Travel is an opportunity to learn and be surprised on a daily basis. It always surpasses my expectations, helping me go beyond my comfort zone. I get to immerse myself in new cultures and discover how they've preserved their green spaces and held on to their traditions.
When I walked across an original Roman bridge in Merida, Spain, history took on a new sense of excitement for me. Hiking hut to hut in the Japanese Alps, I found out about their myriad customs that kept things neat and tidy, including wearing special red slippers that are reserved for the toilet. When I lodge-to-lodge Nordic skied alone in Washington state's Methow Valley, my days were full of the sight of pine forests and the feel of the wind blowing puffs of sparkly snow across my face. On my first trip to Iceland, accidentally sampling the infamous fermented shark meat -- it tasted like household ammonia -- was an experience I wish I could forget but it made for a good conversation starter and this odd event, and many others including following a walking map that designated places where elves have appearanced, made me fall in love with the land of fire and ice.
During a month of wanderings, I hiked among sulfurous springs in a volcanic area, attended a codfish festival where I ate cod 12 ways, and met designers fashioning accessories from fish skin. My travels in the south of France were not spent on a stunning beach, but rather volunteering to help rebuild a medieval castle in the 11th century village of St. Victor la Coste. (Interestingly, I learned that masonry can incorporate a Zen-like element, thanks to the chief mason who instructed me to wait for the right rock to speak to me.) When visiting Israel, instead of focusing in on religious sites, I went mountain biking in the Negev desert along a path that was once part of the ancient Spice Route, and then walked along verdant trails in Ein Gedi, a nature preserve west of the ever popular Dead Sea. Among the creatures I spied: a hyrax and an endangered ibex. Cruising along the Peruvian Amazon with International Expeditions was full of lessons in biology, botany and sociology. I sampled tasty armored catfish that can walk on land, met fishermen paddling cedar dug-out canoes, and dropped in on villages where children all swim by the time they're five years old. When I travel, I'm interested in the places tourists avoid, have forgotten about, or have never discovered; the places that radiate authenticity, no matter how simple they may be. I'm often asked what's my favorite place. I believe all places on earth have something positive to offer us. We just have to look for it.