Because this series of Top Travel Moments is supposed to be about my best and favorite travel experiences, it stands to reason that you would expect me to talk about my, well, best and favorite travel moments.
And given that I got distracted from this in just the second post of the series (I get distracted easily by shiny things and loud noises too – SQUIRREL!!!), I am going to do my best to right this train before it gets too far off the tracks, because it will end up with me talking about the best Sasquatch calls or why treepeaking is important – oh no, it’s already happening!
So, before my soon-to-be train wreck of attention span can leave the station, let’s get to my Top Travel Moments numbers 7 and 6: My Favorite Country Visited and my Best Impulse Decision.
No. 7: My Favorite Country Visited
“What’s your favorite country you’ve visited?” is by far the most common question that people ask me about traveling. It’s the equivalent of asking “What’s your favorite color?” to a child – a question that, by itself, doesn’t mean a whole lot, but you know you’ll get a response to your question.
My answer to this question is, undoubtedly, Nepal. More often than not, people are surprised by this answer. I guess Nepal is the equivalent of a child answering your color question by saying #4D944D.
I could try to explain why Nepal is my favorite place, but like deconstructing a joke, long explanations tend to take away from the answer. It would be like trying to explain your favorite song via writing, and, well, I’m just not that good with words.
So, in lieu of rambling on for 1,000 words or so about the Himalayan country, I’ll just give a short, food-making analogy why Nepal is my #1 (sorry, I haven’t had breakfast yet): combine equal parts of my favorite things to do (hiking and traveling), add in some of the nicest and most friendly people in the world, toss in a little dal baht, then liberally sprinkle prayer flags, and spread over the tallest and most beautiful mountains in the world, and you have a recipe for one happy Sasquatch.
No. 6: Best Impulse Decision
Going to the Galapagos Islands. It was one of the first things that Kim and I did when we started our international travels, and still is one of my all-time travel highlights.
We originally didn’t plan on going to the Galapagos because it is so expensive, and we were in hardcore “budget traveler” mode at that point. But, after being in Quito for a few days, everyone we met said that we had to go, so we started discussing visiting the archipelagos that were famous for old white men riding tortoises their unique wildlife.
The straw that broke the camel’s wallet was when Kim and I visited the Virgin of Quito statue in El Panecillo. It was the only thing we were going to do that day, so we decided to make a day of it and headed out on foot. So how do a virgin, a statue, and feet = the Galapagos Islands? Well, first they all walk into a bar…..
On our way to the statue, we walked through old town and explored all of the nooks and crannies of the city. We had spent a good time just wandering around, because at one point, we had to have the conversation of whether or not we were actually going to make our way to the statue on the hill. We decided that, yes, we would go there, but we were kinda lost from all of the small, meandering streets. So we stopped to ask a police officer, in horrible, broken Spanish, how to get to the statue. She pointed up the hill and said something to us in Spanish that neither Kim nor I could understand. We just nodded, said gracias, then started making our way up the hill.
A few blocks later, we were stopped at a corner waiting for a street light to turn, and I happened to turn around and saw the same police officer running after us. I’ve never had the pleasure of being run down by a cop before, so I was unsure how to act in this situation. So I froze, assuming that Ecuadorian police officers shout out clichéd phrases like ”Freeze!” as they run you down, just like they do on TV.
She caught up to us, and in broken English said “don’t walk, very dangerous” to us. She then pulled out her radio and said something into it and asked us to wait with her on the street corner. We didn’t really know what to do, but she had a look of concern on her face, so we did as she asked and waited with her.
After a minute or two, a police truck pulled up to the corner. The officer we were waiting with opened the back door and asked us to get inside.
This might be a good time to mention that this was during the first week that Kim and I had been out of the country and we were still getting our travel legs under us. Getting into a police car had been nowhere on my list of things that we must do during our travels. In my head I was imagining the calls I was going to have to make to people trying to get me out of jail a few days after leaving the country.
In the spirit of adventure (and never being one to turn down a free ride), we decided it was in our best interest to voluntarily get inside a police vehicle while in a foreign country. And, being the generous husband that I am, I let Kim enter the police truck first. Who says chivalry is dead?
During our copcab ride, our new officer-friend asked us some basic questions – where are you from, where are you staying, etc. At one point she asked if we were going to the Galapagos. Kim and I said no, it was too expensive. We asked if she had been. She said no, that she was too poor to be able to afford a trip there, but she dreamed of going. She then pulled out a tattered piece of paper out of her pocket and handed it to us. It was an old brochure describing the Galapagos. She very politely asked if we would consider visiting the Galapagos because they were so beautiful and that she was proud that they were a part of her country.
The next day, Kim and I purchased our tickets to the Galapagos. For the rest of my life, I’ll never forget swimming with sea lions, chasing sharks underwater, watching the blue footed boobies do their mating dance, or watching the waved albatross take off under their 8 foot wingspan. It truly was a trip that created a lifetime of memories.
But, as much as I will remember the experience of the Galapagos, I’ll never forget that wonderful police officer. She didn’t ask us to go because she would get anything out of it, but because it was one of her dreams, and she wanted to share it with us.
And now, looking back, I honestly can’t remember how much we spent on the trip to the Galapagos. I know it was thousands of dollars – and the biggest impulse purchase I will probably ever have in my life. But how much it cost doesn’t matter – we could have paid twice the amount we paid, and it still would have been worth every last penny.