International hospitality from Iceland to Bosnia
Irreverent responses from our favourite travel ninjas.
Name: Evelyn Hannon
Title/bio: CEO of Journeywoman, the largest online travel resource for women
Twitter/website: @journeywoman | journeywoman.com
Born in: Montreal, Canada
Currently living in: Toronto, Canada
1. Famous person dead or alive you'd like to go on a trip with:
I'd love to spend three days in Rome with Sophia Loren. I can just imagine the fun I'd have learning where she lunches, where her staff shops for kitchen supplies and, of course, where she buys her bras. I guess I'm always thinking like a publisher -- but what a great Journeywoman article that would be!
2. Tourist must-see you think is actually a 'must skip':
True, the Eiffel Tower is a famous landmark and it is very worthwhile to see it. However, why on earth do people insist on seeing it up close, jostled by hundreds of other gawkers. I think the Eiffel Tower after dark, all dressed up in thousands of little lights, looks spectacular and romantic from the privacy of one's very own hotel window. It's then that you truly feel that you are in Paris.
3. Travel story I will never stop bragging about:
Ten years ago I was in Xi'An, China with my daughter. We were there to receive her adopted Chinese daughter. The babe was a beautiful, round little one year old, but the trauma of being uprooted was enough to make her stop eating. We tried everything to tempt her, but she refused to open her mouth. In despair I found my way to the neighbourhood grocery store. My plan was to observe what Chinese mothers were buying to feed their babies and to bring some of that back to our hotel room. There wasn't another foreigner in sight and after several attempts at communication I surmised that not a soul spoke English. I took a deep breath and began my grandmotherly pantomime. Step one: cradling an imaginary baby in my arms, I rocked her back and forth. Shoppers around me stopped what they were doing and stared in wonderment at this possibly deranged greyed-hair Caucasian woman. I persisted with step two: holding a pretend spoon in one hand and bowl in the other, I began eating. A crowd started to form. I remained undaunted. My granddaughter was hungry and I was going to do something about it. A kind clerk beckoned. I followed through the aisles and there was the answer -- jars of Heinz baby food -- each with an additional Chinese label pasted to the product, each three times the price I'd pay for the same thing in a Canadian supermarket. I stocked up on tangy applesauce planning to convince our little charge that this is what all other babies in China eat.
4. Your most embarrassing travel faux pas:
Not really a faux-pas but still very embarrassing. I break out in a sweat thinking of my first road trip in Italy with friends 40 years ago. We all had little or no Italian to speak of when we encountered our first toll booth with absolutely no tariffs posted. With as much bravado as I could muster I asked “quando?”, thinking it meant “how much?”. The man stared blankly at me as I repeated it a bit louder, and he gestured emphatically at the fare box. I was acutely aware that cars with loud horns were impatiently lining up behind me. Later, I finally realized that I had been asking this poor man “when” (quando) I should pay the toll instead of how much the toll was (“quanto?”). And he, I'm sure was thinking, Now silly, woman. Now!
5. Your most unique souvenir:
Close to Chennai in India's Dakshinachitra Heritage Village I met a craftsman who created wonderfully whimsical batik designs. I made a deal with him -- fishing a slightly crumpled piece of white paper from my backpack I asked him if he would make an ink drawing of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god, for me to take back to Canada. He smiled from ear to ear and told me to return in an hour. Truthfully, I wasn't expecting more than a rudimentary drawing. I returned to find a lovely, detailed rendition of Ganesh complete with the little mouse that the God was known to be carried by. It's now framed and has a place of honour in my collection of “primitive art” from around the world. And the price he quoted? 35 rupees, which is the equivalent of 70 Canadian cents. You better believe I gave him that, and more!
6. Best celebrity encounter when travelling:
I was the embedded blogger on a Semester At Sea voyage. I began the journey fighting a nasty head cold while the rest of the ship was buzzing about Archbishop Tutu who had boarded the ship to sail with us. On the first morning at sea, the Archbishop came into the ship's dining room. Wearing his trademark baseball cap, blue shorts and blue knee socks, he passed through the room stopping at tables to shake peoples’ hands. When he headed straight for me I panicked. In that split second I had to make a decision about whether to turn away and not pass on my nasty germs, or say nothing and for the rest of my life and be able to casually say (anytime I chose), “I remember the time I sailed with Archbishop Tutu and shook his hand.”
As the Archbishop approached, my body made the decision for me. Up went my hand like a cop directing traffic. The Archbishop stopped in his tracks, his smile wavered. “Stop, don’t come any closer,” I said. “I’m sick; you don't want to be.” To his credit, Dr Tutu slapped his own hand several times (as if to admonish it for even trying to shake a hand), smiled, thanked me and walked to his table. I was utterly relieved and also, utterly disappointed but... I did meet and chat briefly with Archbishop Desmond Tutu!
7. Everyone asks what’s #1 on your list of places you want to go before you die. But what’s your #3?
I'm a veteran of 30 years of solo travel that hopefully inspired other women to travel safely as well. I'm answering this question on my 72nd birthday. At this point in my life I have absolutely no thoughts about #3. I'm focused on following all my #1 dreams and challenges in every aspect of my life. C'mon world, bring it on!