We were tagged by Andrea at World Walk About to participate in the blogger relay going on now. It was started by the folks at Low Cost Holidays, in order to have travel bloggers write about their favorite travel memories and then tag someone to keep going. Kind of like a chain letter but for blogs. The longest chain wins fabulous prizes! We are excited to be part of Team Green, started by Erica at Over Yonderlust, a blog I quite enjoy! Since there are two of us, we decided to write about each of our favorite memories separately, and then about our favorite joint memory.
Rachel’s Favorite Travel Memory
During my time in New Zealand, I did a lot of cool things. Thinking back on these experiences makes me really happy that I did them. But one of the coolest things I did was live with a Kiwi family for a week, working on their Haflinger horse breeding farm through the WWOOFing program. WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) is a very cool organization where you sign up for a reasonable yearly fee (in New Zealand, it’s $40, although now you have to pay extra for the printed book when it was free in my day) and gain access to a list of hosts to work for in exchange for room and board. Every WWOOFing experience is different, but for most you are working 6-8 hours a day, largely outdoor farm-related labor.
I turned up in Christchurch on the bus from Dunedin and was met by my host, a German woman who now lives in New Zealand and runs a horse breeding farm. Often when I meet people, I’m rather quiet, and since this was a new experience for me I was a bit nervous and didn’t talk much.
We got to the farm and my host showed me my room, which was in the barn. Her daughter had just had some dental surgery so I sat and watched some Disney movies with her and we had dinner.
Over the course of the week, I learned the routine of the farm (my tasks were largely feeding animals and mucking out fields and stalls) and got to know my host family better. They were so welcoming and kind to me. I rode with the daughter on my second day there, but after that it rained every day. This shortened my work days but also meant I couldn’t ride or do much outside.
I really felt part of this German-Kiwi family by the end of the week. They commented that I was finally comfortable with them and now I was leaving, which was true. I ate their delicious home-cooked meals, and was serenaded with Flight of the Conchords songs by their university-aged son when he visited for a day. I shared their culture and their beautiful home and came away from the experience realizing that to really know a country you must know some local people.
I highly recommend WWOOFing to anyone who has the opportunity.
Jeff’s Favorite Travel Memory
In the Spring of 2008 I was living in Japan and through a series of fortunate events I got the opportunity to tour the private art collection of a distinguished Japanese gentleman. To protect his identity, let’s call him Mr. Sekai. Never in my life have I had an experience where the word unbelievable has been so literally apt a description.
Upon my arrival I was greeted by Mr. Sekai’s assistant and after a brief wait, where I was served a steaming cup of green tea, Mr. Sekai himself. He immediately came across as a well spoken and erudite man and it soon became apparent that he wasn’t above to bit of name dropping. It felt extremely generous for him to take time out of socializing with Nobel winners and world leaders to spend a couple hours showing off his collection to a poor college student.
And what a collection it was. His special interest was in East Asian antiquities and I have never seen a better assemblage in any museum. There were 4000 year old vessels from the beginning of Chinese bronze making. There was a Buddha representation made by the last surviving practitioner of a golden thread embroidery technique (Apparently the Japanese government was dying to get their hands on it so they could designate it a national treasure.) There was an entire room of ancient Liangzhu jade. Empresses’ crowns, one of a kind statues, secret discoveries that academics would die just to find out; all these and more were in abundance. Objects which he didn’t encourage me to touch myself were still unobstructed from my eyes by glass or guards. It was a museum-like experience that was personalized in a way that I never imagined possible.
And somehow, even in a room of a hundred wonders, equally incredible was Mr. Sekai himself. As a polyglot, his English vocabulary would make many a native speaker jealous. He regaled me with tales of the incredible history of his objects. He had stories of his own humble beginnings in the world of collecting yet always caused more questions than he answered. He shed light on the inner workings of the elite and insular art collecting world. He gave intelligent and opinionated discourse on religion, politics, science, and anything else that crossed his mind; often mentioning his personal acquaintance with the associated (and famous) persons of interest.
I left that day feeling as if I had experienced something precious. Something unique. I wanted to believe everything, but at the same it felt in-credible, un-believable. Could such a thing truly exist? Could it truly have happened to me? I will remember it for the rest of my life.
Our Favorite Travel Memory Together
We tried not to write about our time baking bread in a Costa Rican village again, but we just can’t help it. It’s undeniably our favorite travel memory. So if you haven’t heard about it before, here’s the story:
We visited our friend in the Peace Corps. He lived in a tiny village in pineapple country. While we were there he took us to an even smaller village where we were enlisted to help in bread-baking day. It was an incredible cultural experience, and we can never forget it.
During the same visit to a small Costa Rican village, we were also shown around by a former park ranger. We secured the use of some horses, and this gentleman took us around showing us various plants in the area. We saw an award-winning yellow almond tree. He cut down various fruits for us to sample – guava and ice cream bean, most notably. In the forest, he showed us a vine that was full of potable water, and cut it open so we could try it for ourselves. We watched as he attempted to rope a frantic bull charging in our direction, with no success.
Truly, we saw a side of Costa Rica that few if any visitors see. Perhaps it was the scorpions in the bathroom, or discovering that little ants there bite, or the amazing home-cooked meals, but we really felt this was a unique experience and came away with a much better appreciation of the culture and the country.
In writing this, I think we discovered that the very best experiences arise when you meet the locals, and especially if they will cook you delicious food or show you unimaginable wonders.
We shall now pass the baton to Lauren of Lateral Movements.