These travel stories from alumni will give you serious wanderlust
Half-empty offices and heavy highway traffic can only mean one thing: many of us are in summer vacation mode. For our Alumni Answers series, we asked our alumni community to reminisce with us about family road trips, weekend getaways, and trekking the globe. If you aren’t able to travel this summer, reading these stories is the next best thing. Submissions have been edited for length and clarity.
During my student exchange program in Uppsala, Sweden, I was able to travel extensively in Eastern Europe, especially the Baltic countries. I contacted a host in Latvia through Couchsurfing named Laima. It turns out that she is a ceramic artist who strives to bring notions of stewardship, sustainability and social empowerment to her art practice. I had a great time chatting with her artist friends, touring Rundāle Palace, and learning about ceramics as well as Latvian country life. This experience fit perfectly into my exchange experience studying sustainable development.
~ Yuan Z. [MSc/16]
ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ASK
During the early 80s, Winnipeg experienced an influx of Polish refugees fleeing the imposition of martial law. Befriending a number of these newcomers inspired me to take the summer of 1983 to explore the country, staying with their families. Martial law was still in effect so travel was a bit risky, but I somehow managed to convince my parents I would be safe, and went off on a 10 week adventure. I toured my fill of baroque churches, grand castles and scenic country roads (often stuck behind slow-moving horse-drawn hay wagons – which now seem so picturesque, but were then the object of my impatience and ire), culminating in a four-week course at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.
One of the highlights came from my visit to Gdansk. A friend’s family shuttled me around to the Baltic beaches, the Castle of the Teutonic Order in Malbork, and St. Dominic’s Fair. At the end of my visit, my hosts asked if it was a success. Trying to be funny, I said that I didn’t end up meeting Lech Walesa, but that I did have a wonderful time. My hosts’ jaws dropped. “You wanted to meet Lech? I work a couple of departments over from him in the ship yards – if only I had known…” It was then I learned you never know what you can achieve unless you ask…
~ Steve Y. [BEd/85, BA/94]
OPEN DOOR OPPORTUNITY
While visiting Las Vegas last November, I went to see the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health. It’s a fantastical building designed by Frank Gehry and worth seeing. Also, brain health is a new interest for me, having had brain surgery myself six months before. The most interesting part of the building, the Activity Center, is normally closed to visitors, but the building manager happened to be passing and offered to let me in. I got a personalized tour and his perspective on the unique challenges of the building. It was one of those encounters that make a trip special – the generosity of strangers in moments you could never plan or anticipate.
~ Naomi M.
EARLY MORNING DELIGHT
While waiting for a ferry at sunrise from the North Island to the South Island (New Zealand), a simple “good morning” and unspoken, mutual appreciation of nature’s beauty with an older Maori man, evolved into a warm, profound soul-to-soul exchange.
~ Pam H. [BA(IS)/14]
OFF THE GRID, ON POINT
Mangaia in the Cook Islands is so off the tourist map, you find none of the trappings of modern tourism. Stay at Ara Moana Bungalows (one of two accommodations on the Island), take the cave tour with Tere, and get ready for an incredible local experience. We got an “Ei” (flower necklace) and traveled around in the back of a pick-up truck with coral roads, palm trees and exotic tropical flowers.
Pack a couple bottles of wine from Rarotonga and enjoy them by moonlight at the “lookout”. Watch the lonely fisherman walk the reef swinging a flashlight to and fro in the blissful moonlight. Listen to the adults and children sing beautiful songs in the poetic Maori language, their drums upside down plastic pails. Say “hi” to Ruff, the Ara Moana dog who dutifully slept outside our front door every night. Tu and her sister Oko love a good chat, and if Jason is still there, thank him for the wonderful meals, especially the fried bread and roasted chicken (free range of course).
Yes, Mangaia is so “out there” that they may have to ration electricity, and your accommodation is the size of a garden shed; but no mind, a flashlight and a separate bungalow for luggage makes everything better. Where else will you find pristine beaches with barely twenty footprints over the past ten years, and coral that is broad and exploding with colour just a few feet from shore? This is the Garden of Eden.
~ Paul P. [BA(Hons)/91, ExEd/12]
Alumni Answers is our way of building community with our alumni by sharing memories, ideas, and opinions with one another. Every month, we pose a new question with an opportunity to learn, laugh, and ponder together.