The view overlooking Biella, Italy

My Experience with Permaculture and Compost Toilets Near Biella Italy

My lifestyle as a travel blogger is rarely full of glamour and luxury like most people think. The past week has been a good example of that. I spent the days working my butt off for a family running a Permaculture retreat and education center in the mountains near Biella Italy.  Compost toilets, not-so-hot hot…

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The streets in Old Medina Casablanca

8 Cultural Observations from an American in Casablanca Morocco

After being in the pristine and stunning countries of Germany, Austria, and Sweden, it was hard to adjust to life in a large, over populated, dusty, smelly city. I hate to admit it, but that really is my general opinion of Casablanca. Sure, it has some nice qualities, like beautiful beaches and the wealthy French Quarter, but in general my advice is that if you want to visit Morocco, skip Casablanca and try Marrakesh instead. I was there just long enough to learn some things about the culture, and here are 8 culture observations from an American visiting Casablanca, Morocco.

French influence

 

There is a heavy French influence in Casablanca that dates back to its history in the early 1900s. In fact, I think more people speak French than Arabic, at least in the area I was in. Street signs and marketing are mostly in Arabic, but everywhere you go people say “bonjour” or other common French phrases.

Stranded a long way from home

How I Ended up 3,000 Miles Away from Home with No Money or ID

It was a potentially life-threatening moment. I was 3,000 miles away from home with no money or ID. The temperature was about 90 degrees and I had been riding my motorcycle for hours. Exhausted, I pulled into a gas station to fill my tank. I looked down at where I keep my handbag and my heartbeat started racing. It was gone!!

What happened

About 100 miles back, near the Kentucky border, it had started raining hard. I pulled over underneath an overpass to put on the rain gear that my friend had let me borrow from her just for the trip. I ride with my bag slung over me, so I won’t lose it. I had to take it off and set it down to put on the rain gear. You can guess what happened next. A momentary distraction cost me dearly. I rode away and left it there under the overpass!

So, there I was at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, with no money to fill my tank, no ID, and no credit cards. I felt weak. I was sweating profusely and trembling. I sat down and tears filled my eyes. What was I going to do? I pulled out my cell phone. I could barely see the screen without my glasses and they were in my purse! The battery was down to 20% and my charger was also in my handbag! I was disgusted at myself for making such a stupid mistake!

Airport security guard staring at me

Safety Considerations for Female Solo Travel in Asia

He called out to me in the dark of night. “Madame come,” he said, from about 20 minutes away. There was no way in hell I was going over there. I didn’t know the guy. I couldn’t even make out his face in the darkness. I picked up my pace and headed in the opposite direction.

I’ve spent the last year and half traveling around Asia and living in India. I never had any real problems, but I was also acutely aware of my surroundings and very cautious. If you are a woman traveling around on your own in Asia, here are my recommendations for safety. Of course these precautions probably would apply to anywhere, but in a country where you might not understand the culture or speak the language, you must be extra careful.

Lie

I hate having to suggest this. It goes against every principal of my being. Why should we have to lie for our own safety? The feminist in me hates it!  We shouldn’t have to lie, but in certain circumstances it’s justified. Let me give you an example. I was in a taxi in Thailand driving through a fairly remote area at night. My taxi driver asked me if I was traveling alone. “No,” I said, “my husband is waiting for me at the hotel. He has some work to do.”  About 15 minutes later the driver continued to ask me uncomfortable questions, like where did I live and how long were we there?  I realize it’s possible he was just being friendly, but my instincts told me to be very careful. I picked up my cell phone and acted like I was dialing and talking to my husband until we arrived at my destination.  Many times I have had strange men hurry up to catch up with me and then ask me if I have a boyfriend or husband. I learned the hard way to say yes. If you don’t they will continue to follow you and try to make conversation.

Rohtang Pass: Experience of a Lifetime! (Part 2 of a 3 part series)

A  year ago if you had told me I would be standing in a bus, at an elevation of 13,000 feet in the Himalya Mountains, trying to decide if it was safe to get off  and help push it out of the mud, I would have thought you were crazy!  Fast forward one year later and you might think I’m the crazy one! One thing is for sure, traveling up Rhotang Pass was the unforgettable experience of a lifetime.

Why it’s famous

Rohtang  Pass is about 51 kilometers from the hill station of Manali on the eastern Par Panjal Range of the Himalyas.  The roads are rough and steep with no guard rails. Typically only one car can fit at a time even though there is two way traffic.  It is such an adventure that the History Channel has featured it on Ice Road Truckers and Deadliest Roads.  Major traffic jams are common due to accidents, poor road conditions and snow and ice. In fact it is only open from May to November.  

People bathing in a mud puddle in India

A Very Bad Day in India

We all have bad days. They are just part of life. I recently experienced one in India, and the circumstances, for the most part, were unique to India. It all started when I was on a conference call. I work odd hours over here because of the 12.5 hour time difference. This was an 7:00 AM conference call and I was already in a bad mood because I had to skip my work out. Keep in mind that I connect to my conference calls through the Internet. The electricity suddenly went out which disconnected me front the call, and I was the facilitator!  The electricity goes off all the time here due to over population and unregulated electrical work. I never was able to reconnect to the call because the back up generators didn’t kick on for some reason.

 

Electrical blackouts

I finished getting ready the best I could without electricity. That meant no hot shower, no coffee and no curling my hair. Plus there was no air conditioning, which meant it was soon about 85 degrees in my apartment! By the time I left for work I was covered in sweat and in a very foul mood.

Beautiful Udaipur India

The Ups and Downs of Travel and Tourism in India

I’ve been in India for four months now and so far I’ve visited Agra, Jaipur, Udaipiur and Rieshikesh. Booking reservations and traveling around India is quite different from how we do things in the USA.

Your passport

First of all, all reservations, even domestically require a copy of your passport. They want a hard copy and copy machines are not readily available, so someone is always taking your passport from you and then heading into the back room with it. The first time that happened I about had a panic attack. I’ve heard stories about travelers getting their passports taken away only to find they have to buy it back. Fortunately that’s not the case here!

Middle men

Another thing that annoys me is that you can’t call any resort or tourist activity directly to book a reservation. You have to call a tourist service. There are so many middle men, each getting a piece of the pie, that it drives the price way up. Sometimes these middle men are just scammers that take your money and run, so you have to be very careful. Taxes are also very high, 20 to 30 percent in many areas!