One of the great advantages of membership in TCC is the opportunity for travelers to actually meet face-to-face in local chapters and “tell travel tales.”
At our March meeting in Newport Beach, California, I handed out a survey sheet with this simple question: Please list one of your travel experiences which you would describe as a “take your breath away” moment…just one which you can remember to this day that still has you in awe and wonder!
By the end of the meeting, more than two dozen members had returned their questionnaires, some with succinct replies and others squeezing more than I expected onto the two lines I provided – TCC members, after all, are ingenious at adaptation and bending the rules if need be, right?
I suggested several possible categories to assist in the recollection: viewing a man-made structure, a natural wonder, a festival, a weather event, a crowd of people, a sensory experience or an historic moment. Nearly every reply fit into one of those fields, with a few overlapping, such as my own: at the remote outpost of Gatab on Mt. Kulal in north western Kenya, wearing a jacket at 5600 feet, mesmerized by the majestic view of the Chalbi Desert, Lake Turkana and the distant volcanic mountains of Uganda…at sunset!
With apologies in advance for listing first names only, editing for brevity and for my own thematic grouping, here is an amazing list of breath-taking moments your colleagues have experienced:
Man-Made Structure Lorelli – coming out of the Moscow subway at night and seeing the floodlit Kremlin, Gloria – lost while searching for a hostel in Rome and suddenly seeing St. Peter’s, Pam – boating down the Irrawaddy with the sun gleaming on the gold temples in the jungle, Sandra – ascending from a Roman metro and beholding the Coliseum, Charlie – the ancient Silk Road city of Merv, Turkmenistan, where the Mongols butchered the population of what was once the largest city in the world.
Natural Wonder Jeff – watching a lion chase away competitors from a killed wildebeest, Sonja – Moorea, “heaven on Earth,” Judy – watching a beautiful Cock-of-the- Walk bird fluffing his feathers en route to Angel Falls, John – seeing Mt. Everest while flying to Lhasa, Bob – viewing Rwanda mountain gorillas up close, Carol – being smacked in the face by a wall of water in a river boat at Iguazu Falls.
Festival Craig – festival day in Varanasi on the Ganges at sunrise, William – women chasing men at the Yam Festival in the matrilineal Trobriand Islands of New Guinea, Elisa – the Maha Kumbh Mela gathering in Allahabad amidst 12 million pilgrims.
Weather Event Hegina – a Philippine native seeing snow for the first time!
Sensory Experience Andre – a lobster dinner at sunset as boats bobbed on Jimbaran Beach in Bali, Sanford – an Aeroflot pilot “rolling” his commercial jetliner approaching Leningrad airport, Ron – being shoved by a 300 lb. silver back gorilla in Rwanda, JoAnn – dinner overlooking the White Nile in Juba on her first trip to Africa, Odette – facing the chief of the Dani tribes of Wamena, Irian Jaya, complete with penis gourd and nasal boar’s tusk…along with rosary beads, Wilbur – jumping in the freezing waters of Antarctica in his swimming trunks, David – being attacked by a rhinoceros in Kenya.
Historic Moment Robert – achieving his 100th country in Malta while watching a live recording of Season 25 of The Amazing Race.
Crowd of People Since we seem to have covered this theme with our festivals, I want to rename this category something like Friendly Foreign Faces and close with two entries which sum up the thrills and chills of travel and those who often come to our aid – the “St. Bernards” of our journeys. Let me conclude with these touching accounts:
Steve – “I was on a bus in Harbin, China, and asked an elderly couple if they knew where I could find the famous Russian Cathedral. The couple, each carrying a bulky 6-ft. package, insisted I follow them when we got off the bus. They walked 4 or 5 blocks to the cathedral. I was shocked that they were only walking to the cathedral for my benefit. Upon arrival, the couple turned around and walked away.”
And Pamela (who was attending the lunch with her father, Wilbur) – “While in Yugoslavia (1960s) our family was stranded (in our VW camper) in the middle of nowhere, covered and stuck in the snow. We fell asleep trapped and afraid of our destiny, unable to move. Suddenly with the jolting movement of our car, we were awakened by the wonderful villagers who found us stranded and helped dig us out until my dad was able to drive us out and on our way. This was truly another example of our travels that allowed us to see, no matter where we are in the world, there are truly wonderful people living everywhere in the world.”
What a perfect experience to summarize TCC’s motto: “World Travel … the passport to peace through understanding.” I hope that each of you will continue to have and to share travel moments that will “take your breath away!”