Robby: “Mama, how come we always go to Florida every winter, like Hubie Hummingbird and his family? Ollie Osprey says his family goes to the Caribbean, and Rosie Grosbeak and her family go to Mexico. Can’t we go somewhere new this year? Ple-ease??”
Mrs. Robin: “Robby, our family’s been going to Florida for the winter every year since even before Grandma and Grandpa were born. That’s just the way we like it. I’m not even sure your Dad could find his way anywhere else! When you grow up and have your own family, you can try different places for the winter, but we’re going to stick to what we know and love. Sorry. Now hurry up, it’s almost time to go.”
Robins and most other birds typically nest in the same place year after year and then winter in the same place year after year. Some birds stay put in the winter, some – like Robby – go to Florida, and others travel nearly halfway round the world. Most of our woodpeckers stay put, along with our chickadees and other feathered friends, snacking at our feeders all winter. Thank goodness; we would really miss them. Meanwhile, the little arctic tern flies from Greenland to Antarctica for the winter, for reasons only he and his flock can possibly understand. But, by and large, there is little variety for a given bird family, regardless of the distance. Birds of a feather flock together!
My husband and I have embraced a different philosophy, preferring to try something new rather than return to a place we have loved – unless there are loved ones involved in the destination, of course. Last night I was idly considering which of our trips would make my top-ten list, which is challenging since we have been traveling together for 45 years and there have been many amazing trips. I made my list, being very confident about the top 5 places and pretty confident about the next 5, but another 5-6 were pretty darn close; maybe I need a top 15. At any rate, I asked my husband what trips he’d include in his top-ten list and there was remarkable agreement, especially in our top five.
We hadn’t discussed what criteria either of us would or should use. So, in analyzing our list, I’ve determined that our instinctive criteria for identifying the most fantastic of many fantastic trips are:
- places that have something very, very special to share, e.g., geography, nature, history, animals, and/or culture;
- trips that simply cannot be replicated for providing a sense of awe during the experience;
- trips that are shared with family or friends, providing extra significance; and,
- trips that, all in all, have a magical quality.
Our top five looks like this:
But, gosh, not only does that leave out many, many other outstanding destinations and special experiences, it also leaves out all the trips to the sun with our boys, the trips through the wonderful national parks in the U.S. and Canadian west, and our travels in England and Europe when we lived there. On it goes. There are different kinds of trips, each special in their own way – and usually in a good way! Hopefully, everyone has the opportunity to find out what works best for them and then go for it.
After lots of traveling, aside from the usual travel tips on what to pack, what documents and backup docs to have, etc., some of our favourite travel tips are:
- Take a good supply of granola bars with you, both in your backpack and your suitcase. You never know when you’ll find yourself food-deprived or when your body just craves some familiar grub. Hungry travelers are grouchy and impatient travelers.
- Take a Tilley hat with you. It can serve both as a protector from the sun and as a convenient substitute for an umbrella.
- Take small binoculars along with a camera. There is SO much to see and binocs really add to the experience.
- Take a good travel guide with you, e.g., Lonely Planet, and also a good animal and bird guide for your destination. Seeing new sights, animals and birds without being able to learn about what you’re seeing is a wasted opportunity.
- Take an open mind, including sensitivity to the cultural norms of your destination.
It’s an amazing world out there, with so much to explore. Enjoy!
Photo credits: Jane and Howard Fritz