When it comes to international travel, I take exception to people that say “I want to see America first”. Unfortunately, this attitude can also be stated as I don’t want to travel internationally. America is big enough that I won’t see it all no matter how hard I try. Therefore using “see America first” is the same as saying I don’t want to travel internationally.
That being said, I have compiled a list of my international travels. Each trip is presented with a brief description and/or some of my feelings about the destination.
I visited Canada a few times starting when I was a child. My family went to Niagara Falls and Algonquin Park and Thousand Islands a couple of times. I also skied in Vancouver in 1988. Canada (at least the English speaking part) is barely international travel.
My first overseas international trip was to England with the choir from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. We visited Worcester, Oxford, and London. I (and the choir) performed in St. Paul’s Cathedral. I enjoyed England – especially when it was basically free.
1972 – 1974 Asia
The navy took me to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Guam (not really international), Japan and the Philippines. “nuff said.
1971 – 1975 Mexico
I visited Mexico several times. Visiting both Tijuana (a border town) and Tecate (not really a border town). Tijuana is not really a good destination. Tecate, while being on the border, has no real American counterpart. It is much more like visiting a true Mexican city. Took a camping trip to the San Felipe on the Gulf of California.
In 1979 Europe
Tony Pietsch and I went to Europe for a bicycle trip. We were headed for Germany but… I cut it short. If you want to visit Europe, do it like the Europeans – Drive or take a train. I started in Shannon Ireland and ended in London.
1995 Rotterdam, The Netherlands
With Kathy, my soon to be wife, we visited Rotterdam for a conference. We took a day trip to Amsterdam and decided to return on vacation when there would be more time to explore.
Amsterdam and Belgium
I returned to The Netherlands (Amsterdam) to celebrate the New Year (1997). We stayed at a B&B run by a gay couple. I visited Belgium at the same time. Amsterdam has some great Museums (Rijk and van Gogh among them). You can also smoke marijuana legally.
I liked Amsterdam. Belgium, not so much.
Dilip Ballal (my boss at the University of Dayton) and I traveled to Nepal for a Himalayan Trek. The plane ride(s) to Nepal took up a full 24 hours – and that only got us to Kathmandu. There we got our passes to the high country and took a plane to Lukla – one of the worlds most dangerous airports – to begin our trek.
The high country in Nepal was really overrun with tourists. It was a neat trek and there are plenty of good sights and 20K+ foot mountains. Kathmandu is a neat city. Nepal in general was a very affordable vacation destination. Not to my particular liking but… Lots of folks return year after year to trek. There are plenty of places other than Kala Pathar and Mt. Everest to hike.
1998-9 New Years in Spain
Madrid is like Chicago – everyone speaks Spanish and there is too much traffic and no place to park. Barcelona was vastly overrated (my opinion). Our best day was visiting a fishing village south of Barcelona.
2000 Paris and China
We visited Paris for our anniversary. Kathy and I loved Paris. We spent a day at Versailles with Jack and Jacky Merveille – friends from my undergraduate days and Paris Natives. Probably my favorite museum was the Rodin Museum. My favorite walking tour was Pere Lachaisse Cemetery (resting place of Jim Morrison). I liked Paris a lot – even more than Amsterdam.
In the fall we went to China. China was just emerging economically. There were pockets of unbelievable poverty literally next door to wealthy neighborhoods. We spent most of the time in Shanghai and Nanjing. It is an interesting place – but not for everyone.
2001 South America
We took 45 days to travel from Rio de Janeiro to Lima. Along the way we took trains, planes, buses, boats, taxis, etc. I realized that Brazil (Portuguese) is much nicer than Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru (all Spanish). We had some nice adventures, but, having been ripped off and attacked in Hispanic countries on a fourth different continent, I decided that I had visited enough Hispanic countries.
I did take a great bike ride on the Bolivian “Death Road” (see https://shawnpheneghan.wordpress.com/2021/01/06/great-adventures/ ), had a nice visit to the Brazilian Pantanal, Bonito (home of fresh water springs) and floating cities in Lake Tititaca Peru. We also spent 3 days hiking on the trail of the ancients (not my fav) before visiting Machu Pichu – another ripoff. I was tired and ready to go by the end.
Kathy and I took her Parents to Vienna for Thanksgiving. It was a nice weekend as Vienna is a pretty neat city. While it was a short trip, the Christmas Kindle was clearly the highlight.
2004, our 10th Anniversary, was 10 Days in London
We started the trip with a few days in New York. Starting in Newark, I was asked to produce the credit card that I used to purchase plane tickets. That card had been replaced and thus could not be produced. Not to worry, the agent gave me the number (all 16 digits) and asked me to see a different person for verification. Needless to say, the airline (BOAC) had violated a raft of rules concerning privacy of my account. The new agent realized the error and we flew to London in business class and home first class.
We took in a couple of shows (Chicago and Les Mis), spent time visiting a couple of abbeys, took a day in Greenwich and another at the British Museum. In general we had a really great visit. I really like London: lots to do, great walking city and they almost speak English.
In the fall we visited Thailand. Iis a beautiful country with beautiful people and food. There is also some great historical monuments to World War II (Bridge Over the River Kwai). It is unfortunately very hot and muggy. We spent most of our time in the northern part of the country.
We also visited Myanmar for a day. It, along with several hill villages in Thailand are extremely poor. I was amazed at the dichotomy. Not just poor people living next to rich folks, but even within a household – people that struggled to get by had marble steps and teak furniture that I cannot afford.
All in all, Thailand is worth a visit – but the heat would keep me from visiting again.
2007 China (Again)
We visited China for our anniversary. We spent three weeks visiting Beijing, Zian, Chengdu, Hong Kong, and Tibet. I enjoy Hong Kong and we spent a day walking Cheung Chau island. However, the highlight of the trip had to be the Terracotta Soldiers in Xian. There was an amazing difference (for the good) between China in 2000 and China in 2007. While the country is not for everyone, I enjoy it.
2008 Greece and Turkey
We took a cruise of the Mediterranean Sea. We started and ended in Athens. A very crowded and vastly overrated city – though the ruins were inexplicably amazing. The islands were also amazingly pleasant – though seeing them by cruise ship did not allow any real time to explore any island.
The highlight of the trip was a visit to Kusadasi, Turkey. We arrived the day after St. Pats and the city was very quiet. There were an unbelievable number of Irish Bars Downtown – maybe that explains why it was quiet. Turkey was an amazingly clean country. Second best was the day we hiked on Patmos.
I would recommend Turkey, and even the Greek Isles, but not by tour boat.
2009/10 Moroccan Vacation
For New years (2010) Kathy and I went to Morocco. It was our first trip from Hawthorne, NV.
It was a pretty great vacation. Morocco is much like California (geographically). It has a Mediterranean climate, with mountains (the Atlas) inland, and desert (the Sahara) beyond that. The population is diverse – from big city folk to desert nomads.
We spent New Years eve in the Sahara Desert, camping under a full moon. Kathy and I got married in a Muslim wedding.
All in all, a good trip to a clean, neat, and friendly country that has my recommendation.
We intended to visit Australia for a few weeks. Instead, we booked a “tour” that included 4 nights each in Sydney, Cairns and Melbourne. I put “tour” in quotes because there was no real tour – just flights (international and in country) and hotels. Transfers to and from the airport and any day trips were not included.
There were no real highlights of the trip but conversely there was nothing bad about the trip. We took several day trips covering wine tastings, food production, Great Barrier Reef, inland forest, Melbourne Zoo, Sydney Harbor, and Museums.
Australia was nice – but much too much like America. I’m basically ambivalent.
2015 Tanzania. Kathy and I went on a safari. The national parks in Tanzania are amazing. The wildlife is more abundant than I could imagine. The Masai villages were like visiting another world. As for the Tanzanian way of life, I wouldn’t know. Our tour didn’t stop at any local markets or visit any local cities or towns. We were on safari and that is all.
2017 New Zealand
Kathy and I were invited to New Zealand by Colleen Keller (now Sterling). We spent the entire time (nearly two weeks) on the south island. A majority of the time was spent in Wanaka – a vacation spot on the edge of Mt. Aspiring National Park. We also visited Oamaru on the eastern coast and Christchurch (upon arrival and departure).
While there were essentially no freeways, there was also no traffic. Food was exceptional as major industrial meat farming has yet to take hold in the country. Travel was easy (save for driving on the “wrong” side of the street). The people were pleasant, the countryside beautiful, and wine country accessible. Glacier fed rivers were beautiful and the trout fishing was great.
New Zealand was a most pleasant country. It has my highest recommendation.
It was also my last international destination.