“Why does everyone think we eat pierogi all the time? We eat them maybe twice a year”, states my driver with a slightly annoyed tone. We’re talking about Warsaw, Poland, and food, and I've asked him what Polish dish he thinks every visitor should try during their time in Poland. As you can probably guess, pierogi seems the be the number one choice for many travellers, and who can blame them?! Pierogi are delightful. Mashed potato mixed with cheese, bacon, or onion, wrapped in a dumpling like dough, boiled or fried, and served with sour cream, fried bacon and onion. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! And while we can buy pierogi in the frozen food section of the grocery store, or buy fresh ones from a Polish or Ukrainian (There is a debate as to who invented the pierogi, Poland or Ukraine) shop, there is a part of us that want to eat pierogi in the country that made them famous.
It’s 7:40 a.m. and I’ve barely slept. I’ve been awake for twenty minutes, and out of bed for roughly six.
“There’s something wrong with you!” my Dad says, angrily jabbing his temple and glaring at me with every ounce of energy he can muster.
I’m tired. Too tired to start the day this way.
My Dad has dementia, and unfortunately, this is the new normal.
It takes a lot for me to admit defeat. I’m Irish, English, and Scottish, so naturally I blame my heritage for my stubbornness and desire to ignore advice from fellow travelers who I consider negative or aggressive. And by aggressive I mean they tell me a place sucks and that I should go elsewhere, and I promptly make a note to ignore them and go anyway. Childish? Maybe, but that is how I roll. There was no way I was going to end up being intimidated in Colombo.
I remember as though it was yesterday. The heat of the sun. Crowds of locals relaxing, reading books, napping or having a picnic in a large public park. It’s a Sunday and as I sit down in the park, overlooking Edinburgh castle, a solo bagpiper starts playing, sending chills down my spine and bringing tears to my eyes. I was in Scotland (Edinburgh to be exact). Alone. And it was glorious.
I’ve eaten more than my share of lobsters over the years, but this was the first time I was cooking lobster at home, by myself. It’s not a big deal, you boil a little water with a whole lot of salt, cut the bands off the lobster claws - making sure your hands and the rest of your body is nowhere near the claws - before putting the lobster in the pot head first, and putting a lid on the pot. An easy process.
Craighs of rocks among groves of moss-covered trees, valleys of apple green grass with hints of golden yellow, burnt umber, and rusty orange, dark shimmering lochs, mountains that are ten times larger than they appear, and centuries old castles. Scotland is full of beauty (and a rather brutal history which I'll write about another time), and has been the backdrop for many movie and television scripts and books - Diana Gabaldon's Outlander book series being the latest television series to join the ranks.
It’s 5:00 p.m. and I’m alone on Île Quarry in the Mingan Archipelago. I’m not referring to the fact that I’m travelling (and sleeping in an oTENTik tent) alone, I’m referring to the fact that I’m the only human being on this island. All night!
I didn’t grow up thinking, ‘I’m going to be a solo female traveller’, it’s something that happened purely out of circumstance. While my friends were in school, working, getting married, and having children, I craved freedom, independence, adventure. Sure the whole marriage and kids thing has popped into my brain a few times over the years, but I have a hard time justifying a need to stay in one place, working a job I don’t really enjoy, all in the hope that at some point marriage and kids will magically happen.
I will be the first to admit that my language learning has been slow. I do okay when I visit a restaurant or shop, but whenever someone engages me in a conversation I panic. I hear maybe two or three words, and I have absolutely no idea how to respond. If I'm eating out, I say 'Oui' in hopes that I have been asked a yes or no type question. While this most times, this is often a dead giveaway that I am anglo and the person I'm interacting with will either switch to English, or look confused and speak more French.