How YOU Doin’?

Restrictions are lifting where I live. Starbucks has re-opened some of their stores but only for mobile-order pickup.

I’m really curious to know what’s happening and changing where you live, so please share your tales (and photos) with us.

Stay healthy and take care, everyone!

(This article was originally posted on May 6, 2020 on Facebook. To read some amazing comments and insights from people all across the US and the globe–including Portugal and Panama, please visit: The Travelphile on Facebook

¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone (and belatedly, May the Fourth Be With You)! While I will admittedly be mackin’ down on some yummy *comida mexicana* today (let’s face it: any excuse to eat tacos 🌮), have you ever wondered what we’re actually celebrating on the Fifth of May? Is it commemorate:

a. an indigenous religious festivity from central Mexico
b. a triumphant battle over Napoleonic forces in central Mexico
c. the signing of a peace treaty between Mexico and the United States
d. Mexican Independence Day from Spain

Please share your guesses in the comments below. And for the real story, check out this cool, informative article from *The Conversation*.

https://theconversation.com/amp/americans-might-love-cinco-de-mayo-but-few-know-what-theyre-celebrating-115780?fbclid=IwAR3kcdFAGUly_bkb9Rv4m2Svh-gJBKqoxMeDYC-XS1mtPKB47rnCBpFfxgA

A Beachin’ Day in San Diego

I’m not one who believes we should be opening up the entire economy right now (and we can civilly agree to disagree on that). I’m more concerned about the collective health and safety of the people in our society, and I’m grateful to the front-line, essential workers and to all the people who are thinking beyond their own needs by wearing PPE, maintaining social distancing, and practice hygienic behaviors.

IMG_0834

But I gotta say, I am not mad one bit that San Diego beaches are accessible again, even if only in a limited way. We got to stroll the beach as a family, feel the sea breeze, find a kelp monster, and enjoy seeing happiness on so many faces (with and without PPE). It was surprisingly comforting to see so many people again. I miss people.

But no matter how quickly or slowly we re-open things, just remember: stay healthy, everyone! It’s about doing what’s good for everyone—not just yourself.

By the way, I’m making and selling customized face masks now. If you’re interested, stay tuned for more details. Or you can email me for more information at thetravelphile@gmail.com.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Turn Your Airline Sleep Mask into a Face Mask

In early April 2020, in order to protect ourselves and others, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) advised that everyone wear some type of face covering ​when in public. Some cities and counties throughout the United States have now made varying degrees of that instruction a mandate for essential businesses and their customers, as well as for the resident population. Here’s the CDC recommendation (emphasis added):

It is critical to emphasize that maintaining 6-feet social distancing remains important to slowing the spread of the virus.  CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others.  Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.

The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.  Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html

undefinedWhen searching through my belongings for sufficient covering, it occurred to me that I already had something that could work. It was part of my amenity bag from Japan Airlines–a cotton front, terrycloth-backed sleep mask. Flip it upside down, and voilà, instant practical (and comfortable) face mask.

As travelers, you might already have some of these stashed away. Be sure that it covers your nose and mouth sufficiently and that you can adequately breathe through it. Test it at home by wearing it and walking around for a short period. Cotton is best and nylon might not provide the breathability you need.

Remember, this is not a cure-all or a shield that guarantees you won’t contract a coronavirus or any other illness. It’s a basic measure of protection that fits within the CDC guidelines. Your smartest options are still to self-isolate, maintain a minimum 6-feet social distance when in public, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds (especially after touching commonly used things like door knobs, faucet handles, touch pads, etc.), and DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES, NOSE, OR MOUTH.

We can all be part of the COVID-19 solution by keeping ourselves heathy and taking smart measures to prevent transmission and reception of any illness. Take good care of yourselves, your families, and your communities. We’ll get through this.

Once Upon a Time in Tuscany

A few years ago, I was gifted a ticket to see Andrea Bocelli in concert at the theater he helped create in Tuscany called Teatro del Silenzio. Full of gorgeous operatic and pop music, guest performers, dancing, fanfare, spectacle, and even a white tiger, it was a mesmerizing, unforgettable event. And it gave me an even stronger appreciation for the talent that Signore Bocelli so generously shares with the world.

Now all of us can commune together with Bocelli (while still social distancing) via an Easter Sunday livestream concert called “Music for Hope” from the Duomo (or Cathedral) of Milan. He considers it a way to “hug this wounded Earth’s pulsing heart.”

You can watch it on Bocelli’s YouTube channel on Sunday, April 12 | 1PM Eastern, 10AM Pacific (https://youtu.be/huTUOek4LgU)

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy this tiny portion of the concert I attended in Italy.

So, What’s New?

So, what’s new?

As I mentioned in my last post, a lot has been happening and changing in my life these past 24 months or so, and it’s time we got caught up. I am going to share some fairly personal things and bare my story to you with the intent of recognizing and respecting those who are part of it and honoring our Travelphile community of readers and travelers. You, too, are a part of my life. So, I hope any comments generated will take this spirit of intent into consideration.

Two years ago, Rick and I mutually decided to end our romantic relationship. It was an excruciating, agonizing decision in many ways, but we knew it was the right one. The tole that our jobs and lifestyles were taking on our partnership and togetherness was a heavy burden to constantly bear. We split up to preserve the love we had for one another and prevent it from deteriorating into nothingness. The choice recognized the value our relationship, our time together, and the happiness we had created.

We even had a “Break-Up Party.” About 100 friends and family members joined us in celebrating love, friendship, memories, and wishes for a hopeful future. It was one of the best parties we ever had at our house (and we’ve had some amazing parties). We emphasized that there was no picking sides and that our connections to our mutual loved ones, colleagues, and community would remain intact. We underscored that even though our relationship was evolving into a new form, we would still continue being each other’s dear friend, sounding board, and champion. And we have indeed maintained that connection both personally and professionally, as I stay on as a tour guide, guidebook researcher, and travel class teacher for his company.

I returned from my adopted home of Edmonds, WA to my home town of San Diego, CA. Being back amongst my lifelong best friends and my family was a huge comfort and blessing. There’s something about simply being in the presence of those who have known you the longest and can understand you without even hearing or uttering a word that brings a stillness and tranquility when all else feels like mountainous waves endlessly catapulting you in every direction. It also provided me an opportunity to be there for my parents more frequently than I had been able to when I was living 1000 miles away.

My dad has been rather ill for the past 5 or 6 years. My mom, whom I consider a living saint, provides him with constant care and assistance—not out of duty or obligation, but out of the truest embodiment of unconditional love I have ever witnessed. For a long time, her Filipino pride dictated that she do all that work essentially by herself. Thankfully now, she has the additional support of her sister, a regular caregiver, a generous neighbor, and a care team comprised of a physical therapist and a nurse. And when I’m not working, I’m able to spend so much more quality time with them and with my auntie. They are nourishment for my soul, and I know how fortunate I am to have them in my life and so nearby.

The other major change in my life began with a barbecue. A bunch of my friends from my band and color guard coaching days got together, and I reconnected with someone I hadn’t hung out with in ages.

Turns out that we now lived two blocks away from each other. We started meeting up, going for walks, getting coffee at Starbucks, exercising together, and running errands. The more time we spent together, the more time we wanted to spend together. Lunches turned into dinners, shy glances became deep gazes. We realized we had fallen for one another and finally admitted it. Love blossomed from a friendship that had spanned nearly 28 years, and my life would be forever changed.

Last fall, Mike asked me to be his wife. On March 25th, we got our wedding license. On April 4th, we were supposed to be wed. But COVID-19 has put a damper on those plans. Now, as we ride out the coronavirus situation from the comfort of our new home, we find solace in staying virtually connected to our family and friends across the US and in Europe, we continue to unpack our boxes as we nest in our beautiful abode, we cook fun meals, I play Wordscapes while he plays Bejeweled, we discuss (but don’t stress about) work and income, we binge-watch Criminal Minds on Netflix, and we think fondly of the epic day when we can finally celebrate our wedded union with our family and friends by our side—healthy, happy, and without the hindrance of a 6-ft social distance.

New normals have been a theme for me these past two years, and I’m constantly learning to adapt. It gives me the opportunity to explore new facets of life, to interact with people in new and renewed ways, and to reprioritize what matters. This is all part of the grand journey—road closures, forks in the road, new paths, and all. It’s exciting. It’s intimidating. It’s challenging. It’s wonderful. There’s so much to process and reflect upon, and there’s really so much that lies ahead personally and professionally. Thank you for letting me share this part of my life with you.

I hope you stay with me as I share stories of my recent travels. And I hope you’ll all welcome Mike into our Travelphile community. Take care and journey well!

A New Normal

Hey Travelphilers!

What an incredible change in life and society we’ve gone through in the past few weeks! We are all coping with different and continually-evolving levels of this coronavirus pandemic, and my heart goes out to all of you. Whether you’re self-isolating, mandated to shelter in place, working from home, suffering from loss of work or employment, managing education and activity time with your kids, dealing with illness or loss, or working on the front lines to combat this virus, please know that I am thinking of you.

I hope you are all doing your best to stay healthy, making the most of family time, self-care and wellbeing, new and revisited projects, and planning for fulfilling and rewarding experiences that await you on the other side of this unprecedented situation we’re all living through.

With the deep-seeded desires to stay connected with all of you, to keep my creative fire ignited, and to hopefully keep all of our travel dreams alive, one of my many goals for this time of self-isolation is to regularly post content again. Over the years, you have become a huge part of my life community, and I want us to keep that strong together.

There’s so much that’s been going on and changing my life in the past two years: some of which only a few of you might know about. I want to be able to share that with you, too.

Just recently, a fellow Travelphiler (and now friend), Andrea, wrote an email to me and my dear friend and colleague Sarah. As a pilot, Andrea travels the globe regularly, knows lots of her own handy travel tricks, and relies on other sources to discover new ways to make the most of her journeys. Her note referenced a video that Sarah and I had made and the work we do. At the end of the letter, she wrote:

“That video was life-changing for me when in London, so I started following you, Trish, on social media… Each post, each video….everything you do makes a difference. You have impacted so many lives in many positive ways. I cannot wait to see where your journey in life takes you and am hoping to join you on an adventure very soon.”

The email impacted me so much. It came at an important time in my life, and I felt truly inspired to generate more content for all of you to enjoy. Alas, as alluded to before, there has been a lot going on in my life—personally, professionally, and now, societally. So, I’ve kind of been missing in action as of late.

But now seems an opportune time to dig into my stockpiles of photos, videos, and stories that I’ve neglected to share with you from the past two years so we can reconnect through our shared passion for travel and for learning about the world. There are people, histories, artwork, feasts, monuments, buildings, and cultural experiences —both domestically and globally—that enliven this world. That’s something we can continue to celebrate…even as we shelter in place.

There is a light at the end of the COVID-19 Tunnel, and when we as a global community get through it, I hope we’ll all be able to resume our normal lives, that we can revive and create new plans, and that we’ll re-engage with the world up-close and personal and no longer at a social distance. In short, I hope we’ll all be able to journey…well. For now, let’s remain united in supporting one another and finding spirit-lifting things to virtually enjoy in this beautiful world that continues to turn.

I don’t know how frequent my posts will be, but I will make the commitment to work on them. You’ll also be brought up to speed with all that is new and changing in my life. Until then, it would be so wonderful to hear from you and learn how you’re occupying your days, how you’ve adapted to changes in your life in these past few weeks, and what your own plans are for the weeks to come.

Thank you so much for being part of The Travelphile Community and for adding happiness and meaning to my life!


Journey…Well

Trish Feaster
The Travelphile

My Travels in Vietnam and Cambodia Amid the Coronavirus Scare

 

Having just spent 3 weeks in Southeast Asia, enjoying jaw-dropping sights, mouth-watering cuisine, eye-opening historical and cultural lessons, and connecting with intriguing, kind, generous, and delightful people all over Vietnam and Cambodia, I am feeling really torn about the need to be vigilant about public health safety and the incessant focus on the fear of contracting COVID-19 (commonly referred to by the virus that causes it, Coronavirus) and how that’s creating devastating, rippling effects in global economies, encouraging xenophobia, and making people panic worldwide. 

 

Let me be clear, the illnesses and deaths related to COVID-19 are serious and sad, but I’m interested in perspective and thoughtful risk assessment as a traveler. And I simply want to share what I’ve found researching medical information and also my own personal experiences from my recent journey.

While the situation is constantly evolving, according to a recent article from John Hopkins Medicine, here are some facts about this novel virus:

 THE FLUCOVID-19
Respiratory Illness           X          X
Virus that causes illnessSeveral variations of influenza virusCoronavirus
Symptoms: fever, cough, body aches, fatigues; sometimes vomiting and diarrhea; can be mild to severe, even fatal in rare cases; can result in pneumonia           X         X
Transmission: contaminated droplets in the air via an infected person coughing, sneezing, or talking           X         X
Transmission: contaminated droplets remaining in the air after infected person is gone          —        X
(possibly)
Treatment: antibiotics          —         —
Treatment: antiviral medications          X (currently being tested)
Treatment: vaccine           X (currently in progress)
Treatment of symptoms such as reducing fever, controlling diarrhea           X        X
Treatment: hospitalization and mechanical ventilation in rare cases           X         X
Prevention: frequent & thorough hand washing (min. 20 seconds), cough/sneeze into crook of elbow, stay home when sick, limit contact with infected people           X         X

As of Feb. 28, 2020, the flu is showing much more of an impact on Americans than COVID-19 (source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)).

 THE FLUCOVID-19
Worldwide infection cases~1 billion annually~84,119 to date
US infection cases9.3 million to 45 million annually~62 to date
Worldwide deaths~291,000-646,000 annually~2,871 to date
US deaths12,000 to 61,000 annually0 to date

Given all this, I felt fairly comfortable traveling through Southeast Asia and saw no reason for panic, cancelling my trip, or even wearing a face mask regularly (I did wear it on two separate plane rides and for a photo op on a boat). I made it explicitly clear to my tour members that we would not put them in situations as a group where we were engaging with farm animals or having near contact with meat/seafood markets where the local/state governments had expressed concern. Additionally, I advised them to take smart, helpful precautions by frequently washing their hands with soap for a minimum of 30 seconds and, if need be, by coughing or sneezing into the crook of their arms Dracula-style instead of into their hands; by trying not to touch commonly used things with their bare hands (elevator buttons, doorknobs, faucet handles); and by not touching their faces, especially the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. And if we noticed someone who was coughing or sneezing, we walked or turned away. IMG_5422

It took a while for people to adapt new habits, but everyone made a concerted effort, and it became second nature. I also used my NeilMed sinus rinse every night with lukewarm water that I boiled with the hotel room kettle. SPOILER ALERT: I didn’t get sick. None of us did. 

As a precaution, most hotels had their staff don face masks, and generally there were many Vietnamese people in Hanoi and Saigon wearing them. Although to me, it wasn’t much more than I had seen a year ago on my last trip—it had been flu season, and many people had worn designer masks as an air pollution precaution and to look fashionable. In Huè, Hôi An, and smaller towns and villages, most people were more relaxed about the masks, however, there were many public market closures throughout the country. 

In Siem Reap, Cambodia, people were seldom seen wearing masks, and other than the 60% drop in tourism, the threat of COVID-19 felt like a non-issue. 

So, based on my personal experiences, it made me wonder: why all the fuss? Statistically, the standard flu virus infects and kills more people than Coronavirus by several orders of magnitude. Sure, we don’t want to it become more prevalent, but if people as a whole are more conscious of and smarter about their own hygiene behavior, that can–and will–help prevent future cases. 

Does that include not traveling to certain areas? I’m not sure about that yet. Government and medical experts still aren’t sure about a lot of things, and the situation changes daily. But I just experienced one of the most meaningful and impactful trips of my life. Had I given into fear–rather than learning the facts, making a thoughtful risk assessment ,and going through with my journey–I would have missed out on connecting with wonderful people whose history, culture, art, traditions, religions, and daily life can teach us so much about our own humanity and the humanness of others. I wouldn’t have been any healthier than I am now, but I sure would have been less connected with this amazing world of ours. 

IMG_0209

And because there were so fewer people than normal traveling in Vietnam and Cambodia, we reaped the benefits of lack of crowds, no lines, incredible deals, and more personal and appreciative engagement with the locals we encountered. 

While we hear all about the stock markets plummeting, consider the impact that such massive drops in tourism have on the average citizen in the affected countries, or worse, on those who are living on fewer than $15 a day—the severe loss of income, the insecurity, lack of stability, and demoralization because someone who would normally boost their economy is too afraid just to be near them. 

Your health—and that of your family—is important, and ultimately, you as a traveler need to make your own thought-out decisions about your personal wellbeing and your risk of travel inconvenience (cancelled flights and the like). Whether you’re contemplating a trip across the globe or trying to “stay safe” at home, educate yourself about the realities and true risks of your health situation. Things are evolving every single day. The more we do to stop the spread in our own hometowns and abroad, the sooner things can resemble the normalcy we desperately miss.

Make smart choices to be vigilantly more hygienic as you travel and in your own daily routine. It’s worth repeating: wear your mask in public; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and wash your hands frequently for a minimum of 20 seconds. There are 7.7 billion human beings on this planet. We all owe it to one another to put things in perspective, to not overreact, and to make logical, healthy choices.

Rather than encourage fear about isolated cases (even as governments and health organizations are working hard to minimize and contain the problem amid expansion), remember that the vast majority of the entire world population is fine, and most places will eventually be safe to visit. Be patient. Be smart. Be thoughtful. Experiences of a lifetime await you all over this beautiful world, and I hope you you can enjoy them again soon.

Happy Moon Day: Celebrating Humankind’s Greatest Journey

Happy Moon Day, Travelphilers!

Fifty years ago, humankind came together in hopeful solidarity and triumphant celebration as three people—Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins—traveled from the Earth to the Moon.

While it was a successful mission set forth by an American space program, the pride of accomplishment was meant to be shared by all peoples across our home planet. And everyone reveled in this magnificent display of the vast potential our species.

After Armstrong left his first footprint on the lunar surface, he spoke what everyone was feeling: That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

On the ladder of the Apollo 11 lunar landing module, a plaque is attached and bears the following for future visitors to the Moon to see:

HERE MEN FROM THE PLANET EARTH FIRST SET FOOT UPON THE MOON.

JULY 1969, A.D.

WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND.

Our travels, whether near or far, are opportunities for discovery, for connection, for wonderment. On this anniversary of humankind’s most distant (and perhaps one of its most profound) journeys, I hope you set your sights on places you have yet to visit, that you celebrate the things you have in common with another culture as well as its uniqueness from your own, and that you find joy in seeking experiences that shift your perceptions and expand your mind to the stretches of the universe.

Journey well!

Inside Passage, Alaska, USA

The Duomo, Florence, Italy

Edmonds, The Puget Sound, WA, USA

Volterra, Italy

Tulum, Mexico

Old Bridge, Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Campo de’ Fiori, Rome, Italy

Healing-Geist-Spital, Nürnberg, Germany

Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Civita di Bagnoregio, Italy

Ponte Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy

Monterosso al Mare, Italy

Giudecca Canal, Venice, Italy

Campidoglio, Rome, Italy

Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia

River Foyle, Derry (Londonderry), Northern Ireland, UK

Trajan’s Column, Rome, Italy

San Polo, Venice, Italy

Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina

Chamonix, French Alps, France

The U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C., USA

Becoming a Stark: Archery at Winterfell

Tourism based on TV and pop culture is an odd bird, but I have to admit that Game of Thrones is making me a believer. While its story and settings are brilliantly fictitious, many of the filming locations have their own historic, cultural, and eye-catching charms that can be worth a visit for even non-GOT fans.

The first of a series of Game of Thrones stained glass installations in Belfast.

In Belfast, there’s a touring exhibition replete with authentic props and costumes, green screen photo ops, a superb audio guide featuring GOT production staff, and a replica of the Iron Throne. The show has been such a boon to tourism in the Northern Ireland capital that stained glass panels are being erected throughout city. While that’s fun to see and experience, it is a bit removed from any history or native culture.

Just 45 minutes south in Downpatrick, the immense, 832-acre estate of Castle Ward was used as the setting for Winterfell Castle as well as several other fictional locations. Part of the Ward family since the late 1500s, the estate was given in the 1950s to the United Kingdom’s National Trust, which has been tasked with overseeing the 18th-century castle, the stable yard, two tower houses (remnants of Old Castle Ward and Audley’s Castle), the gardens and the surrounding lands.

Along the trails of the Castle Ward Estate

The newer, stately castle of the 1700s is quirky. When you look at the Neo-classical architecture, with its robust columns and palatial, Georgian uniformity, it’s easy to imagine a well-to-do, storied family sipping tea, bedecked in their genteel fineries as a gentle roar of the hearth warms the room. Your state of surprise would be forgiven when you then entered the palace to see one half of the residence done up in classical, refined and subdued elegance and the other “Gothic” half adorned in ornate architectural features, bold patterns, and a “cabinet of curiosities” aesthetic. For a breath of fresh air, step out back and admire the meticulously organized, Victorian-style Sunken Garden.

The 18th-century residence at Castle Ward. (Photo credit: The UK National Trust)

Walking the grounds is a nature-lover’s delight, and since the acreage is so vast, biking is a popular activity, too. The property rests adjacent the Strangford Lough, a large inlet that connects to the Irish Sea. Winding pathways lead you beside colorfully striated shorelines, through ethereal woodlands, and alongside the lonesome watchtower of Audley’s Castle.

Stroll the nature trails that lead you along Strangford Loch and beside Audley’s Castle watchtower.

Back at the Old Castle Ward stable yard (which doubled as the Stark family’s Castle at Winterfell), try your hand at archery. I did. The Winterfell Tours Castle & Demesne instructors are skilled and patient, plus you get to dress up in full medievalesque Stark gear, replete with a padded gambezon layer, a plasteron chest protector, and a cloak (your choice: à la Jon Snow or à la Sansa Stark). Try on the chain mail coif just for fun and imagine how (in)effective and (not) agile you’d be if you had to do battle wearing it. I thought my skull would collapse under the cumbersome weight.

Geared up and read for battle!

The crispness of the air, the chilly breeze, and the sting of rain drops made me grateful for the extra layers, if maneuverably awkward. I had taken several previous archery lessons over the years–in Europe and The States–and found an affinity for it. Still, I’m no expert and it was helpful to have a dedicated instructor coaching me with precision.

How on earth did people fight with all this stuff on?

As I stood on the very same spot as Jon Snow, Bran Stark, and Robb Stark did in Season 1, Episode 1, adrenaline coursed through my body. It made me rush my release. I began to overthink. The pendulum swung and I was now taking too long to aim, making my arms tremble with fatigue. But not long after, I found my rhythm.

I am sooooooo competitive.

After going through several quivers-full of practice shots, I was ready for the “competition round.” Although I was the only participant, I imagined a fierce enemy as my target: a White Walker, a Frey, a Bolton, the Mad King, a Lannister? Perhaps. My shots were relatively consistent, grouping right and mostly at the right height–that is until my final shot.

The North Remembers

When my arrow hit the small white circle in the center of the target, I felt transformed, triumphant. I became a Stark, and a victorious one at that. But more than that, I had just capped a delightful day that was full of history, culture, and nature with a physical activity that made me feel alive and energized. And that is good travel.

For those who doubt, here’s a video of my .09 seconds of glory:

%d bloggers like this: