The first time I heard about Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, located a couple of hours outside of Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo, was when I was in Sri Lanka in 2009. As somebody who loves elephants, I asked around whether or not I should go visit. I mean, you hear the word “elephant orphanage” and it seems like it should be legitimate, right?
After reading dozens of reviews and articles about the subject, in a word: NO.
All that being said, after over a decade of souvenir shopping experience in markets all around the world, I’ve figured out a few ways to get the best price. Haggling, bartering, bargaining, wondering-if-you-should-sell-your-first-born-for-that-carpet… I’ve done it all.
If you follow any major travel websites, blogs, or Pinterest boards, chances are you’ve heard something along the lines of “experiences, not possessions” or maybe you’ve read about people who never buy souvenirs, preferring to travel light or to save their money.
And while I appreciate all of those arguments – I’d much rather have plane tickets than a designer purse, for example – I am one of those people who ALWAYS buys souvenirs. In fact, I’ve bought souvenirs (sometimes multiple souvenirs) in every country I’ve been to, even if it’s something as small as a thimble or a postcard. I have lugged bags full of knick knacks all over the world, sent boxes full of treasures home, and budgeted souvenir shopping into every trip I’ve taken. Some may call that materialistic, but I just call it sentimental.
Because the fact is, I LOVE looking at the souvenirs I’ve brought home from around the world. I love walking around my flat and picking them up. I love remembering where I was when I bought it, or who I bought it with, or who I bought it from. I love surrounding myself with little memories of my travels. Of course, I have photos and journals, too, but there’s something about having a little piece of a place to yourself.
To me, Italy is a country full of colour, full of life. It is a country of beautiful chaos, of the hustle and bustle of busy squares, of Vespas zipping through traffic, of restaurants carrying a cacophony of sounds through the night, people laughing and plates clanking and corks popping. Perhaps this is why I see the colour red everywhere in Italy: the crumbling walls of buildings, the sweet ripe cherries in the hot sun, the swirls of pasta on the plate, the dark oxblood of a perfect glass of wine, the splashes of colour against a rainy sky or a crowded beach. To me, red represents that Italian energy, that vivacity, that beauty.
I went to South America because of my sister. She went to South America because of a bottle of mezcal.
Wait. Let me back up. At 22 years old, I took my first long-term solo trip around Europe. That led to years of solo travel and living abroad, including a year travelling through Asia. In that year, I’d met another backpacker who became my boyfriend. When we broke up, I felt totally lost; we had made all of these grand plans together, and suddenly I was stuck in a Winnipeg winter trying to save my pennies as a bartender. I had no idea what to do next.
“You should go to South America, you’d love it,” my big sister Zalie said to me the night I got dumped, as if it was the natural next step. And just like that, a seed was planted, a fire lit. Within five months of that conversation, she was dropping me off at the airport to fly to Belize, where I’d start a nine-month journey through Central and South America.
People often ask me where I got the confidence, the bravery, or the idea to travel the world on my own.
“Easy,” I say to them. “I simply followed in my sister’s footsteps.”
The reason I love London so much is that it has a never-ending amount of things to do. You know that saying by Samuel Johnson where he says, “Tired of London, tired of life”? I have to admit, I kind of agree with it. Despite living in London for over three years (going on four, actually, I can’t believe it… it’s the longest I’ve ever lived somewhere in my adult life), I honestly never run out of things to do. The list of things I still want to do in this city grows ever longer.
One of those things, and something that topped the list for quite some time, was a silent disco at The Shard.