A Human adventure

A Human adventure

A moment lived in Ireland by Nearly Irish, a traveller from France

When I landed in Dublin airport 12 years ago, I was far from thinking I would still be here after all that time. I had planned to stay for two or three years only, which already seemed quite an ambitious plan for the recruiter who offered me my first job. “The majority of foreigners stay on average one year” he warned me. As it happened, he was right. I’m not even counting the amount of people I met and went back home in the blink of an eye.

I know I’m saying the past 12 years have been a big adventure, and still is, but I’m not talking about an action-packed or crazy stories type of journey. After all, I didn’t go backpacking through the Australian outback or volunteer in Africa. I didn’t go on a teaching gig in China or on surf trips to Bali. The culture clash was probably less visible than if I had moved to the other side of the planet.

My adventure is mostly human. Sure I didn’t go to all those exotic places, but I have met people from all corners of the globe, and this would have NEVER happened if I stayed home. I have friends all over the world and not only I learned about Irish culture, I discovered many other places.

My husband is from Mauritius. I have Indian and Danish neighbours. I used to work with Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian and Slovakian people. I have friends from Moldova, Great-Britain, Croatia, Spain and the USA… I learned a lot about other cultures, especially tolerance, respect and differences. I can also manage a few words in each language. Bad words, mostly, but that’s usually what we remember, right? And I ate A LOT of good stuff cooked by those people. Traditional dishes and biscuits and cakes… Food can really make people connect, trust me!

Most importantly, I have met wonderful Irish people and discovered a fabulous country. I couldn’t thank my host family enough for feeding me (a bit too much) and really helping me out when I was stuck at the beginning. The first few months really shaped the rest of my Irish experience and that particular family is the reason I realised this country was really worth it.

The Irish are very family centred and it takes a bit more work to really have a solid friendship with them, but I think we managed to find a good balance between Irish and foreign friends.

There have been some highs and lows during those 12 years. I sometimes got bored and frustrated, but I never gave up, and I still think I have a better quality of life here than in France.

When I look back at my time in Ireland, I will think about the wonderful landscapes and the never-ending rainbows, but most importantly, I will remember THE PEOPLE.

And that’s what makes this adventure human.

This traveler has a travel blog: Nearly Irish

credit photo: Nearly Irish
northern lights Alaska
Powerful Alaska

Powerful Alaska

A moment lived in USA by Charlie Bear, a traveller from France

I have always been dreaming to go to Alaska. I have been attracted by its climate (the cold does not impress me much), its mountains, forests and lakes and mostly its wilderness since I was a child. My mother used to say that I was quite a wild kid, maybe that’s why Alaska seemed so much like the perfect place to go…

So when I realised that my business school offered an exchange program in the 49th USA state, I did not hesitate a second. Nine months later I arrived in Fairbanks, in the middle of the borealis forest. I did not know by then that I was about to live the best year of my life.. Here are a few of my adventures!

The dancing Northern Lights

Extraordinary or magnificent are not enough. There are no words to describe the feeling of seeing the northern lights dancing in the sky! They smoothly undulate in the darkness, like the flow of a quiet river, until they literally explode and invade the entire sky, waving faster and stronger, and changing colours. Forming cones they even go down to the earth, and it feels like you could even touch them.
The experience was completely magical, and left me speechless. It made me realise the force of Nature, and gave a whole new understanding of this mystical event.

The camping by minus 30°C

My French friends gave me the nickname of “Bear” in comparison to Bear Grylls (I guess I am a bit wild after all!). But in Alaska, everyone (or almost) is a bit wild. So when I submitted the idea of going camping in the middle of the winter to my friends, they instantly agreed (what a bunch of fools, myself included!). Three days later, we rented a tent, special arctic sleeping bags and we went hitch-hiking on the road to go the a forest we previously picked. It was already minus 20*C and freezing. A nice man took us on his pick-up, and stopped us half-way in his cabin so that we could warm up as we were already freezing. He offered us food, drinks, took and guitar and starting playing. This guys was absolutely amazing, and we did not want to leave anymore! But one hour later, he took us to a shop to buy food/wood, and then took us to the forest. I was already really cold, and was secretly drinking his whisky in the car to get a bit warmer…what did not work at all. Our plan was to walk for a couple of hours,  set up the tent, have a fire, diner, and then watch the Northern Lights. It did not really go as expected: First, the snow was fresh and deep, and it was really hard to walk into the woods, we had snow until our knees. So after 30 minutes, we decided to stop. We set up the tent, and realised that we did not have…sleeping bags (what a band of amateurs). It then took us a long time to start the fire on the snow. I created wood shavings to start it, it was not enough. We tried to add vodka, but it was not really working either. After a while, we finally managed to start it! And we were absolutely freezing cold. We decided to have diner, but both the wood and our water froze, so we were left with chips. We staid around the fire until our wood stock was over, and all went straight to the tent huddling together, stuck like penguins. It was the coldest night of my life, so cold that I could not find the strength to go outside to watch the dancing lights. When we woke up in the morning, around 6:30, it was snowing in the tent. It took us 15 minutes to disassemble everything, and get the hell out of there! We hitch-hiked back to campus, happy that we were still alive and well, and happy to be back inside..

But what I value the most from my year in Alaska is the people I met and their kindness. The conditions here are so extreme, that I guess people have to come together and help. As a French girl, I was absolutely not used to that, and I even remember finding it really weird when I arrived. But I soon realised that people were just really genuinely nice, and wanted to help as much as they could. Alaska is nothing but a big family, where people welcome you with a giant heart wherever you go. I made amazing friendships, opened my eyes, and found a whole new meaning of life.

credit photo: Charlie Bear
Press credentials for the big festival

Press credentials for the big festival

A moment lived in Peru by Alison, a traveller from Canada

February 10th 2013. Puno, Peru. It’s a Sunday. Were standing in line outside the town stadium waiting to buy tickets for the first of two Sundays of the dance competition. It’s the Candelaria Festival, an annual event that draws fifty thousand dancers and twenty thousand musicians from all over the Andes to this small town on the shores of Lake Titicaca. The festival, although not as well known as Rio’s Carnival, is equally as big, and equally as colourful. It’s about ten in the morning, and although the competition started at seven, we’re not worried. We know it will continue throughout the day and into the evening.

We’d arrived in town the day before, and really don’t know much more about the festival except that today the dancing starts at the stadium.

Suddenly a miracle happens although we do not realize it as such at the time. A local woman who speaks English walks up to us and begins talking, introducing herself, and asking if she can help. This is what I learn: the stadium is divided into four quarters; you cannot move from one quarter to another; the best place for photography is the south quarter. I don’t realize how invaluable this information is until later when we enter the stadium.

We buy our tickets for the south quarter and go in. The first thing I notice is that between the concrete stadium seating and the field where the dancing takes place there is a high wire fence. Looking up I realize that to get any photographs without this fence in the way I will have to go to the top of the seating and then will be photographing dancing ants, even with my long lens. I’m momentarily disappointed, and then inwardly shrug: well I guess I won’t be taking any photos today.

As we walk along at the bottom of the seating looking for a place to sit I notice a gate in the fence. The gate leads to the athletic track that surrounds the field. Beyond the track is a low fence and beyond that is the dancing. And in that space I see photographers and cameramen. There is a man guarding the gate. Completely spontaneously I find myself, in my best halting Spanglish, asking if we could go in there, explaining that I have an online journal. The gatekeeper sends for a more important man who allows is into the media area for the day. Wait what? We’re press? We’re in the official media area! We have front row seats to the dancing with nothing obstructing our view!

Later I ask him if we could come back the following Sunday when the competition continues. He says we need to get press credentials from the Candelaria office and tells us where to find it. During the week we apply for, and are granted, press credentials and return the following Sunday for the rest of the dancing. You have no idea how wonderful it feels to be ushered in ahead of everyone else, and to get the best view because you have the right authorization hanging around your neck.

And all this because out of nowhere, like a miracle, a local woman came up to us while we waited in line and told us about the configuration of the stadium and the best place for photography. We actually didn’t even see her coming. Suddenly she was there, saying hello and introducing herself.
Even now as I write about it I still find it completely mind blowing. Without her information we would have arrived at the ticket window and not had a clue what tickets to buy, and probably not enough Spanish to find out. A truly amazing travel moment!

This traveler has a travel blog: Alison and Don

credit photo: Alison