Every Thursday, A Dangerous Business will be shining the spotlight on a world nomad, travel blogger, armchair adventurer, or just someone really cool in the travel world. This week, the traveler is Ruth Rieckehoff from Tanama Tales. Ruth writes for outstanding people wanting to share the beauty of life one story at a time. You can find her life, love and travel stories on her blog.
1. How do you define the word “traveler,” and why would you consider yourself one?
For me, a traveler is not merely somebody who travels to distant lands. A traveler is someone interested in learning about other cultures and countries through different perspectives. Sure, a traveler gets excited every time he visits the top sights. However, those experiences alone do not satisfy his insatiable curiosity. The traveler chooses to understand foreign surroundings by visiting markets, having lunch at a local eatery, witnessing how artisanal products are created, observing how kids practice the most popular sport, examining endemic species, etc. (sometimes, I get the crazy idea of going to work with somebody in another country). Travelers shoot for experiences out of the mold.
Oh, and a traveler can keep you awake all night with the most interesting stories.
2. What has been your favorite travel experience thus far?
Do I have to choose one? Well, I may have the audacity to say Thailand is at the top of my travel experiences (hopefully, other countries will not get jealous). I had a super, mega, wonderful time when I visited. In my eyes, everything was excellent. The people. The food (oh, the food). The temples. The elephants. Even Bangkok and all of its messy spaces. I really want to go back and discover new places in this wonderful country. Let me finish answering this question by saying I appreciate every travel opportunity and try to make the most out of it.
3. How about your proudest travel moment?
Conquering Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) Cave in Belize. I was a little hesitant about doing this because you have to enter the cave swimming. I don’t know how to swim. Plus, you have to walk about half a mile in water reaching different levels of your body (sometimes neck-deep). I was a little scared of walking in the dark, through little holes and with water everywhere before reaching the dry part of the cave.
However, I am glad I made the decision to enter the cave. My husband helped me with the swimming part. At some points, the water was deep but I didn’t go under because I am tall. The best part is that I was able to see the amazing rock formations, the pottery left by the Mayas after sacrifices and the skeletons of humans sacrificed to the gods (including the crystal princess). It was an experience I will cherish all my life.
4. Have you had any travel mishaps or bad experiences? If so, have these influenced how you view the place where they happened? Would you go back?
Every time I travel!!! I mean, I have found myself without money, lost, ripped off, in a horrific hotel, in restrooms straight out of hell, etc. I don’t call these mishaps or bad experiences. I called them adventures. And a trip is not a trip if you do not encounter some adventures. Knowing that a lot of things can happen while abroad, I try to remain calm and think about the best way to handle the situation. Almost every time, I end up laughing at what happened.
When I started to travel, mishaps or bad travel experiences tended to put me in a bad mood. I have learned not everything is going to be like home. My attitude is really important if I want to enjoy the rest of the trip. Yes, I will go back to a place where sour experiences took place.
5. Name one thing you can’t travel without.
A plan, a guide book or a map. I need to constantly check where I am, where I am going or what to do. And a watch. I need to know what time is it (does this qualify as obsessive-compulsive behavior?)
6. Name one thing you wish you COULD travel without.
My glasses or contact lenses. It’s a hassle. I fear I will lose a lens while on an activity and then I freak out because I think I will leave my glasses at a hotel. It would be ideal to banish them from my travel life.
7. What do you think has been the biggest thing you’ve learned while traveling (about yourself, a destination, a culture, travel itself)?
About myself – I am capable of doing more than I think.
Destination – Always check a place even though others say it sucks. Some places can really get under your skin and then you miss them dearly.
Culture – A country is not made of one culture.
Travel itself – Travel is an eye opener. Additionally, once you taste it, you are going to be in great trouble because it is difficult to stop.
8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
I would like to live in Italy (probably Rome) because I’ve been attracted to all things Italian since I was a kid. I would love to discover the country from top to bottom including the cities, the mountains, the National Parks and the many festivals (Palio, anyone?). Plus, living in Italy would let me discover other European countries as well.
9. Name one place you’d like to see or one experience you’d like to have before you die.
I would like to travel the Eastern Africa Route (Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa). All these countries seem so different to what I have experienced in the past. The mere idea of traveling through this area gives me goosebumps. I feel like this would be a life changing trip. Plus, I have always wanted to learn more about my African roots.
10. If there was one thing you wish somebody would have told you before you started traveling, what would it be?
Enjoy every moment and feel gratitude. The world is full of great places. It is probable that you are not going to be able to visit every single corner of this planet in your lifetime. Don’t get anxious while trying to pack as much as possible in a small period of time. Don’t think about the things you missed while visiting a place. Just enjoy the moment because that is where you decided to be at that moment and each place has its own magic (if you know how to look at it).
Are you a travel blogger who has something to say on these topics? Do you know of somebody really interesting in the travel universe that you’d like to see interviewed? Speak up! The Thursday Traveler needs some interview subjects.