Another installment of Traveler’s Spotlight on Jay Travels. This spotlight features Walt. Walt is a retired neuroscientist, who now enjoys traveling around the world and writing books. He also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation. PKD is a common inherited disease about which Walt is passionate because of its prevalence in his family.
Quick Info on Walt
How Often Do I Travel
At least a half dozen times a year, of which 3-4 trips are International
Where to Next?
Favorite Travel Gadget
WorldMate app for Blackberry
Maritime Provinces of Canada
Yes, when I was in college. I’d never do it today, except in case of an emergency
Go to Outer Space if You Could?
Sampling different cuisines with my friends and spending time with the family.
Of all of the places I’ve visited, I found Africa to be the most interesting. Africa, with its 53 countries and many cultures, is perhaps the most varied in the world. In addition, seeing so many animal species in their natural setting is thrilling. To me, no zoo or documentary can prepare you for the vastness of the terrain, the sheer number of animals, and their natural behavior. In Tanzania, we saw a cheetah run down and catch a Thompson gazelle, then eat it in front of us. The cheetah was totally obvious to our presence. It was more concerned about hyenas.
Where have you traveled Internationally? If you describe that location in a single word or phrase, what would it be?
- Australia – Friendly people and beautiful scenery.
- Iguassu Falls, Brazil – Largest and most impressive falls in the world.
- Xi’an, China – Amazing terracotta warriors.
- Bariloche, Argentina – Switzerland of South America with some of the world’s great vistas.
- Yosemite National Park, California – A place created by gods.
What are the Top 3 destinations on your Bucket List?
Easter Island, Polynesia
Has any trip changed the way you think or act – whether politically, socially or otherwise?During my travels, I have encountered many diverse cultures. Most of my life I thought that these various cultures are what divide us. The more I travel the more that I have come to believe culture can be a mask hiding that people are more alike than they appear. I have found that people around the world have the same needs and desires as we do but often express them in different ways. They all want to survive, have enough food to eat, provide for their families, and love.
One place where I saw this idea in an extreme was in South Africa. Whether you had a chance at a good life there depended largely on the color of your skin. South Africa is perhaps the most culturally diverse country in the world, with eleven official languages. With its history of apartheid, people in South Africa have expressed some of the worst behaviors toward each other that we have seen in modern times. Between genocide of the original people by the Afrikaners, the extreme brutality toward the blacks who migrated to South Africa to work in the mines, political repression of minorities, and murders of innocent people, some could dub South Africa as a Hell on Earth. Unlike, other horribly repressive nations, South Africa experienced an awakening after the long, bloody struggle to end apartheid. With the reconciliation tribunals and the new progressive constitution, South Africa has shown how change can happen anywhere. Visiting there changed how I looked at the world and the possibilities for peace everywhere. I will never forget the people on the streets of Soweto who graciously welcomed us to their town, in spite of the history of hate and discrimination shown toward them by whites. It taught me a valuable lesson of forgiveness.
Have you ever experienced a problem when traveling (passport, victim of crime, etc.)?Considering how much I have traveled, I have experienced few problems other than delayed flights and occasional problems with visas. I guess I have been very lucky.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve eaten when traveling?Crocodile (tastes like chicken) and ostrich in Zimbabwe and transparent baby shrimp in China.
What was your least favorite travel experience and why?Years ago, I went to Wales for a conference and spent five days afterwards touring the country before driving back to London for my flight home. It rained the entire time I was in Wales. I drove for days in pelting rain and got out of the car only to eat and sleep. I saw almost none of the country.
What kind of vacation do you prefer, adventure, nature, backpacking, luxury getaways, shopping, relaxing, other?Over the years, I’ve enjoy all types of vacations, exploring different cultures and scenery. Now, I spend more time on adventure travel, going to places that most other people would not think of visiting.
What’s the best thing about traveling? What’s the Worst?
- Best – Seeing new and exotic destinations.
- Worst – Sitting on long flights and waiting for connections.
When you’ve traveled internationally, did you prefer to do things that are familiar (American food/activities) or go outside of the tourists areas and see how the natives live?I want to see the unfamiliar.
Do you look for Americans when you travel? Also, do you try to ‘blend in’ or don’t think about it.I don’t think about it.
Do you have any travel tips to share?Be patient with local situations. As a guest in another country, respect their customs. Americans can be spotted a mile away. They are the impatient ones who appear in a big hurry to go nowhere. Pack light and never check bags. I can go for weeks with only carryons.
Any parting shots or Shout outs?You can’t appreciate our way of life in the US without going to places where the people have nothing and struggle every day to survive, often in politically repressive countries.