From Chicago to Cambodia

Sometimes you meet people when you’re little, you stay friends with them for a few years and then move on with your lives. Well that is not the case with Bella or any other member of our girls group. About 15 years ago a group of us got together and we became friends for life. Today, some of us are living in Canada, the others in the U.S and Bella all the way in Cambodia. But we still try to see each other at least once a year. No matter how long we are separated we always pick up the conversation right where we left off, and that my friends is a great friendship. I am delighted to have this beautiful woman on my blog today and I hope that you enjoy reading a glimpse into her Cambodian life. 

Love, Libbey 

Two years ago I unexpectedly found myself living in Cambodia-home to the historical burdens of a genocide and communism, Cambodia is located in Southeast Asia and shares a border with Thailand and Vietnam.

Being brought to Cambodia by a job opportunity, the original plan was to stay here for 2 months. 2 months easily turned into 2 years as more of my energy was invested into a counter-trafficking project and the Cambodian communities.

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Many of my co-workers call me “Khmer” (Cambodian people are commonly referred to as being Khmer).

I laugh because although I eat the street food, speak a basic level of the language, ride a motorcycle and have taken on many mannerisms of my community etc.- I will never be Khmer, nor should I strive to be.

I am an American. Growing up in this nation is embedded into me in both conscious and unconscious ways. Wherever I go, I bring with me the foundational beliefs and values of our nation. To deny the American in me would be to deny a core of my being.

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Although I have made a home in Cambodia for an extended period of time, I am a guest. As a guest in Cambodia, I can kick my shoes off and relax, but must do so respectfully with a full understanding of my place in the Cambodian community. In doing so, my ability to take a continuous learner’s perspective comes naturally.

Although it has been two years striving to understand Cambodia- the behaviors of its people, the possibilities for growth and burdens of the country, I am always finding that any conclusion or insight I find always has a deeper layer to it.

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The reasons for traveling or living internationally can be broken down into 2 motivations. Either an individual is 1) running away from something 2) running towards something. Whether you fit into either of this motivations, the perspective you take on as a traveler will determine your ability to benefit from your traveling.

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These pictures serve as a tribute to those people who have helped me understand my role as a guest.

~ Bella McKay

A European Adventure

Hi everyone! Today I am super excited to introduce one of my childhood best friends Jessie to The Blonde Traveler. Jessie is here to tell you about some of her adventures from her cross Europe tour she took in May!

Love, Libbey

Oh hey there readers of Libbey’s blog. I’m Jessie and I went to Europe for the month of May! I have previously done the “backpacking thing” and didn’t want to go through the whole planning process again so one my best friends and I decided to do a Contiki tour and then a couple countries on our own afterwards. The tour was great! It took care of all the transportation and accommodations and I met some absolutely amazing people! 

My trip began in London and then I travelled to Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Krakow, Budapest, Ljubljana, Venice, Rome, Paris and Brussels. I covered a lot of ground during the three weeks I was in Europe, so I’ll just mention some of my favourites.   

Numero uno: Elan Café in London. One of my favourite things we did while in London was going to the Elan Café. Not only did they have fabulous desserts, but its décor made for some totally insta-worthy pictures. The one we went to was within walking distance of Hyde Park so we spent the day there and then headed over to the café for dessert and tea.

2) Edam. During our stay in Amsterdam, we took a short drive to this little town that’s known for their cheese. We all got to ride granny bikes and see how beautiful this place was and then we made our way to a clog- making demonstration with a cheese and wine tasting. This is where I also discovered my love for stroopwaffels- they’re flattened waffles with a delicious syrup in the middle.

3) In Prague we took a guided bike tour of the city. It lasted about three hours and it was amazing how much we got to see during that time. The architecture in Prague is beautiful and it was just nice to walk around and explore. Some of my favourite things included their chimney cones (basically a donut cone stuffed with ice cream) and beer garden which had a beautiful view of the city. It was also fun getting to write on the John Lennon wall. 

4) A Mozart and Strauss concert and Prater park in Vienna. My tour group went to a concert in the Grand Opera Hall in Vienna. We all got to dress up and listen to some beautiful music and opera and then later on we went to Vienna’s amusement park, Prater park, and spent the night on roller coasters.

5) Perogies in Krakow. I have had perogies before, if you count the kind that comes frozen from the grocery store, but they are nothing like true polish perogies. While in Krakow, they had a market set up with tons of little booths and vendors, some of which sold perogies, some fried, some not, both delicious. I also tried dessert perogies stuffed with raspberry jam and they were also super good.

6) Architecture and food in Brussels. I love my fries and I’ve heard that the ones in Belgium are wonderful so for that reason, Brussels made it onto my list of countries to travel to this summer. I’m pleased to say that I was not disappointed, the frites came in a huge cone and they were super yummy. I was also a fan of their waffles, my fav were the Liege ones because they were super sweet. The architecture in the Grand Place was gorgeous during the day and at night it was fun just walking around the city. My inner science nerd also loved going to The Atomium.

I had an incredible trip with incredible people and I can’t wait until my next adventure. It truly was the trip of a lifetime and an experience I’ll never forget.

I also would like to shout out Romana Gelateria for having theeee BEST gelato and Libbey- it was an honour to make a guest appearance on your blog!

Xoxo,

Jessie (a brunette traveller)

Adventure to The Holy Land and the Ancient City of Petra

Hey everyone! Today I am super excited to have one of my best friends as the first writer of my Traveling Girls segment on the blog. I’d like to introduce Sabrina Gilmour who I met on my first day of orientation at Glendon College. Sabrina embodies everything Gilmore Girls and the fact that her last name is Gilmour is the finishing touch. We both share a passion for exploring and traveling all of which Sabrina has been doing the past few weeks. I hope you enjoy reading about her adventures and much as I did.

Love, Libbey

Last week I embarked on a trip of a lifetime with my family to Israel and Jordan. When someone first learns that you are traveling to one of these places the first question that usually comes up is, “is it safe there?” Well, you can’t always let this question get in the way of where you want to go. Despite people’s comments, Israel’s bad reputation and it’s ongoing conflict with Syria, Iran, and Palestine, we still decided to go.

Our first destination was Tel Aviv and from there we traveled the majority of Israel. It was like seeing the Bible, my history books, and all the documentaries I’ve watched all come alive right before my very eyes. In Israel, we followed the footsteps of Jesus. From Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus to Nazareth, where Jesus spent his childhood days, all the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre where Jesus was crucified and his empty tomb has been placed. We also visited the traditional sites where Jesus performed His many miracles such as the Wedding Church of Cana where He turned water into wine and Tabgha, where He performed the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes. We even rode a boat on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on water. It was an incredible feeling to be walking and riding along the same places that Jesus and His disciples did hundreds of years ago.

In the Old City we visited the Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. Thousands of people go there each year to pray and place their prayers in the cracks of the wall which I was lucky enough to do. Each day I traveled, I became more aware of my body and my existence as I was able to reflect and pray in some of the holiest places in the world.

Onto the less religious side of the trip, my family and I rode a cable car up Masada and walked through the ruins of King Herod’s fortress. Moreover, I floated in the Dead Sea which is 1,400 feet below sea level and the saltiest body of water on earth. I instantly became aware of every single place I had a cut on my body. And of course, I had to cover my body in mud because of all the wondrous things the minerals have said to do for your skin!

For the remainder of our trip we were in Jordan. We visited Mount Nebo, where Moses saw the Promised Land. We then traveled to Petra, one of the seven wonders of the world. The rose-red city was first established sometime in the 6th century B.C. by the Nabataeans. I was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the formation of the rocks, stone carvings, and colors. Nothing prepared me for seeing such an amazing place. It was like traveling back in time, and you wouldn’t think you were anywhere near modern civilization. I definitely had my Indiana Jones moment.

In Jordan, we also rode a Jeep in Wadi Rum where “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed. I even rode a camel for a good 20 minutes in the blazing heat. It was truly an out of this world experience. It started raining while we were there which is apparently good luck considering it rarely rains in the desert.

While I was traveling, I never felt unsafe or in danger like the news media led me to feel beforehand. I am incredibly grateful to have traveled to two amazing countries and come home safely. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have traveled to Israel and Jordan at such a young age. Usually, these places are still on a person’s bucket list by the time they reach 50. I hope that each and every one of you get to live out your travel dreams in your lifetime. It is so important to travel because it teaches us compassion, humility, and knowledge. It allows us to step out of our comfort zone, experience new cultures and values, giving us a new set of eyes. As the saying goes… “Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

Thank you Libbey for letting me share my adventure with your readers.

Sabrina Gilmour

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The Traveling Girls

I have some pretty amazing friends that do amazing things on a daily basis. I’ve been friends with some of these girls since I was five and some I met on my first day of university. Almost all of my girlfriends are older than me, so once they left for university and other adventures we made a pact to get together at least once a year, even if it is only for a few hours. This summer more than a few of my girlfriends are going on adventures of a lifetime; some are off visiting new countries and others are working around the globe. My beautiful girlfriends have agreed to share their experiences with you and I could not be more excited to be able to feature this segment on my blog which I will be calling The Traveling Girls! Once a week starting in June, I will be featuring one of my friends adventures on the blog! I am beyond grateful to have met each and one of these beautiful women and the fact that I get to live vicariously through them is even more special.

I hope that each and every one of their words inspires you as they inspire me on a daily basis.

Love always,

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