Tipster

Travel Tips Around The World

Jul 27 2015

Tokyo: a Trip that Made a Difference to Camille Hoheb

Trips that Made a Difference is a series that features travel industry leaders and the trips that have changed their lives. Camille Hoheb is the Founder and Managing Director of Wellness Tourism Worldwide, a leader in education, development and promotion of wellness travel. She is also the editor of Wellness Travel Journal.

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My life-changing travel experience occurred when I was a high school junior. It was my first time traveling by plane, first time being away from my family and, needless to say, it was my first time traveling internationally.  I was a summer exchange student to Japan.  This was 30 years ago, when overseas phone calls were reserved for emergencies most international communication was by snail mail on crinkly paper.  I was on my own, with a new family, in a new land with unfamiliar food, language and culture. It was quite a way to broaden my horizons and life perspective.

Inner garden at the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Every day was filled with More...

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May 5 2015

India: Dina Yuen’s Trip that Made a Difference

Trips that Made a Difference is a series that features travel industry leaders and the trips that have changed their lives. Dina Yuen is a lifelong traveler who has made a career of writing and interviewing others about cross-cultural experiences. She is CEO of Asian Fusion, a food and travel website, and the author of Indonesian Cooking and the upcoming 8 Secrets of Success: The Asian American Way. We spoke with her recently about a trip that made a difference in her life. 

travel42: Where did you go and what brought you there?

Dina Yuen: I volunteered to bring food and cook for people in the slums of Mumbai and other cities around India. It was the result of a long-held obsession I’ve had with the culture there, the history and the food. I was also at a crossroads in my life, having just broken off an engagement and having had major career decisions to make. The trip was emotionally difficult in the sense that it's overwhelming  to see how many people lack the basic resources for survival – they barely have enough food and water and only the most basic shelter, if you can even call it that. But it was also incredibly fulfilling to be there.

travel42: What were some particular moments that made this trip so special?

Dina Yuen: On days when I wasn't doing work and cooking, I was invited into homes to share family meals. These people had so little by U.S. standards, living on a few dollars a month, if that. There were usually several generations living together in a house with a tin roof and dirt floors, but they would invite me in for a meal, happy to share what little they had. That kind of experience changes your heart, and it changes your perspective on what really matters in life.

One particular occasion in Mumbai stands out. Sitting on the floor, we had a meal of rice and very sparse, watered down curry with an egg. It's very different from what people in America think of as curry. I was looking at the children and the older people, noticing how their bodies looked malnourished by our standards. I was so grateful to be there but it was also heartbreaking. I wished in that moment that I had a magic wand I could just wave to make it all better for them.

travel42: How did the trip change the way you approach your life and work?

Dina Yuen: My volunteer experiences in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Delhi and several smaller towns around southern India led me to think about setting up my company so that I could come back someday with the means to help people more, so that I would have the financial power to make a significant difference. There are so many children who are in need of a nutritious meal, shoes that don't fall apart and a decent education. I needed to get away from my own reality and see the world and how other people were living, and to remind myself that even in my own darkest moments, I needed to be of service to others who were in worse off conditions.

 If you'd like to share your "Trip that Made a Difference," please email us at [email protected]

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Mar 25 2015

Uros Islands, Peru: Beth Levich's Trip that Made a Difference

Trips that Made a Difference is a series that features travel industry leaders and the trips that have changed their lives. Beth Levich is a member of travel42's Advisory Board. She started Cruise Holidays of Portland in 2002 and has been on 89 cruises, including nine river cruises. Her new company, All About River Cruises, uses the motto “We know because we go!” Beth discovered travel42's destination guides years ago and uses them to map out every client’s trip with detailed descriptions of what to do, where to eat and sights to see. Her favorite information tab is “Dos and Don’ts.”

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I went with Collette Vacations on a trip to Peru that included Lake Titicaca. One cultural oddity of the lake is that is contains a chain of 60 small, man-made islands woven out of the thick reeds that grow in the water. By making their homes centuries ago on thatched mats in the middle of the lake, the Uros people avoided land disputes with local tribes and domination by the Incas or the Spaniards. Their culture was preserved by isolation. 

At the time of my visit, I was going through a divorce and experiencing a lot of chaos and turmoil.  Visiting the floating islands was a life-changer.

 

The inhabitants of the islands will not sanction a marriage until the couple has been together for three years.  They feel it takes that long for a pair to really get to know each other.  They do not care whether the couple lives together during that time, but they say the trial period is important because the islands, each of which is not much bigger than a tennis court, are too small for divorce. After a three-year courtship, the marriage is celebrated.

Ladies who are available wear colorful tassels to signify they are not married. Here's a photo of me with the tassels on. 

After my divorce, I made up my mind that if I dated anyone and it looked like we were getting serious, I would not commit to marriage until we had been together for three years. And guess what: After 5 years of being in a relationship, I am now engaged to a wonderful man.  And we feel like we know each other very well.

 

What I tell people is special about the Uros Island inhabitants is that they are living today as they have for many years.  Yes, Machu Picchu is fabulous but the Incas no longer live there.  Neither the Incas nor the Spaniards ever bothered to subdue the island people, so they were left alone to keep their culture as it was.  When visiting there you are a part of history, the present and the future all at once. I had no idea people still lived like that. And they were so happy! It truly did change my life.

If you'd like to share your "Trip that Made a Difference," please email us at [email protected]

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