a lovely scarf from Paris, and some funky jewellery from Cuba. Of course, as airline regulations change, and baggage charges climb, the gifts change a little. It’s always a good idea to think first – ok, you want to buy it, but do you want to carry it?

What are your favourite gifts and souvenirs from the places you’ve been?

“E” is for Electronics

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I’m blogging A to Z in April! Check back daily (except Sundays) for a new post!

I hinted at this with the “D” post yesterday, but have you noticed how our attraction to electronics has changed the traveling experience? The TV commercials make it all look so easy – just whip out your phone and snap a pic of the two of you in front of the Trevi Fountain. Edit and email this great video clip of you (or someone) whitewater rafting on the Colorado before your hair’s even dried.  Skype your conference call and no one will ever know you’re in a Tokyo hotel room instead of in your office in Duluth.

iPads, phones, laptops, cameras and even Kindles – yes, even Gameboys and portable DVD players –  are awesome tools and toys to have along with you for the trip. But it also translates into more stuff to carry and keep track of -and eventually it’s all going to have to be plugged in to something and recharged.

Is it any coincidence that the airlines started to charge for baggage right about the time our concept of travel neccessities started to change? In 1999, I could have done just fine with a carry-on only; now the gadgets and cords and chargers take up valuable space. On a recent overnight trip to Toronto, I realized that the number of cords in my bag outnumbered the pairs of clean socks! When we travel by car, we’ve even taken to designating a bag as the “electronics” bag, keeping all the cords and chargers in one place. MInd you, as someone who once shared the task of carrying a JVC Super 8 movie camera up Dunn’s River Falls in Jamaica, the toys themselves have gotten a lot lighter. It just seems like there’s so much more of them!

Hotel rooms aren’t exactly keeping up with progress either. Whereas we used to check in, dump our bags and reach for the remote, we now spend the first half hour locating all the outlets, so everything can be plugged in to recharge. And there are never enough outlets, or they’re in wildly inconvenient places.

What are your electronic must-brings when you travel? How do you deal with the plethora of cords and batteries while on the road?

“C” is for Camping. And Cottaging.

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I’m blogging every day in April (except Sundays) from A to Z! Be sure to check back daily for a new post.

Today’s topics are inextricably linked in our family. We’ve camped since the children were little; it’s an economical way to see a lot of different places, and most children far prefer having room to run as opposed to being cooped up in a hotel room. More recently, we’ve joined some family members at a cottage in Northern Ontario two years in a row. The cottage is so small and so rustic, it’s a lot like camping – in fact, we even sleep in the tent!

This little tent has seen a lot of places. When my husband first bought it, I wondered at the extravagance; the box said “sleeps 6” and there were only four of us then. It seemd huge! In fact, it’s officially a 2-room tent, with a removable “wall” in the middle. I think the wall’s been up once, and I don’t know what it sleeps 6 of, but it can’t be normal-sized people.  For the first few years, we’d set out four sleeping bags nice and neat, and wake up in the morning like a litter of puppies, all piled on top of one another. Later, the “big girls” got their own tent, and our tent was for the two of us and “the baby.” For the last two summers, the tent has housed the two of us and the dog – and it’s still crowded!

I also require a few comforts when I camp, such as an electrical hook-up, a Mr. Coffee, and a nice reading lamp inside the tent. Other than that, I’m pretty easy to please, I think.

The cottage, as I say, is rustic. Electricity, but no running water. The setting is beautiful though, right on the water near North Bay, nice and secluded. Our days are spent swimming, reading, paddling, reading, fishing. The best part is being surrounded by extended family, and gathering around the fire at night to talk and laugh.  At night, we crawl into our tent and fall asleep to the sounds of the night – no car horns, no sirens, and best of all no phones. It’s a welcome time-out from everyday life. 

One of the things I like best about camping and cottaging is that my husband’s so darn good at it. He knows exactly where to put the tent, exactly when and how to cook our meals, exactly how to start and keep the fire going.  All of these are things I could manage myself, I’m sure, but it’s much easier to sit back while he takes charge. I’m a bit of a control freak, and letting go at home doesn’t come half as easily – but when we’re away, I just don’t feel the same compulsion.

That little tent has lasted about 17 years now – turned out to be a good investment. Yet another example of the husband knowing exactly what he was doing.