Tag Archives: travel

Finding Time for Adventure

Jebel Shams, Oman

For many of us who are old enough to consider retirement, the scarcest resource in our lives is probably not money, but time.

Life, they say, is what happens while you are busy making plans. Time is ticking away, life is short. These days, everyone is saying how busy we are.  But, as we all know, we all have the same 24 hours as everyone else, and it is up to us to prioritize how we want to spend our time doing the things that we want to do.

When we were younger, we only had a few weeks of vacation each year to plan for vacation and/or trips, typically 2-4 weeks at a time. Now, once we retire, we can choose to go on super long trips such as 2 months, 6 months, or even years at a time.

Many people delay their retirement for a variety of reasons.  They want to be conservative in their finances to ensure that money will never run out, or that they think they enjoy their work as compared to no specific plans, hobbies, activities or adventures after retirement.  They like their status quo. This sentiment is easy to understand, but whenever I hear about some friends developing critical illnesses or some famous people who just died on the news, it makes me want to take action for some big adventures.  Here is an interesting grave stone marking that speaks to this (Brandon Lee’s grave in Seattle):

“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. And yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, an afternoon that is so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four, or five times more? Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.”

And here is a website that calculates when you are likely to die, based on various parameters about our life (age, weight, gender, whether you smoke) – www.deathclock.com.   A big, unstoppable clock counts down the remaining seconds of our life.

This type of thinking is morbid, but it takes deadlines to spur most of us into action.  This non-extendable deadline is scary, as there is still so much I want to do before September 14, 2042.

There is no solution to make more time.  Money cannot buy more time.  But learning about my “Expire Before” date will help me decide not to waste any more time on unimportant things, and to take action on some new possible adventures.  We need to begin the conversations with the people in our lives – our family, our boss, ourselves – about ways in which it might be possible to pause the daily rhythm of lives long enough to do something different and really memorable.

One of reason why I like traveling to new places is that it makes me more aware of how much time I have.  I really don’t have any more time, but I have just freed it up to spend it on the things that I truly feel is important to me. I wake up excited, as the day is available to explore and experience something new.  And the day stretches long into the night.  I might meet some new people along the way, learn about new cultures and world heritage sites, visit some world wonders, or hike a mountain to see some wonderful vistas.

When I am away on trips, I do not feel busy, but my days are full and fulfilling.  I cherish spending that time.  At home my days feel short, hurried, and too routine.  At the end of most of those days, I feel I have not accomplished much that is really memorable.

I hope this post will urge you to fill your days with what feels important and worthwhile to you, not with the stuff that conventional society deems us to be doing, or with stuff that might be easy and uncomplicated but is not meaningful and rewarding in the long run.

Travel with Purpose

family tree

It is always nice to be able to travel with a specific purpose in mind. It can be to attend a conference, to participate in a sporting event, to meet a family member or a friend abroad, or to attend a world class festival or watch a major sporting event.

I have traveled on several trips to research on, and to meet new extended family members, while doing my “family tree” project.  My first trip with that purpose is to New Zealand and Australia in 2007 with my two older sisters to meet over 100 extended uncles, aunts and cousins, who immigrated to that part of the world while the majority of us immigrated to Canada.  It was an amazing discovery trip to enable me to expand our family tree from about 150 to over 300 members. I did not realize that I have so much connection to New Zealand.  This trip laid the foundation that allowed us to plan a huge family reunion event in Vancouver in 2008 with over 130 attendees, and expand the family tree to over 480 members at present.

Large family dinner in Sydney, Australia

Another trip on this “family heritage” theme was in 2010 when a group of Vancouver and New Zealand family members traveled to Balingzhuang village in Guangdong Province of China to visit our ancestral village.  The 6 houses that our grandfathers built are still standing, and we met family members there that still remember to exact details of our parents’ time there.  They reminisced about the good times, and we paid respects to the older generations.  A year later, we brought our two adult children back to this village so that they are aware of their cultural heritage.

Family photo, at the Balingzhuang ancestral village, near Guangzhou, China

In 2014, I went on an amazing trip to South America to hike Mount Roraima and Angel Falls.  As part of this trip, I flew to Paramaribo, the capital city of Suriname, to visit another branch of my family tree.  With modern technology, I was able to make contact with them via social media ahead of time (QQQ & weChat), and we made arrangement for them to pick us up at the airport, and then visit them over a two-day period.  It was very interesting to learn about their immigration stories, and their way of life in this small South America city.

Inside kitchen area, again explaining to them about our family tree.
At the back of their restaurant in Parimaribo, Suriname, I was trying to explain to them about how we are all related

These are the type of travels that are really interesting and purposeful.  I hope to do more of these in the years to come.  With our love of playing badminton, we will try to incorporate some tournaments in our travels as well.

Amazing Places: The Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan

I will start to post short write-ups about some of the amazing places that I have visited over my past trips.

This post is on the The Gates of Hell (also known as Darvaza Crater) located in the hot, expansive Karakum desert of central Turkmenistan.

The locals have dubbed the cavern "The Door to Hell"
The locals have dubbed the cavern “The Door to Hell”

The Gates of Hell were created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in.  Having punctured a pocket of methane gas, poisonous fumes began leaking at an alarming rate. To head off a potential environmental catastrophe, the Soviets set the hole alight. The crater hasn’t stopped burning since.

The diameter of the crater is 69 m, and its depth is 30 m.  Its glow can be seen for kilometers around.

I was here in June of 2013 on a 30-day Central Asia overland trip.  We camped overnight nearby.

View of the camp from the top of a small hill nearby
View of the camp from the top of a small hill nearby
To avoid poisonous gas discharge, they lit the gas and thought that the fire would burn all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today, after 42 years of burning continuously.
We can walk all around the crater, as close as we wanted.  There are no guard rails.
This was as close as I wanted to get. Any closer was too hot (and unsafe).
This was as close as I wanted to get. Any closer was too hot (and unsafe).


A Fantastic trip to the Middle East

This Emirati woman was not shy to have her photo taken with us.
This Emirati woman was not shy to have her photo taken with us.

We’ve been back home for nearly two weeks now since our early new year trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Qatar, and we are finally getting our routine back.  I usually like to get our trip photos sorted, edited, and put into trip albums with detailed captions right away so that I don’t forget the details of the trip.  I also like to do a bit of research on wikipedia on the background of a few photos that I find interesting looking back at home.  Some people may think of it as work, but I get pleasure in organizing the trip photos, learning more about what we experienced, and “writing a photo essay” about it.

The trip was quite amazing, as our itinerary worked out perfectly as planned, and we did not face any difficulty during our travels.  The international and 3 regional flights were great, we had no issues with any of the car rentals in all 3 countries, the infrastructure (metro, bus, highways, hotels) were excellent, and the people was really friendly.

We enjoyed the modern architecture and the opulent sights of the UAE and Qatar, and we enjoyed the wonderful mountain and desert scenery of Oman.  We did mostly sightseeing in big cities, with a bit of bike riding in Dubai, and we did quite a bit of hiking in Oman. What we liked the most about this trip was our freedom to explore these 3 countries at our own pace with absolutely no hassle from the locals and no large crowds.  And the weather was perfect!

As with our past trips, we will have to write detailed trip reports at a later date.  For now, here are a few more of our favorite photos:

They helped us take some photos
The Empty Quarter in Oman
Starting our 3-hour trek to Wadi Nakhr and the Balcony Walk
Starting our 3-hour trek to Wadi Nakhr and the Balcony Walk
The cluster of beautiful architectural buildings as seen from the road leaving the Presidential Palace
The cluster of beautiful architectural buildings iin Abu Dhabi
The Corniche, a long seaside promenade that curves around Doha Bay and affords pretty views of Palm Tree Island and the city's skyscrapers. Many locals and western expats stroll along the Corniche in the afternoon. We met an Australian who moved to Doha as a school teacher and is enjoying her lifestyle very much. She has no plans to move back.
The Corniche in Doha



Top World Wonders

100 WondersMany people have asked us how we know and decide on where to go on our trips. Similar to my interests in countries, geographical features (such as mountains, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, caves …), and man-made structures (tallest building, longest bridge …) , I have always been interested in learning more about these world wonders. There are the original Seven Wonders of the World, and in 2007, the New7Wonders of the World Foundation (established by Canadian-Swiss Bernard Weber) announced the New 7 Wonders of the World. I was fascinated by these places, even as they announced the top 77 candidates, and the 21 finalists.  Later, I discovered many websites and blogs dedicated to give their opinions of the top world wonders, such as Hillman Wonders,  MinubeLonely Planet, Wanderlust, CNNLIFE,  and much more if you google “100 places to visit“.

It is impossible to get a consensus of the top 100 wonders of the world (and this list will continually change every few years as new natural wonders are discovered and new man-made structures are built).  An example of new wonders being added is shown on the Smithsonian’s Sept 2015 article “The 21st Century Life List: 25 Great New Places to See” which includes 5 places on yet completed.

So, we have used a combination of lists to develop a list of places we wish to visit.  Our “top world wonders” visited is now listed on a separate page by area, and we list further “wonders” that we would like to visit in our next chapter journeys.



Travelers Century Club

Tim, Patti, Michael, Mahmood, Lana, Tom & CaroleFor some travelers, keeping a list of places visited and a “bucket list” is a way to keep memories of trips taken and a way to keep track of places that they want to visit next.

I have always like to make lists.  When I was young, one of my favorite book to read was the Guiness Book of World Records. I would read about the world’s highest mountain, the longest river, the biggest city, etc.  When I started to travel, I love taking photos so that I have a record of where I’ve been.  After many trips, I created a spreadsheet of all the trips I have taken with the dates, locations, and any special or prominent sights seen. Eventually, the list got bigger, and I would get excited that I could add a new country to this spreadsheet.

Soon, collecting countries became one of my hobbies or passions.  30 countries turned into 50, and then soon it was 60 and 70 countries.  I discovered the Travelers Century Club (TCC) online, and I desperately wanted to join this exclusive club for people who has been to 100 countries (by their definition).

Last year, there was a new Western Canada area coordinator, and he was super friendly in our email correspondences.  He invited me to a chapter meeting being held in Vancouver, and I met some very interesting travelers.  It was fun and educational to meet these travelers to hear about their travel stories from far away places.

I have now reached my goal of 100 TCC countries, and I was happy to have attended my 3rd meeting this past weekend at the River Rock Casino lounge.