The Theory of Travel Relativity

Bangkok, Thailand
Posted by Richard Harry
July 12, 2011
From the moment we stepped off our flight, we entered a different world by distance, culture and class... We felt like royalty ourselves.
The Theory of Travel Relativity The Grand Palace - The official residence of the Kings of Thailand since the 18th century.

If you really want to see a place, go with a local, be it a professional tour guide or friend of a friend.  If that local is a dear relative who also happens to be connected to the very highest levels of society, all the better.  I was lucky enough to have just that experience on my first trip to Bangkok.

Growing up, I always knew her as my glamorous aunt from Canada. My Aunt Sopa was married to my Uncle Ken, an Englishman who had immigrated to Canada. But she was originally from Thailand. While she didn’t talk about it much, Aunty So was distantly related to the royal Thai dynasties.

Her ancestor, Sheikh Ahmad, originally came from Persia in 1602 to settle in Siam.  He and his son, Chune, were appointed Ministers of the Crown.  Aunty So’s direct forebears have since held positions in the court and government through the years.  Among them was King Taksin (1767-1782) and His Excellency Chao Phraya Si Suriyawong, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Siam.  He was also the Kalahom or Regent at the beginning of the Fifth Reign and will perhaps be remembered as the Regent in Anna Leonowens “Anna and the King of Siam.”  Her father also served as Minister of Finance in the Thai government, so you can see her connections were vast. Read More

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Discovering Delightful Diversions in Belgium

Brussels and Bruges, Belgium
Posted by Anthony Viciana
July 5, 2011
I have to admit Brussels was never on my bucket list... But during the three days I was stranded there, I grew to appreciate the quiet charm and beauty of this quintessential northern European city and the warmth of the Belgian people.
Discovering Delightful Diversions in Belgium Anthony, second from left, and his colleagues at the train station in Brussels.

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approaches, it’s inevitable to think back to where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of that horrible day. While other Americans watched news of the terrorist attacks unfold live on their TVs at home, I was a world away in Brussels on what was supposed to be a routine business trip – one that suddenly became an extended stay as air travel to the US came to a halt for the next few days.

I have to admit Brussels was never on my bucket list. To me, the city was the headquarters of NATO and the European Union. Brussels was bureaucrats and military personnel—not so exciting to a single guy in his early 30s. But during the three days I was stranded there, I grew to appreciate the quiet charm and beauty of this quintessential northern European city and the warmth of the Belgian people.

I also have to admit that until then, I was that type of traveler who aimed to blend in with the natives. But after 9/11, I never felt prouder to be an American and never before felt how much others appreciated the land of my birth.

I flew into Brussels on September 9, for an AAA travel conference. September 11, the second day of the conference, I went to my room at the Brussels Le Meridien Hotel thinking I’d catch up on some work. I turned on CNN International as background noise and went about my business, until I absorbed what was on my screen. Like everyone else, my first reaction (after utter shock) was to try to phone family, but of course lines to the United States were jammed. I was comforted by the knowledge that my parents were in Florida – hopefully well out of harm’s way – but I really didn’t want to be alone.  Not now.  So. I turned instead to industry colleagues – people I knew from going to conferences and trade shows around the world. Read More

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Hospitality Needs No Translation

Tokyo, Japan
Posted by Chris Nicholson
June 28, 2011
Before me stood a house that I can only describe as coming straight off of an antique porcelain plate. With peaked roofs and gabled eaves, the house was a charming relic of a bygone era.
Hospitality Needs No Translation Chris, Mr. & Mrs. Kurihari, and comedian Larry Larkin pose for a picture together.

When most visitors travel to Japan, they think of the quiet serenity of the countryside, where an emphasis is placed on nature and religious sites, or the brash, kinetic lure of non-stop action along Tokyo’s dazzling shopping districts.

My first visit took a path not usually taken. I was invited into the home of a Japanese couple I met during a cruise aboard the original Star Princess.

I knew it was an honor to be invited into someone’s home while traveling, perhaps never more so than in Japan. So when this couple extended an invitation, I was pleasantly surprised.

That’s how I ended up a year later in my hosts’ Tokyo house, reminding myself to feel honored, as I forced down my first-ever plates of sushi. We eat our fish fried and with chips in Liverpool. But I didn’t want to offend. I’d wash down each bite of sushi with sake only to find my plate and cup immediately refilled.

What came next was even more disorienting. I was taken by limo to a community center and whisked through the lobby to a small auditorium. My hosts directed me to get on the stage and sing the “Love Boat” theme song.

There I stood, alone. No band, no back-up singers, an audience of five expectantly watching me, waiting. Read More

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In the Wake of the Bounty

Pitcairn Island
Posted by Antonio Cortese
June 21, 2011
I know when I was on Pitcairn, I felt like Robinson Crusoe. With the mutiny still a very important part of life there, it felt like uncharted territory - a mysterious, uninhabited tropical paradise.
In the Wake of the Bounty Antonio's first photo after he landed on Pitcairn Island in 2009.

When people think of “Mutiny on the Bounty,” they think of the Marlon Brando movie about the famous uprising at sea.  In the movie, cruel Captain Bligh is overthrown by his crew and cast adrift on a small boat.  The story is even more incredible because it’s true.  As a child in Italy, I loved the movie and was amazed to learn that there really was a mutiny on the HMS Bounty, where Captain William Bligh was overthrown by his second-in-command, Fletcher Christian.

The mutiny occurred in 1789 and the story could’ve ended there, in the middle of the South Pacific, unknown to later generations.  Against all odds, Bligh made it safely back to England, along with the half of the crew that remained loyal to him, to tell the world the news.  There began the legend of the mutiny on the Bounty and the inevitable question:  Whatever happened to Fletcher Christian and his fellow mutineers?

We now know that Christian and his half of the Bounty crew took wives in Tahiti and ended up on a deserted island, the remote and desolate Pitcairn Island, in 1790.

Named for British midshipman Robert Pitcairn who sighted it in 1767, Pitcairn was at first incorrectly charted, making it difficult for other sailors to find it.  Thus it was the perfect place for someone who needed to hide.   Read More

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For the Love of London

London, England
Posted by Michael Revnes
June 14, 2011
London fills me with awe. Its history and my personal connection combine to give me a welcome feeling that beckons me back again and again.
For the Love of London Mike and his son, Joe, looking out over the city from the London Eye.

I love London.  The city has enthralled me for almost five decades, and I eagerly return there every chance I get.

I’ve been to London 25 times (and counting).  I’ve visited this beautiful capital city at every stage of my life:  as a child, a teenager, a backpacking college student, with my wife as a newly married couple, as a cruise industry veteran, and as a father.

As I look back, I see how London has influenced my life.  Because of my love of London, I majored in history in college.

My wife Nancy, who also happens to like London, became an antiques dealer, and some credit goes to this city and our love of all things historical and British.  London introduced me to Agatha Christie mysteries, and I developed a fondness for the theater in the city’s fabled West End.

This Midwesterner turned Southerner also enjoys a cup of tea and doesn’t mind rainy weather.  I’ve enjoyed many umbrella-shielded walks through the city – good times for contemplation – making a stop for the national drink whenever possible.    Read More

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An Ode to My Emerald Isle

Dublin, Ireland
Posted by Cathy Tobin
June 7, 2011
It dawned on me. The Emerald Isle and its picturesque capital of Dublin were certainly beloved, but by others. What did it mean to me?
An Ode to My Emerald Isle Here I am at Arnaldo Pomodoro's "Sphere within a Sphere" sculpture outside the Berkeley Library at Trinity Library in Dublin.

I am Irish to my very core, but the more I traveled the world, the more I wondered …did I really appreciate Ireland? As I navigated the globe on cruise ships, the question arose again and again.

Arriving by ship into New York on St. Patrick’s Day was the ultimate spark to ignite the Irish pride within. I watched the parade in New York City — the largest such celebration in the world — surrounded by my Irish shipmates on Fifth Avenue, staring in amazement at the millions (yes, millions) of spectators dressed in green, cheering on the marching firefighters, police and bagpipers. Their enthusiasm was infectious. Had I been missing something?

Numerous times shipboard, whenever Ireland was part of the itinerary, passengers would approach me for the inside scoop on what to see and where to go. Hearing my Irish accent, they’d figure I must have something useful to say about historic Trinity College, the legendary Guinness Brewery and the ancient Book of Kells, which just happens to be Ireland’s greatest treasure. Who knew? I’d never taken the time to see any of the above. Read More

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