For me and most world travelers, I'm sure, being in one place for too long can quickly turn into itchy feet. To anyone who has been around a lot, travel quickly becomes like an addiction; always looking for the next fix. When I decided to stay ‘domestic’ and root myself in the Windy City of Chicago, I was hesitant at first. Though I was aware of confluence of many diverse cultures in here, little did I know just how much there was to explore. Here are my recommendations for taking a ‘staycation’ trip around the world, neighborhood by neighborhood, through this amazing city.
Traditionally, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been one of the more difficult places in the world to visit. Though the government in recent years has begun issuing travel visas, they are few and far between and remain difficult to come by. As a result, a traveller’s glimpse into a journey across the Kingdom is rare for many. Living here made it easy for me to seize the day, as it were, and take a road trip across this country of many myths. My journey began where I live, in the Al Nafl district of the capital Riyadh, which is a modern city that is fairly new and grows steadily day by day.
It’s hard to imagine what a noted British poet, a famous film actor, a celebrated French fashion designer and the lead vocalist of the rock band Queen could possibly have in common. Yet, each of them – Lord Byron, Charlie Chaplin, Coco Chanel and Freddie Mercury – all resided, at one point in their lives, in and around the French-speaking region of Lausanne and Montreux, Switzerland. After visiting this vibrant and alluring locale, I can truly understand why these eclectic celebs and many others have chosen to call it home, even if just for a time.
Belarus sits snugly among the borders of five other countries between the ever growing European Union and the still powerful Russian Federation. Even the regions of the country seem to be ideally placed, divided into six different administrative divisions known as oblasts, with its capital Minsk in the center and the five other regional centers located not far from the borders of each of its neighbours. Living in a nation that has constantly been shaped and reshaped by its neighbors, Belarusians are an extremely friendly and peaceful people who try to avoid conflicts and who are, therefore, very easy to get along with. Borders are clearly defined, but it seems that Belarus is happy to share with its neighbors.
Without a doubt, China is one of the most adventurous countries in Asia when it comes to eating street food on the cheap. Numerous dishes boast some pretty crazy-sounding ingredients, some of which you would never consider edible. Some dishes look really disgusting but taste amazing so you should never judge Chinese food by its look. When you come to China, be adventurous! Don’t limit yourself to eating only baozi, fruits and veggies, along with plain rice. Leave your food comfort zone and keep experimenting with different dishes; from stinky tofu to grilled snake meat, you’ll be surprised by what tickles your tastebuds.
It doesn’t take long to realize that there’s something special about Fredericksburg. Visitors have long been attracted to the area for its picturesque scenery, deep historical roots, outdoor recreation opportunities, eclectic shops, colourful cultural vibe, great food and prolific wine scene. And then there’s the people. You won’t find friendlier folks when it comes to putting out the welcome mat. They’ve even named all of the streets crossing Main to the east so that their first letters spell out 'All Welcome' while those to the west spell out 'Come Back'. It’s easy to understand why visitors return year after year, never tiring of the town’s sweet charm and ambiance.
Organized bus tours have never really been my thing. In fact, I generally avoid them like the plague. The few times that I've succumbed to one have been because someone I was travelling with insisted or because in a moment of weakness after weeks of backpacking I thought it would be nice to have a rest and let someone else do the work. At any rate, I've never really been impressed and always left the bus feeling as though I'd just thrown away money for quick glimpses of things I could have paid much less to see and enjoy on my own. Imagine my surprise, then, when a bus tour in Lisbon was not only my idea, but that I liked it a lot and that I would recommend it. Highly.
Uzbekistan is a country rich with history. In ancient times, the territory where present day Uzbekistan lies included the main artery between east and west, between Europe and Asia, also known as the Silk Road. The land that stretches for thousands of kilometers from the Caspian Sea in the west to the TianShian Mountains in the east is some of the most inhospitable and driest on earth. Travelling across this land is not a comfortable, luxurious experience, even in the comfort of an air-conditioned vehicle. Naturally, the ancient travelers had to have places along the way to rest.
China, renowned for its vast population and booming economy, is as rich today with tradition and culture as it is with gold and locally produced international commodities. Cities of the south within easy reach from Southeast Asia may be an entire continent away from Beijing in terms of how Europe measures distance, though they boast durable facets common to all Chinese. Travel to the urban areas of Guangzhou, Chenzhou and Zhuzhou in southern Hunan province comes complete with unique cultures, centuries old traditions and modern marvels.