Saturday, June 26, 2010

Solo Travel for Inspiration

Posted on June 26, 2010 - by Janice
on Solo Traveler

Solo Travel for Inspiration – a new passion

The human eye is designed for distance. Unfortunately, I work on a computer many hours a day using a focal length that can be measured in inches. I live in a city where my view bumps up against buildings rather than enjoying the sweep of the landscape. And when I get outside Toronto into relatively flat Ontario, my vision is stopped short by trees.

That’s why I love to travel to mountains where I can stretch my eyes and really see the horizon. When I do, I’m inspired.  When I lived in western Canada, I knew the pleasure of mountains. But for the last 25 years I’ve lived in the east. I forgot how mountains enrich life.

In November, I rediscovered their wonder when I went to the Lake District and walked for four days. Climbing the fells was not just exercise for my legs, a work-out for my heart and fresh air for my lungs, it was also a relief for my eyes. And, as my eyes drank in the view, I could think differently. I was inspired.

The Fells of Cumbria - better known as the Lake District

In January, Utah was my mountain destination. I went and volunteered at the Sundance Film Festival but the best day of my trip was skiing at The Canyons.

At 10,000 feet, the views were stunning. The thin air may have contributed to the Rocky Mountain high that I felt for days afterward but the mountains served well to free my mind and inspire creativity.

It doesn’t surprise me that the famous poet, William Wordsworth, went to the Lake District of England and stayed. In the same way, it’s not surprising that the mountains of Utah are the backdrop to the Sundance Institute to support emerging and aspiring filmmakers. It’s simple; mountains are inspiring.

The view from the top of The Canyons ski resort in Utah.

When I plan my travels, I now try to include some time at a higher elevation with a view. It frees my eyes to do what they do best and, in the process, frees my mind to new inspiration. It has become a passion of mine.

My Almost-Daily 10 Mile Ride

Ventured back onto the Prairie Path today, Saturday, to resume my almost-daily route.  Not the best day for my after-crash ride.  It's quite busy on weekends.  A couple of times some cyclist was on my tail and left side before announcing ("Passing on your left"...c'mon riders....learn the rules of the bike path....announce as you're coming up not when you're right there.  Some didn't even announce.)  And since my collision with the woman who had no mirror on her bike nor looked over her shoulder before turning, I am very sensitive to that now.

Usually when they do that (after I jump out of my skin from the scare) I politely yell (can one "politely yell?") "Announce, please!"  Damn.  I mean someone has to teach them!

That aside, it was a pleasant ride.  Until the stretch of path with all the cracks and bumps.  Just when I was ready to let loose with some of my favorite frustration words, bam!  I'm on this section of path that is repaved and my bike is gliding like a skater on ice!   Whoa, I had no idea that in the time I was recuperating from my crash, Dundee had repaved its portion of the path!  Thank you, Dundee!

Now we just need to get Algonquin and Crystal Lake to follow suit.

Taking it easy, after 5 miles, I stopped at the Measuring Cup cafe in Dundee for breakfast.  This is a great little eatery, very popular with cyclists, especially on weekends.  They have the best scrambled egg and cheddar cheese panini!  I took my crossword book (gotta keep the mind sharp now that I'm not working), had a nice breakfast, and rode the 5 miles back.  All in all, a good morning.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Great Destinations

(Check it out:  Chicago is #2!  But I could've told you how great Chicago is!)

Posted on June 24, 2010 - by Janice

Women Traveling Alone Part II – Great Destinations

This is the second in a series of posts specifically for women solo travelers. The first post, Women Traveling Alone Part I – 10 tips offered ideas that make travel for a woman easier. They were based on personal experience. You’ll also find tips from others in the comments to the post. This time, the theme is great destinations for women solo travelers – especially first-timers.

I find it relatively easy to answer questions about how women can get the most out of the solo travel experience. I find it a bit more difficult to suggest where they should go. After all, I haven’t been everywhere.

So, in this post I share with you some of my favorite destinations that I also think would be great for solo travel novices. To broaden out the perspective and identify more great destinations for women, I also offer the results of a little crowdsourcing I did using Twitter.

Great destinations for women traveling alone – a few of my favorites:

Most of my recommendations for women traveling alone for the first time are places where English is spoken, or, it would not be surprising to find someone who speaks English. Being able to communicate in your own language is helpful – especially if you are a newbie.

Here’s my list:

The Lake District – if you are at all outdoorsy – or even if you’re not – the Lake District is a fabulous place to visit for it’s natural beauty and local charm. It’s easy to see why this area was the inspiration for much of Wordsworth’s poetry. Walking by day. A pint at the local pub by night. It’s a perfect solo travel destination.

•Chicago - I love New York City but it is almost too obvious for a list like this. I recommend Chicago for it’s fabulous downtown, waterfront, architecture, great use of the river, cycling, arts scene, blue/jazz scene, sports traditions… and they have a wonderful free greeters program to introduce you to the city as well.

•Amsterdam – Amsterdam is a city rich in history, fresh with pop culture and on the leading edge of social change. It is a place where women, pedestrians and cyclists are all respected. Yes there’s the red light district but it’s also very family friendly. Unlike Paris which is a city to look at, Amsterdam is a place to infiltrate – at least that’s how I felt when I was there.

•St. Remy & Arles, France – I absolutely love France and the part of France I love the most is the south near Arles and St. Remy de Provence (they are about 30km apart). Arles is the bigger city with a Roman arena. St. Remy has roman ruins as well though smaller. The area is famous for inspiring Vincent Van Gogh who lived there from 1889 to 1890, a year of intense productivity of master works. It’s beauty lies in the landscape, history and French countryside charm.

•Cross Canada by Train – Traveling coach across Canada is a fabulous experience for a woman traveling alone. On route, you make friends, pick up a card game, have cocktails at 5pm… In first class where people have bedrooms its not quite as social. Traveling coach is very communal. If you’re worried about sleeping upright for three nights well, it can be done. A carry-on is the same height as the seats so a perfect extension if you’re lucky enough to get a double. But, we can make do with what we have. Beside me a lovely couple from Newfoundland sat and slept side by side for four days.

Great destinations for women traveling alone – recommendations from Twitter.

•New Zealand – it’s safe, very friendly… simply spectacular all around. CarolineAttack.

•Japan, Thailand, Vietnam… – I think Buddhist countries in general are good bets for women traveling alone zoezolbrod

•Thailand and Malaysia were great for solo women travelers as well! cbrodzky

•Chile – I was mostly in cities, but it felt incredibly safe & ppl were helpful. That said, I’ve traveled to ~15 countries alone… I should add also that the hostel scene in Santiago is amazing (lots of women staffers at CheLagarto, where I stayed) jilliancyork

•Australia was a great place to start as a woman solo traveler. I went there for 4 months. Then 3 months in New Zealand. MissAlisa75

•Netherlands – Top pick 4 solo women travelers is Netherlands/small, English spoken,women there considered equal 4 a long time- most imp! Journeywoman

•Seoul – is my recommendation for you; this city is probably one of the safest places to stay and look around. Experience thousands of years walking around old palaces. And You should try temple foods. medicomm

•Singapore, Australia and Baguio in Philippines are perfect places for first time solo women travellers prime_sarmiento

Biking as Transportation

Been reading some interesting biking blogs lately, as it is fast becoming my passion.  Not racing, just biking.  Despite the fact that a woman crashed into me on the bike trail two weeks ago and I ended up with bloody and purple palms, a sprained left hand, and scrapes, bruises and swelling from my knee down to my ankle --- and this on the knee I've already had two surgeries!  Thank goodness, it appears nothing is damaged inside.

Since the bruises are gone, the swelling almost completely down, and my left hand partially healed, I've jumped on the bike again.  Have to ride kind of one-handed, as the injured hand can't really grasp the handlebar, just rest on it for balance.

But I decided to stay off of the trail yesterday and instead, inspired by one of the blogs, do my errands around town on my bike.

Off I went.  And I have to say, it was fun!  Being on my bike makes me feel like a kid again.  And I like it so much better than walking for exercise, because (1) you cover more ground and see more stuff and (2) no matter how hot it is, biking always generates a little breeze.

So now I'm thinking, "Hmmm, is there a cute little town somewhere like mine, on a lake like mine, but where everyone bikes for local transportation?  I'd like to live there!"  Yeah, probably somewhere in Europe.  Oh, well, it's fun to dream.

(Click to enlarge photos)

Breakfast in town

Little diner with mostly locals as patrons

A stop at the bank and the library to return some DVD's

And along the south end of the lake to the bike/walking path of the neighborhood I used to live in.