The world seen…and yet to see

By Caitlin Kelly

It is, for sure, one of the most privileged things anyone can do — travel!

Even a short local road trip implies use of a safe, reliable private automobile.

It assumes having enough money to move past paying for basic necessities, and the health and strength to enjoy moving around and the time off to actually go anywhere. It’s no coincidence that Americans often show little interest in foreign travel, even if they make a lot of money, because taking even two consecutive weeks off is (sadly!) considered weird and lazy — while Europeans savor their annual six weeks.

In a normal year, barring being broke or ill, I love to get out of our small suburban New York town!

I like it and miss our view, but I also really need to get away from American…..everything. Especially, after the past four years, relentless politics, racism and violence.

Even if you don’t live it firsthand, it’s in every news report every day.

Here’s an alphabetical list where I’ve been so far (internationally):

Antigua

My first visit there was age six or seven, my first solo flight, meeting my mother there. My parents had just split up. My second, decades later, was with my first husband.

Austria

Oh, what memories! I was flown to Vienna from Paris at 25 for the weekend by my 10-years-older antiques-dealer boyfriend. I had never been flown anywhere by a beau! We had a challenging time and I broke up with him there. We watched a woman descend the hotel stairs in a very expensive sable coat and he said: “I’d buy you one if you didn’t give me any trouble.” Tempting, but no.

Australia

A very expensive mistake! I had hoped, for my first book, to interview the female sailors competing in a round-the-world yacht race, in Sydney and Auckland. Instead, they totally shut me out and the trip cost me thousands. I visited Sydney and Melbourne, briefly, much preferring Melbourne in every way.

Bahamas

Nassau, a very long time ago.

Bulgaria

Drove through it on an eight-day truck trip with a French truck driver for a story.

Montreal

Canada

My home and native land.

Colombia

Cartagena, just as it was first being developed as a tourist destination.

Costa Rica

Visited my mother there, who traveled the world alone for years.

Rovinj, Croatia

Croatia

Loved it! Zagreb and Rovinj, a town on the Adriatic, July 2017.

Denmark

At 25, I went to Copenhagen as part of my eight-month EU funded journalism fellowship. I took class with the Royal Danish Ballet (no pointe or center work!) as I was writing about them.

London

England

I lived in London ages two to five and have been back many, many times. But I have seen very little beyond London; a day trip to Dorset and a few trips to Bath when my mother lived there. I am so eager to see Cornwall, Yorkshire and Northumberland, for sure.

Fiji

Thanks to my mother, on her journeys.

High above Paris — silence!

France

I can’t remember my first visit but I lived in Paris (in the 15th at Cite Universitaire) for eight months at 25, on an EU journalism fellowship. Have been back many times, for birthdays and a honeymoon and traveled alone at times. Still haven’t seen Alsace or the Atlantic coast, but know the Cote d’Azur, the Camargue, Corsica and tiny bit of Brittany and Normandy. Seeing the D-Day beaches and cemetery and the Bayeux tapestry was amazing.

Germany

I’ve only been to Munich, briefly, and Berlin, for 10 days in July 2017. I am eager to see more.

Hungary

All of three days in Budapest, July 2017. Eager to go back.

Jose went to the local barber, ex-boxer Patrick Quinn. His haircut was 5 euros.

Ireland

Sigh. How I love Ireland! Have been five times, so far. My great grandfather was the schoolmaster of the one room schoolhouse in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal.

Italy

Have been three times, once for my 21st birthday in Venice (which I’ve been to three times.) I adored Sicily. Been to Rome, Florence, Siena but still so much more to see — especially the Dolomites, Lake Como, Puglia and Capri/Pantelleria.

Jamaica

One visit, with a friend who grew up there.

Kenya

The best trip of my life, really — on safari.

Malta

I didn’t love Malta. I did love Mdina and a 15th century house-turned-hotel there.

Mexico

I lived in Cuernavaca at 14 for a few months with my mother and have been back many times, but not since May 2006. I speak Spanish and miss the country!

Montserrat

A visit in my 20s, before the volcano.

New Zealand

An add-on to my Oz trip. I much preferred NZ to Australia, even though I was only there maybe 10 days and only on North Island. Much as I dislike long flights, I would definitely return.

I learned how to canoe at camp -- useful when we went to Nicaragua
On assignment in Nicaragua for WaterAid — Jen in the bow of a dugout canoe

Nicaragua

March 2014, I did some reporting with a team from WaterAid in rural areas. Great adventures!

Northern Ireland

A quick day trip from Dublin to the (amazing!) Titanic Museum, well worth visiting.

Peru

A fantastic two-week trip with my mother — Lima, Cuzco, Puno, Arequipa and sunrise at Machu Picchu. Plus the scariest landing at Cuzco, true white knuckle stuff.

Portugal

I started a four month journey, solo, in Lisbon, age 22, and traveled to Sinta, Beja, Evora, Albufeira. I loved Lisbon and remember it well — especially the Maneuline architecture and the spectacular Gulbenkian Museum.

Romania

Drove through it on our truck journey to Istanbul.

Scotland

Swoon. I spent my 12th summer in a tiny white stone cottage in Monzievaird, near Crieff, Perthshire, staying with my best friend from sixth grade in Toronto who had just moved there after her parents’ divorce. It was a wild summer, with lots of sightseeing but some very tough arguments with a girl who really didn’t want her mother’s attention divided right then.

Spain

I spent six weeks there, alone, and loved it: Madrid, Toledo, Aranjuez, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, Ibiza. My favorite part is Andalusia with all its Moorish influences. There are few places as lushly romantic as Seville when the orange trees are in full fragant blossom!

Sweden

Oddly, a visit in late November, American Thanksgiving, thanks to a cheap-o courier flight. It was dark til 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. and dark again by 2:00 p.m. I loved everything about it: cobblestone streets, the Vasa Museum, the Butterfly House, the muted colors, candles everywhere. Very, very expensive but I would love to return.

Tanzania

Safari. Life changing beauty. So so grateful to have had the income and the time off (a month) to visit at 27 from Toronto.

Thailand

Probably the best travel experiences of my life: gorgeous country, kind people, affordable lodging and domestic flights, delicious food. I flew courier for $700 from New York (the full ticket price, in 1994, was something like $4,000) and spent 21 days there. My first husband joined me and we visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Mae Hong Son. I then went alone south by train to Krabi and took a two-hour boat ride to Ko Phi Phi. Spectacular! Can’t recommend it too highly.

Tunisia

This was a very generous gift from my husband Jose when I finished my first book in 2003; he gave me some money and said GO! So I flew to London then to Malta then to Tunis. I loved it — my enormous room at the Hotel Majestic was about $30 a night. I adore mosaics and Tunis holds the Bardo Museum, one of the world’s best collections of them,

Turkey

Well….this was the final destination of my eight-day truck trip that began in Perpignan, France. I was exhausted and dirty (no showers for a week) and so happy to have a bed in a room and not in the truck. I only had three days there, alone, but what a city. I visited the Grand Bazaar and spent a day looking at rugs…which provoked the most severe allergic reaction (to dust, I had forgotten!) of my life. I feared I might die, alone and anonymously, in the Otel Harem. But I still use the copper jug I bought there every day in our bathroom.

Long Island, NY

United States

Half my family are/were American, so I had been to this country many times before I moved to it, in 1988, thanks to a green card thanks to my mother’s American citizenship. I’ve seen quite a bit of it, with only about 11 states yet to explore (Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Indiana, Idaho, Oregon.) One of the best experiences of my life was traveling across the country by train. It is spectacular, with such tremendous variations in scale and beauty. Well worth doing!

Venezuela

Oh boy. This was another cheap-o courier flight and my then best friend joined me. We visited Caracas, Jaji. Los Roques and Merida — in a week! But I got the last flight out after the terrifying landslides and she got stuck for a while and had (!) to be rescued by the Venezuelan navy.

Wales

I met a gorgeous blue-eyed Welshman named Nigel on a Christmas Eve flight to Bristol and he took me away to Wales for a few days. That was fun!

And where I still dream of going:

Jordan

Iceland

Finland

Russia

Lebanon

Morocco

Namibia

South Africa

Malawi

Japan

VietNam

Tibet

Nepal

India

Sri Lanka

The Pacific Islands

Argentina

Chile

Brazil

St. Lucia

St. Kitts/Nevis

Bequia

What have been your favorite journeys?

Where do you dream of visiting, and why?

Some of my favorite places in the world

By Caitlin Kelly

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I started traveling young — when my parents removed the back seat of our family car and drove from Vancouver, my birthplace, to Mexico, a country I’ve since visited many times. I was two.

So constant motion and long-distance travel just feel normal to me!

In the next few weeks, we’ll be in Pennsylvania, near New Hope; in D.C. and suburban Maryland and on the Delaware River, each time visiting with friends who live there. I love getting away, even for a few days.

In December, Jose and I fly to Paris for Christmas, where we’ve been loaned an apartment. I then have five days in London alone visiting another friend, then another week alone there to do….I have no idea!

Which is my definition of bliss.

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Berlin? Amsterdam? Antwerp? A quick flight to my new friend in Bahrain?

Nothing in the world makes me happier than a travel adventure.

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Here, in no special order, are some of my favorite places around the world:

Porto Rico Coffee and Tea, Bleecker Street, NYC
Porto Rico Coffee and Tea, Bleecker Street, NYC

 

A battered railing on East 9th Street, NYC
A battered railing on East 9th Street, NYC

 

The West Village and East Village of Manhattan

Having lived in a suburb of New York City for more than 20 years, I never tire of wandering these two quieter and residential edges of the city: battered 19th-century doors and weathered stone steps, enormous 18th-cenury churches, cobblestoned, tree-lined streets and elegant brownstone houses with their ornate black metal railings and tall, narrow windowed doors. The area’s many cafes, restaurants and small shops include Porto Rico for coffee and tea, Bosie’s or Tea and Sympathy for a seated afternoon tea and Morandi for spaghetti carbonara. The best perfume shop in the city is on Christopher Street, Aedes de Venustas.

Yorkville, Toronto

I’ve been visiting this chic spot since my childhood in Toronto. The Papery sells lovely stationery; the Craft Ontario shop offers terrific and affordable pottery, jewelry and Eskimo art a new store, Ca Va de Soi, recently opened there, selling the loveliest women’s sweaters. (Queen Street West gets all the attention. I like it a lot, but Yorkville is easier to manage, cleaner and safer.)

San Francisco

Such an elegant city! Spectacular views, great sailing, that bridge, the beaches and Marin County, a landscape of staggering beauty. I ate here, at the Presidio Social Club, in 2012 and loved every minute of it — a former military barracks set in a park. Sacramento Street has dozens of small, gorgeous shops.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Watching the sun rise, filling every valley in the Andes as it came towards us, remains one of the highlights of my life.

One of the eeriest and most memorable sights of my life -- a lunar landscape I saw, alone in the rain, while traveling alone by mo-ped
Corsica

Corsica

I spent five amazing days here, alone, traveling the north of this island by mo-ped, with a top speed of about 45 mph. It was  July and the heated maquis, the scrubby fragrant underbrush, smelled like very good pipe tobacco. Craggy mountains, deep valleys, steep oceanside cliffs. Great food, welcoming people. I wept so hard when the plane took off for Nice the poor flight attendant thought I was injured or dying. Few places have touched me as deeply.

Kenya and Tanzania

I saw both, on safari, in my 20s. The Maasai Mara in Kenya and Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania are unforgettably beautiful, filled with wild animals. It’s expensive to get there, but worth every penny to see a landscape that reminds us we’re only one late-arriving species. (Once you see animals in the wild, zoos seem sad and pointless.)

Mae Hong Son, Ko Phi Phi, Bangkok, Thailand

I spent 21 days in Thailand in January 1994 and remember every detail. MHS is a tiny town in the far north; KPP is a sliver of an island two hours by boat from the southern town of Krabi and crowded, humid Bangkok feels like an out-take from Blade Runner. I loved everything about my time there: food, people, flowers, astounding landscapes. If only it wasn’t 19 hours’ flying time away!

Stockholm

Oddly, we went there in November, a time of year when the sun barely rises at 8:30 and is gone by 3:00 p.m. It was staggeringly expensive, but worth it. The colors! The light! I loved the Vasa Museum — a ship launched with great fanfare in 1628, and which promptly sank in the harbor. It’s amazing — you climb a scaffolding so you’re literally face to face with history. I loved everything about this city, especially its attention to design, detail and light. I’m eager to return, preferably in summer.

Lakeside at Manoir Hovey, Quebec
Lakeside at Manoir Hovey, Quebec

The Eastern Townships, Quebec

We return every two years to Manoir Hovey, a five-star inn on Lake Massawippi. The area itself is lovely in every season, dotted with small towns and a gently rolling landscape. There’s skiing, horseback riding, winding roads to cycle, a stunning monastery — and Montreal 90 minutes north. If you’re a fan of best-selling mystery writer Louise Penny, this region will feel familiar, as that’s where she lives, and sets her stories.

ALL IMAGES COPYRIGHT CAITLIN KELLY 2013.

The Grand Canyon

If you make one journey in your lifetime, make it here. Seriously. And don’t just drive to the edge, snap a few pics and drive away…You must walk deep into it (twice as long to come back up! take plenty of water!) to best experience a place that so powerfully reminds us what a mere eye-blink in time our lives represent. The light, the silence, the hawks and foxes and fossils…Few places so richly reward sitting still for an hour just to watch the light shifting and the landscape changing every minute as it does.

Ireland

I’ve been, (so far), four times; my father owned a house near Galway City for a few years. Hard to name anything I don’t love about this small, friendly, gorgeous country….not to mention my heritage! My great-grandfather was a schoolteacher in Rathmullan, Co. Donegal. Get out to the Aran Islands top see shaggy cows the exact color of Guinness, or wander the streets of Dublin. For a bit of craic, try the annual matchmakers festival in Lisdoonvarna, which I wrote about for the Washington Post. Lots of shy bachelor farmers!

The window of Nevis House, 1843, Irvington, NY
The window of Nevis House, 1835, Irvington, NY

The Hudson Valley, New York

Home! I moved here in 1989 and love its history, landscapes, the Palisades, the Hudson River. The river towns — Irvington, Tarrytown, Ossining — line the Hudson, with quiet parks and access to the water. Lots of great restaurants and  cafes…ancient churches and graveyards…winding roads, fantastic views. Visit Olana to see a spectacular example of 19th century architecture and West Point to visit an American icon.

The view from our balcony across the Hudson River
The view from our balcony across the Hudson River

(all images, Caitlin Kelly)

What are some of your favorite spots?

Where in the world to go next?

By Caitlin Kelly

I’ve been lucky enough, from infancy, to travel the world. My parents, then living in Vancouver, B.C. where I was born, removed a car’s back seat, put in my crib, and drove to Mexico. Raised as an only child, I was also lucky enough to be affordably portable in later years.

Aqueduct City of Mexico
Aqueduct City of Mexico (Photo credit: SMU Central University Libraries)

No wonder I’m at my happiest when traveling and/or in motion! One of my favorite smells is the distinct aroma of jet fuel. Takeoff!

I took my first solo airplane flight at seven, meeting my mother in Antigua.

Since then, I’ve visited 37 countries, some of them alone.

I’ve visited some with my mother, father, friends or boyfriends/husbands: England, France, Mexico, Sweden, Montserrat, Jamaica, Colombia, Peru, Fiji, Ireland, Thailand, Venezuela.

I’ve also traveled widely on assignment for magazine and newspaper stories and while researching my books. In those instances, I’m almost always alone, whether in a tiny hill town in Sicily, small Texas towns like Waco, San Angelo, Fredericksburg or Silver City (aka the middle of nowhere!) or navigating major cities from Bangkok to Rome to Istanbul.

Favorites:

I dearly love and miss Mexico, a place I lived for six months at 14, in Cuernavaca, with my mother. I love everything about the place and have been back many times, but not since May 2005, when we toured for three weeks to Mexico City, Queretaro, Patzcuaro, Oaxaca and Cuernavaca.

English: View of Jardin Juarez in downtown Cue...
English: View of Jardin Juarez in downtown Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico. This picture makes me homesick! I used to buy licuados here when I was a teenager! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I cry with relief and excitement when I return each time to Paris, a city I lived in at 25 for eight months on  life-changing journalism fellowship. I’ve seen a bit of the south — the Camargue, the Cote d-Azur — and Normandy. Corsica is one of the loveliest places on earth!

London, where we lived when I was little for a few years. I love Spitalfields, where silk weavers settled in the 17th century.

But there are still so many places I’m dying to see, including:

— Returning to Thailand, France, New Zealand, Ireland, Tunisia, Italy, England, Denmark, Austria and Sweden

— Exploring the fjords of Norway by boat

— Riding across the plains of Mongolia

— Budapest

— Gros Morne National Park, (A UNESCO site), in Newfoundland

— The Galapagos

— Bryce and Zion National Parks, Utah

— The Maldives, Seychelles, Madagascar and Zanzibar

Venezuela and Brazil: Stamps
Venezuela and Brazil: Stamps (Photo credit: Sem Paradeiro)

— The Hebrides

— Berlin

— Exploring Brazil

— Croatia, especially the island of Hvar

— The Greek islands, especially Paros and Corfu

— South Africa

— Morocco, especially the Sahara

— Japan — all of it! I love classic Japanese art and design

— Jordan (Petra)

— Lebanon

— Switzerland

Here is a round-up of reviews of eight new travel books — seven (sigh) written by men — from The New York Times.

And seven more, from their 2011 round-up, also with only one book written by a woman.

And, if you’re hungry for serious adventure, here’s an essay naming some earlier writers who really traveled far and wide, often alone, like Freya Stark.

What are some of your best-loved places and fun/interesting things to do there?

Just Another Species

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Modoc Count...
Image via Wikipedia

It’s too easy to think we’re it, we homo sapiens. The wise, rational ones.

Which is why I hunger to be in nature as often as possible. Only out there, walking, canoeing, kayaking, riding, on my bike, do I quickly and indelibly remember we’re just one of millions of species inhabiting our shared blue ball of Earth.

I was lucky enough, in my late 20s, to take two safaris in East Africa, one in Tanzania and one in Kenya. I had never before fully understood how poorly equipped the human body is for some habitats — without the necessary protection of camouflaging colors or fur or  feathers, scales, thorns or poisoned stingers.

The Equatorial sun was brilliant and harsh; I once lay directly beneath a large fallen tree trunk, desperate for the tiniest sliver of shade. Insects whirred and bit. The water was filled with all sorts of dangerous things that could burrow into our flesh or bloodstream.

The landscape was full of large, silent stalkers — how would we ever hear the lion before he arrived at our tent door? In the mornings, we opened it to discover a pile of elephant dung the size of an 18-wheeler tire. Right beside our tent.

It was a life-changing experience to be reminded how fragile and vulnerable we really are. That we are but one piece of a large ecosystem, and often its most disrespectful and destructive.

From an interesting and smart essay in today’s New York Times:

So, the conundrum: More than ever, an urban nation plagued by obesity, sloth and a surfeit of digital entertainment should encourage people to experience the wild — but does that mean nature has to be tame and lawyer-vetted?

My experience, purely anecdotal, is that the more rangers try to bring the nanny state to public lands, the more careless, and dependent, people become. There will always be steep cliffs, deep water, and ornery and unpredictable animals in that messy part of the national habitat not crossed by climate-controlled malls and processed-food emporiums. If people expect a grizzly bear to be benign, or think a glacier is just another variant of a theme park slide, it’s not the fault of the government when something goes fatally wrong.

This year, Yosemite is experiencing a surge of visitors — 730,000 in July, a record for a single month, they say…

“Many of these people aren’t used to nature,” said Kari Cobb, a Yosemite park ranger. “They don’t fully understand it. We’ve got more than 800 trails and 3,000-foot cliffs in this park. You can’t put guardrails around the whole thing.”

On this week’s bike ride, a cardinal flashed before my eyes. A deer and her fawn ambled across the trail in front of me. Hawks and eagles soared overhead.

As I walked the bike up a hill, I saw a skeleton flattened in the wet grass. A deer.

Our suburban town, from which I can see the glittering towers of Manhattan 25 miles south like Oz, is filled with wildlife: raccoons, deer, crows, wild turkeys, groundhogs, skunks, rabbits.

I love hanging out in their neighborhood, whizzing through their world.

I wonder what they think of us.

When and where do you most enjoy being outdoors?