Always nice to receive some peer recognition, and today we’re humbly grateful in thanking Valentini Argyropoulou of My Shoes Abroad (isn’t that just the best blog name?) for nominating us for
The Sunshine Blogger Award
The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.
That certainly sounds just like us, doesn’t it? Of course you agree, we know it!
What are the rules of The Sunshine Blogger Award?
- Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog.
- Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
- Nominate up to 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
- List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.
Thanks again, My Shoes Abroad! Now, onto the questions:
1. What people usually think about your country that is actually wrong?
Oh, we’re starting out with a hard one right off. See, thing is, those Canadian stereotypes…
… pretty much all of them are, in fact, accurate. We’re sorry, eh?
The biggest misconception we can think of is the identification of Canada with snowhouses called “igloos:”
Not actually downtown Toronto.
First off, “igloo” is actually the name for any kind of house in Inuktitut, the Inuit (aka “Eskimo” which is considered derogatory these days) language. The iconic snowhouse construction is in Nunavut igluvijaq, (plural igluvijait, Inuktitut syllabics: ᐃᒡᓗᕕᔭᖅ) and these days is almost exclusively a temporary hunting camp construction; virtually no non-Inuit Canadian has ever even seen one, and effectively no one actually lives full-time in a snowhouse even in the Arctic regions.
2. Describe the trickiest moment you ever had throughout a trip.
Yeah, that one’s easy. It’s the time we jumped onto the Carnival Valor when it had, in fact, actually already left the dock, which is an exceedingly tricky time to board a cruise ship:
A not-overly-demanding long jump becomes much trickier when a) you’re landing on a platform stabilized only by the crew’s muscle power and b) you’re doing it over a stretch of water that the Valor’s engines have turned into a giant blender as they push it away from the dock. So, yeah, don’t do that. We’ll certainly do our best to avoid doing it again.
3. Which country / place disappointed you and why?
The only way a country can disappoint us is by not letting us in to visit! The current record is held by Albania:
1) The first time we tried to get in was in 1989, when we showed up at the Albanian embassy in Belgrade. At the time, the Communists were just about to fall from power and scruffy backpackers with no clear reason to visit did not get visas to wander around under any circumstances.
2) We tried again in the fall of 2014, when we were driving across northern Greece to visit Corfu and figured tagging southern Albania while we were at it was a worthwhile side diversion. This time, it was the Greek side that wouldn’t let us through, as the rental car didn’t have its papers to go visit Albania. As no outside Albania/Kosovo rental car will.
3) Finally, in 2016 we decided we were going to do a proper tour of all the Balkan countries, most of which didn’t exist at 1) the last time we were through the region. Having learned from 2), we looked into the car papers problem thoroughly, and here is how it currently stands:
– If you rent a car in Kosovo, you can only drive it in Kosovo and Albania.
– If you rent a car in any of the other Balkan states, you cannot drive it into Kosovo or Albania.
– If you rent a car in Albania, you can drive it anywhere practical to drive to except Serbia. So we flew into Tirana and did that!
Mind you, “can” drive it has a value of “expect a remarkably thorough search at every border crossing” as somebody with an allegedly Canadian passport driving an Albania-plated car is considered suspicious in the region. But that’s another story altogether.
4. What was the most terrible action against animals/ planet by humans you have experienced in your travels and how did you react / will you react if it happens again?
As a scuba diver, the multiple tons (somewhere between 5 and 13 million, generally thought) of single use plastic that end up in the oceans top that list. Everybody should do their best to avoid single use plastic, and at the very least make sure any you do use is disposed of properly and not littered.
For more information, Plastic Oceans is a good place to start!
5. What is the most amazing place you have been and why?
Let’s see … what’s the definition of “amazing” exactly?
causing great surprise or wonder; astonishing
Yeah, on that scale, we’ve got a clear winner: The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
… Pyongyang, and North Korea in general, is a very. special. place. “Steampunk dystopia” is the best phrase we could come up with to describe it, it’s this unique blend of the futuristic, the dated, and the primitive that just doesn’t have anything close to it anywhere…
Just got there last year finally, and it appears that may have been just about the last year you could visit North Korea if the current moves toward unification work out —
— from East Germany through Yugoslavia and on to the present, there is a truly remarkable correlation between when we visit countries and when they promptly disappear or undergo revolution, but that’s another story altogether —
— and North Korean society, there is no more astonishing place on the planet now, and quite possibly ever. Thoroughly recommend you visit while it’s still there!
– Every letter (14 consonants, 10 vowels) maps directly to a sound
– Letters are stacked horizontally to form syllables
– Words are separated by a space and Western punctuation is used
The upshot is you can learn Hangul well enough to find your way around in pretty much an afternoon. Actually learning the language conversationally, well that’s another discussion altogether. But from the viewpoint of a traveller, if all countries had such a consistent and logical alphabet, making your way around would be so much easier…
7. What is the best vegetarian food you have ever tried and where?
Oh, that’s another easy one, and it’s the same answer vegetarian or not; here in Thailand is unquestionably the best food in the world, that’s why we live here now!
Pad Thai (stir-fried noodles) and Som Tum (papaya salad) are justifiably iconic, and although due to fish sauce and dried shrimp their normal presentation isn’t 100% vegan, you can easily get vegetarian/vegan varieties of both.
Pretty much any Thai dish can be found with tofu substituting for meat though, and there’s many stir fries and curries that are delicious, filling, and vegetarian — we particularly recommend Pad Phuk Tong, stir-fried pumpkin, as one that’s a surprisingly delicious treat!
8. Mention an uncommon travel APP/ website you are in love with and why!
We went over the winner here pretty soon after starting this blog:
MTP was founded in 2005 to create a community and standards body for extreme travelers. A lack of standards had existed since the year 2000, when Guinness declared itself unable to continue to judge the Most Traveled category. Guinness requested that a legitimate 3rd party organization pick up this task, so MTP was born…
That one to us strikes the right balance between being competitive and being fun to benchmark our traveling at. Good times for everyone, join today!
9. What do you say to people who are afraid of travelling (but they would like to)?
Same thing I say to anyone afraid of anything: Start today! Trick to accomplishing anything outside your comfort zone is to approach it in small steps:
– Start with the city you live in; pick something off TripAdvisor you haven’t been to, go visit, and write a review.
– Then pick someplace an easy daytrip away
– Then go on a weekend trip
– And so on until you’re wandering around strange continents for months at a time!
One thing that most “professional” travellers tend to sneer at that we quite thoroughly recommend to the travel novice is cruising on one of those floating city monstrosities; yes, the experience is mostly superficial by design, but because of that you get a safe and convenient introduction to dealing with different places…
… and if you put a little effort into avoiding the superficiality, well then you can end up with some interesting stories indeed. Like we mentioned up in question 2, for instance.
10. Which was the most «out of your comfort zone» place you have been to so far and why?
Hmm-mmm-mmm. Well, having been everywhere from Syria during wartime (not the current one, the Lebanese Civil War) to the above-mentioned North Korea, there isn’t actually pretty much anything that’s out of our comfort zone at this point, really.
Thinking about it some more, well for us personally the question is actually a category error. It’s when we’re completely inside a “comfort zone” where everything is known, predictable, and safe that we’re bored, restless, and generally miserable. It’s when we’re in the complete unknown and we have no idea what to do or what’s happening next that we’re the most excited and the happiest!
Putting it that way, yes a particular place does spring to mind: Bucharest, Romania in early December 1989. Up there we mentioned “there is a truly remarkable correlation between when we visit countries and when they promptly disappear or undergo revolution” you may recall? Well, check the dates of the Romanian Revolution —
— less than two weeks after we left, we were seeing footage of tanks rolling down the same streets we’d been wandering around with the locals terrified to acknowledge our existence and very poor at spycraft indeed secret police tailing us wherever we went. The feeling that we were living in the middle of a Len Deighton spy novel, that was pretty much the most … electric … atmosphere we can ever recall anywhere, so we’ll give that the “most out of our comfort zone” trip honors.
11. How do you help the locals in less privileged countries you visit?
We’re firm believers that the best form of help you can give anybody — indeed, the only form that works in the long run — is their self-respect. Which is gained through self-reliance.
So, our approach is very simple; when we’re traveling, we use tour guides and traveling services and purchase souvenirs and so forth as close to the individual entreprenurship level as possible, avoiding multinational companies that skim middleman profits from the local providers — and we tip very generously when goods/services are provided with a prideworthy effort. That way, a) our experience is more authentic, b) we know that our money is going help build both a better experience for future travelers and a better life for locals who are doing their best to provide that and so deserve their rewards. Win-win!
Occassionally we will do some outright charitable giving when the connection between our money and the end benefit is sufficiently clear, see for instance
Buying a mildly overpriced sack of rice and then delivering it directly to the orphans’ larder, yep that’s a fun time and we can see for ourselves exactly how our money is used for some needful benefit, that’s good enough for us.
OK, that’s our responses: now let’s pass the award on to our 11 new nominees! Here’s our picks for you to check out, in no particular order:
- @_travelblog_’s Travel For Change — “My wandering heart inspired me to create Travel For Change so I can share what I have learnt about the voluntourism industry with you and offer guided advice for anyone looking to work or volunteer abroad…”
- @TayloredAdven’s Taylored Adventures — “I am a wife and mother who loves to travel. In fact, I am a wife and mother because of travel! I have visited 35+ countries, but I believe that adventure can be found across the globe or your own backyard…”
- @khoingn’s The Broad Life — “Khoi Nguyen builds The Broad Life with desire to inspire people go exploring the world and live a more interest, experience, and adventurous life…”
- @littleblackshel’s Little Black Shell — “From personal style to her world travels, Karen embodies “La Vie Boheme.” She is a self-proclaimed minimalist bohemian in every aspect of life…”
- @fernwehrahee’s Fernwehrahee — “Full time Engineer, Part time traveler, Mountain lover, obsessive for sunset and a woman with long travel bucket list items…”
- @NehaLambaS’s Untold Travel Tales — “Nomad traveller, who always love to seek new experiences, go to different places and want to explore each corner of the world at least once in a lifetime. During the search of what I can do the best, I found my heart in travelling…”
- @TravelLoveFash’s Travel Love Fashion — “Endless sequences of fuzzy memories overlap from dreams to reality, never quite clear what’s real. thick air, flash flood thunderstorms, stage makeup, costumes on stage and off…”
- @travelaspain’s Travelling around Spain — “When you decide to visit Spain there are so many things to do and see you might feel overwhelmed planning your trip. This blog will direct you to the gems of each region—from nooks and crannies in the larger centres to hidden villages, from remote castles to unique gastronomy…”
- @DpixTravel’s DpixTravel — “My journey started when I met my partner in London and we booked our first flight ticket to the Canary islands. I absolutely forgot how does it feels to go on an adventure, so I can say that I was shocked…”
- Incidental Nomad — “My only wish is to get some time out from this regular life, when I’m passing through my last moments i should not be thinking that i should have travelled more, that i should have done more crazy things…”
- Carlo & Lara Travel Pirates — “We’ve been living abroad for so long.. life is not meant to be lived in just one place! Travel and enjoy all the experience, meet new friends around the world, take time to breathe and enjoy the little things…”
And lastly, our 11 questions:
- What’s a place/experience in your home country more travellers should visit?
- What inspires you the most to visit a country? History, nature, culture, just because?
- Hotels, homestays, hostels, housesitting … where do you stay when you travel?
- What country would you make your home, if you could pick any you wanted?
- What’s the most unexpected adventure you’ve ever had travelling?
- How do you plan your visits? Websites, apps, books, word of mouth, not at all?
- What inspired you to start blogging?
- What do you hope to accomplish with your blog?
- What historical explorer/adventurer would you most like to have travelled with?
- What are you most grateful for in your life?
- What is your spirit animal?
There we go, that was fun wasn’t it? Thanks again My Shoes Abroad for tagging us, and good luck with your travel blogging to you and all our other nominees!