Baby Steps for Adventures Far-Flung and Close

I did not travel outside of my home province, Ontario Canada where I was born, until when I was 25 years old. It was a train trip to Quebec City with a sister. I can’t even remember if we stopped in Montreal on our way into la belle province, Quebec. So, no de rigeur European backpacking trip during or immediately after university. It was inconceivable to ask my struggling, low-income parents for any vacation pleasure money, when there were several other younger siblings. niagara falls2

Niagara Falls, Canada 1976. Am in back row, beside mother. national assembly of Quebec

National Assembly Quebec – Quebec’s provincial legislative building. Quebec City, 2002. Photo by J.Chong

Plunging into Foreign Travel @27 Years
My first overseas foreign trip. I joined 2 Greek-Canadian friends for a 4-wk. vacation trip to Greece. It included Athens, Delphi as well as the islands of Crete and Santorini. Since they could speak and read some Greek, my vacation far exceeded in uniqueness and local authenticity, beyond what you could ever experience in a cruise or group tour. casabetallo20162

Casa Batllo, a house with curves designed by Antoni Gaudi. Barcelona, Spain 2016. Photo by J.Chong

We stayed at some cheap pensions for $13.00Can / night (over 30 yrs. ago) where the bathroom didn’t have a shower curtain or protective wall. So the wet bathroom would dry quickly next day. Or once, we slept outside under stars on top of another pension’s roof. I slept like baby. Or hiking for several kms. on Santorini where friends spotted olives and figs along the way. Or the dingy boat ride that took us across the turquoise Agean sea to a hidden island white stone beach around the corner.. that was topless.

Cloistered in 21st Century:  Possible
But before I go there, would I be considered unusual these days, a late-foreign travel bloomer? My family was poor and culturally,  Chinese immigrant parents who had no clue nor interest camping, or even hotel overnight travel, especially for a large family of 6 children. It would have been a tall financial order.  Strausborg 2016

Strausborg, France 2016. Photo by J.Chong goldornatemalmochurch2010

Church in Malmo, Sweden 2010. Photo by J.Chong. Just a half hr. train ride away from Copenhagen, Denmark.

In the 21st century, I’m certain there still many others unable to travel far.  It’s a reality if money is scarce or parents are a bit protective. They may have limited physical mobility and other barriers.

Rare Day Summer Trips- 100 km. Away
While other kids were trundled across Canada in 2-4 weeks during summer for camping and some hotels, we only took day trips several times per summer to Toronto (which included the CNE) and Niagara Falls. Of course, my parents loaded up the car with $50.00 worth of Asian greens, tofu, BBQ duck and Chinese pastries. That was in the early-mid 1970’s. Often we also had dim sum or shared some plates of Chinese restaurant food before leaving Toronto for 100 km. west for home. medicinehatipi2

Permanent tipi art on regional Blackfoot First Nations cultural history. Medicine Hat, Alberta 2016. Constructed as part of artwork for Winter Olympics 1988 in Calgary, Alberta –approx. over 200 km. west  of this site. villageburgundy

Village in winery region of Burgundy, France. 2016. Photo by J.Chong

Cuisine Palate Expands Much More –After University
If I didn’t grow up knowing a bit of Chinese, have a different family cultural background that contrasted against the dominant Eurocentric society, then yes, my world would have been even more narrow.  It was cloistered  enough growing up in small southwestern Ontario city:  I didn’t even know other Asian cuisines – Malayasian, Singaporean, Korean, Japanese or Thai –until I left home for university.  It began with a Malayasian room mate. I knew more about German Bavarian staples –sauerkraut, kielbassa sausage and apple strudel. fresh samishi2

Fresh tuna and other sashimi to buy on the go. Tsukiji Fish Market, Tokyo 2018. Photo by J.Chong 2019congee queen

Cantonese Chinese restaurant meal with always bountiful plates to share. Toronto ON 2019. 

I didn’t even know nor taste other regional Chinese cuisines – Sichuanese, Shanghaiese, Hunan until after university and moved to Toronto.  I was already 23 yrs. old.  Until then, my exposure was my mother’s cooking, Cantonese, which is best known  for its restaurant flash stir-frying of veggies and seafood with more delicate seasoning  plus Westernized Cantonese versions in Chinese restaurants in small Canadian cities. matchkyoto

Bowl of cool matcha tea, tofu square with toasted dried tofu crumbs, a mochi dessert apple and more tea at teahouse since 1700’s in Gion district. Kyoto, Japan 2018. Photo by J.Chong. A hot, humid day where some patrons were having cold, ice noodles.

However, despite delayed palate expansion, I didn’t feel bereft of not knowing “foreign” things since I grew up with 2 languages, a minority racial identity and a home culture that clearly was different than my European friends. ceskykrumlov2010

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic 2010. Photo by J.Chong

I simply didn’t have money until landing jobs after university, to even eat out at restaurants and explore other cuisines. DSCN8257 Princeville

Cycling in Princeville, Kauai Island. Hawai’i 2002. Photo by J.Chong

Vastness and Majesty of Canada:   Late Bloomer Citizen- Visitor
Jack and I took the train from Toronto to Turo, Nova Scotia where we disembarked with our bikes and took off for the next  4 weeks through the province, Prince Edward Island and 1 day in New Brunswick.  We did cycle and ferry through 3 provinces on July 1, Canada Day.  A patriotic, fabulous way to be akin to one’s own country in greater awareness.

Then later, I was  38 yrs. in 1997, when I first visited western Canada, meaning British Columbia, for first time for a Canadian. First time to be overwhelmed in awe and humbleness by our soaring mountains, wild Pacific Ocean sweeping or crashing against the rugged coast. indian arm 2004

Indian Arm, Deep Cove. North Vancouver 2004. Photo by J.Chong. A local mini fjiord.

Saanich, Vancouver Island 2006
Cycling to B.C. Ferry port. North Saanich, Vancouver Island 2009.

I was in Campbell River, along the coast by Vancouver Island in Japanese restaurant. What was striking how much everyone, many who appeared to be locals,  were stuffing themselves with happy gusto, sashimi and sushi. I didn’t expect this in a tiny town vs. in a big city Toronto. Only a few decades later, I discovered I dropped by Koto, this long-time local favourite restaurant that only recently shut down and were clearly part of the community. They were featured in a CBC video.

nationalpark 2004

Indigenous mountain dwelling long ago. National Bandelier Park, New Mexico. South of Santa Fe. 2004. Photo by J. Chong US canada border 2010

Cycling up to U.S.-Canada border from a multi-day bike ride in Washington state. 2010. In distance, is the white Peace Bridge with 2 national flags.

Late at the Table for Asia
I still haven’t been to China yet. The first attempt was aborted by the Tianamen Square Massacre in Beijing in 1989. Instead, a sister and I went to Europe for 4 weeks, which included a whirlwind group tour for 10 days through 6 countries. Too bad elegiac Venice seem to zoom through 2 days. Some places deserve lingering double time, at least, especially now with more frequent flooding. fireworks kimono

Centuries old kimono –with firecrackers in its design! Tokyo National Museum. 2018. Photo by J. Chong. See museum database list for its kimonos.

Then in 2018, I was more driven to uncover the mysteries of Japan and Seoul, South Korea. I still nurse that my illusions about China as now hyper modern and on ruthless drive to mow down its heritage sites along with environmental damage along the way. 2spaceneedlemuseum

Space Needle, monorail by Museum of Rock ‘n Roll. Seattle, WA 2019. Photo by J.Chong


Ghost Ranch site with natural rock face, home of painter, Georgia O’Keefe. South of Santa Fe, New Mexico 2004. 


Shelter Bay for B.C. Ferries. Southern interior British Columbia. West of Revelstoke 2015. seoulpopartmarket

Arts and crafts pop-up market. Seoul, South Korea 2018. Photo by J.Chong. First time, I’ve seen fast portraits done in watercolour. Usually charcoal, pastel, soft graphite pencil or markers is used for on-the-fly quick drawings.


Lake Louise, Banff National Park 2019. Photo by J.Chong

Post-Covid Clamp Down
With covid and its travel restrictions worldwide in the past 2 years, and now trying to resurface to understand the new “normal”, my foreign travel is somewhat dampened for the short-term. No doubt, there’s still a lot to discover in vast Canada. Depending where Canadians live, sometimes it is cheaper to drop into the Hawai’i or to Asia, if one lives in Vancouver, instead of flying to Newfoundland or  Europe. greenlakeplane

Green Lake. Whistler, British Columbia  2018. Photo by J.Chong

Discovery travel is not about unknown distant sights –it’s more  seeing the world with curiosity and new insight, whether they are places very far or close, but just quietly waiting to be revealed.

2010 to Canada

Cycling  in Bellingham, Washington towards the Canada-U.S.  border only less than 5 kms. away. 2010.


Door knocker. Barcelona,  Spain 2016. Photo by J.Chong  Ukranian Greek Orthodox church

Ukrainian-Greek Orthodox church. Ukrainian Heritage Village. north of Edmonton, Alberta 2015. Ukrainians were dominant farmer settlers in Alberta  from late 1800’s -early 1900’s. buddhistmaui2010

Buddhist temple funded by Japanese immigrants. Maui, Hawai’i 2009. Photo by J.Chong bettercoastline

Northwest Pacific coast. Washington state. Dec. 2020. Photo by J.Chong

Banner photo: Waterfalls near Shelter Bay, interior British Columbia.

24 Comments Add yours

  1. Pit says:

    Beautiful travel pictures, Jean. 😊😊The first travel I remember is in 1953, when I was 6 years old, and we visited friends of my father’s in France.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      I think my memory was around that age. Probably someone’s house someone else in city. We lived in an apartment for lst 10 yrs. My parents didn’t have a car and not much money. So can’t be as exotic as your travel memory, Pit!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Pit says:

        Well, my parents didn’t have much money, either. The car originally belonged to my mother’s brother, MIA in Russia during WWII, and it survived the war in a garage. Otherwise we would not have had a car.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          A car surviving in garage during war…the irony.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Pit says:

            Now that’s true!


  2. Jane Fritz says:

    Wow, Jean, what a fabulous, extensive post. I loved it. Thanks for sharing so many adventures and thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      One thing about a blog and posts: brings back great memories!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Those are amazing photos! Yes, it’s expensive to travel far with a large family. We did road trips on the East Coast when I was a teen, but that was about it–except for the summer my wealthy grandparents flew me to visit them in Hawaii. That was amazing.

    My kid, on the other hand, started collecting airline miles when he was two months old–either to visit my family on the East Coast or my husband’s parents in Hawaii. I wonder if he will appreciate getting to travel as much as I do?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Funny about your 2-month baby collecting airmile points. Parents have to be proactive to provide benefits for kiddo. 😀 That Hawai’i gift trip from grandparents is a great example how grandparents can gift a memorable experience when the child is old enough to appreciate it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed reading your history of travel, Jean. I think those of us who had to wait a while to travel might find it all the more sweet. Speaking of…I’m going to Toronto in a week? Do you have a special place to eat or a favorite arts/architecture destination to recommend?


    1. Jean says:

      Yes, when one just a little older than a child, travel becomes even more wonderous in our eyes. I will be going to Toronto in early Sept. Gosh, what to recommend.. ok the Brickworks One can take bus from subway station This is a historic brickmaking site that used to produce the red bricks that you see in Toronto’s older /historic bldgs. It sits down in the ravine of an enormous interconnected parks system, so outside is Nature at its doorstep. There are historic kilns inside. One can go cycling to site. Or a nice walk/gentle hike can leave the site and just stroll into the park area. There is restaurant there. On saturday there is a outdoor farmers’ market. For eating, enjoying sites of City, leave Union subway station and walk east along Front St. and in 15 min. you will get to St. Lawrence Market. Peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery is best. It’s not open Sundays and maybe not on Mondays. Closes for evening. On your way, you will see fountain with dog statutes ringing around it. By the historic flatiron bldg. For Canadian art, is the Art Gallery of Ontario.. Or get off at St. George subway station, to see Bata Shoe Museum. You will enjoy it! For something different is the Aga Khan Museum, which further out in ‘burbs. Dedicated to more artworks and museum pieces of the Islamic world and from Middle East. Both contemporary and heritage/traditional. I haven’t gone myself but would like to see. Tell me of your trip afterwards. I’ll have to look up more restaurants close to subway system but this local blog would have something (almost too much to figure out). Are you staying in downtown area?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow, this such outstanding information. Thanks for all the tips, Jean. How did you know HOB and I are crazy for bricks? And the library at Osgoode Hall looks scrumptious! And I will get that sandwich! We are staying by the Bloor-Yonge train station for 5 nights. Will post as much as I can, thanks again!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Good accommodation location, WofB. Perfect. You can also go to Yorkville area. Just ask conceriege. There’s an upscale deli-grocery place, starts with a “P”. On Bay north of Yonge. That Sabai Thai restaurant is very close to your place of stay.
          I forgot to give this link:

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Mabel Kwong says:

    Wonderful post about your travels through the years, Jean. Never too late to start traveling. It really must have been hard for your large family to travel together, what with loading up the car with as much groceries and food to keep economical. When I was a kid and lived in Singapore, my family would go to Malaysia quite often and each time on the trip back, we would stop for dim sum. I think so long as you want to travel, you’ll appreciate it when you do get to travel – and hopefully many of us will appreciate traveling when we move on from the last couple of years.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Clearly your family had a favourite dim sum place in Malaysia when Singapore probably had alot of places already. Must have been familiarity/ambiance or some special goodies on the menu. Would you say that Malaysian-Chinese food has more curry/spiciness than Singaporean? I’ve always associated multi-ethnic diversity with Singapore despite the strong Chinese influence. I haven’t been to either country. You must have been to alot of Asian countries since you’re closer.


      1. Mabel Kwong says:

        According to my parents, Chinese-Malaysian food is more tasty and flavourful, and more spicy, compared to Chinese-Singaporean food. To them, Singapore food is bland. I love food from both Singapore and Malaysia, and I guess my tastes are different compared to them.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          I learned about spiciness of Chinese-Malaysian food from a room mate who was from Malaysia. First time ever in my life exposed to that curry-chili spiciness in Chinese food. I think it’s mentioned in the blog post.

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Lani says:

    I was thinking how I hadn’t heard from you in awhile, and lo and behold, another post I miss. I might have to resubscribe. In any case, I think you’ve made up for any lack of cultural exposure in your youth as an adult. My goodness, you are so well traveled — and often on a bike! xo


    1. Jean says:

      I have to get back into blogging a little more often..soon. I daresay, Lani, you are probably more well-travelled when living in several countries outside of your home country, U.S. Hope all is well. Any different travels or is covid still tempering that?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Lani says:

        I’m staying in Thailand. Covid took down my savings and with the travel chaos (cancelled flights, lost baggage, understaffed airports), it didn’t feel like a good time.

        What about you? Do you have any travel plans?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Jean says:

          Off to B.C., Toronto. I haven’t seen family for last few years in Canada. Problem of living in a big country. I’m sorry to hear about the impact of travel chaos and its cost impact.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue Slaght says:

    Jean although our cultural backgrounds differ, growing up in rural Saskatchewan there was very little travel in my early years. I too am a late bloomer. Until our children were grown our trips were infrequent. After a decade of what I feel was almost frenetic travel the pandemic put a screeching halt to our far flung adventures. Just now are we starting to travel within Canada, although we have an international trip booked for November. Time will tell how things look then.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jean says:

      Hopefully you’ll still feel comfortable to travel in Nov. Yes, you and hubby did alot of travel pre-covid…way more than I ever would, especially internationally. Right now, I haven’t yet rejunvenated motivation to travel overseas. Just where I am at in life.


  8. Sue Slaght says:

    You have been to many beautiful destinations both near and far. I agree there is so much to see here in Canada.

    Liked by 1 person

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