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Nr.109 / Year 5

January 3, 2017

We truly love dreaming!


The New Year has arrived. Needless to say, we wish you all the very best and may all your dreams be fulfilled this year - whether travel-related or not. Maybe it is time for us to dream a little and imagine what we would love to do if we possibly could as thebesttravelled.com.

Well, we would love to have a newsletter out in at least 20 languages so we can better approach our members who are not so proficient in English. We would love to have local contributors on the ground in every country - especially in the most obscure regions - and who report about everything and anything! We would simply love it if all major travel bloggers, and all those listed in our UN Master List, were our members who actively updated their profiles regularly, also sharing some of our travel stories. And more than anything, we would love it if some of the most inaccessible regions we have, which sometimes are among the most interesting as well, could be peaceful, safe, easily reached and explored - places like Yemen, Libya or the British Indian Ocean Territory.

Well, we dare to dream, and have allowed ourselves these wishes, but it's time to be realistic and thankful for what we have achieved so far, and what we will still aim to do. This week we are introducing amendments to 3 of our Series, the XL, Landmarks - now named Wonders - and European Cities Series. We have devised a new feature so that the new items are easily visible, which makes them much easier to fill in. Next week, we will amend the Cities of the Americas Series; however, we will not be going ahead with other Series until more travellers fill them in - so, if you still haven't, do consider doing so!

We also hope to launch a first, daring, version of our Experiences Series next week. But before we finalise this, once again remember we need your input. Think of intangible, not place-specific cultural experiences or culinary delights that you can try only in a specific country... We will make an easy form for such suggestions to be shared by you after the launch of the first version of this Series too.

So, Happy New Year!!! Dare. Discover. Share!
 
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Unusual places on our XL Series

Isla del Sol
Isla del Sol makes the XL Series as it is the only Bolivian island of any significance. Located not far from Copacabana, in Lake Titicaca, this may be one of the easiest places to get to on the XL Series, and also one of the most popular with tourists, as well as the most picturesque. 
Maybe a little too touristy, but there are yaks, 'ruins' and 'traditional' boat rides to be had, as well as stunning views of the snow-capped Andes miles away, almost as far as the capital La Paz. There are plenty of local accommodation options which bring you in closer contact to the local communities; or you can just take a day trip from the 'hub' of Copacabana, which is also where you can cross the border to Peru. A lovely part of the world, absolutely worth exploring in depth.
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TBT Suggests - Matkablogi

Our interview this week is from an active Finnish traveller, and we are here presenting a blog from another Finn - remember that our Blog section contains more than 3000 entries classified by language. So, Matkablogi means 'travel blog' in Finnish, and never mind that the texts themselves may not be understandable to most of you - the many photos that Esa gives the readers will be. The website gives thorough statistics to where he has been, as well as his social media statistics. But it's the archive of travels which is the biggest draw - for Finnish speakers and non alike! 
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Merja Lunkka
Merja, you are one of the highest ranking female travellers on our website. Tell us something about yourself and why you are fascinated by travel.
I’m Merja, 55 years old from Finland. I’m interested in all kinds of art and seeing it while travelling takes me more into a culture. When I was a teenager in the ‘70s and studied English at school, I started to have pen-pals all over the world. I then began to visit them and was fascinated by travel. I still have a pen-pal in Hong-Kong who I visited for the first time in 1985! Travelling is like a University for me. I learn so many new things on the road.
Finns generally love to travel a lot. How do you explain this?
We are far away from everything. Cold winters. At school we get good information about other countries, which makes us much more interested to see outside our small country. We learn English and other languages at school; it makes for an easy start to travel.
Macchu Picchu, Peru.
Which regions of the world especially attract you? Why?
I like South America, because of the beautiful nature and friendly people. Africa I like and hate. It’s hard and strong. There I have to do much in order to travel off the road. In Africa I feel either like a real traveller or like I am going crazy.
Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tell us about one travel experience which has really impacted you.
In Ghardaia in Algeria, I met a family who invited me to celebrate Ramadan in their house. I saw how Muslims live. Sitting on the kitchen floor, with family girls, around them a big pot of food and eating with their hands. I got a strong feeling how much travelling opens you as a person. I consider myself very lucky to have met locals in such situations.
Do you prefer to travel alone or in a group? Tell us something more about your style of travel.
My way to travel is long, overland, alone and basic! Travelling alone, I meet other travellers and locals more easily. I like to stay in hostels, easy and cheap. An extra plus is meeting other travellers, getting good tips where to go, and maybe going together. I love to travel overland, using local transport. Often on a bus, a local sits by me and maybe we start talking. This way, I see so much more and get a better feeling of the country I’m in. A long journey is a luxury for me. Like, when I travelled in Central and South America for 10 months. I studied Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala, for a month. After that, I continued to travel, down the coast of the Pacific to Ushuaia and coming up on the Atlantic coast, I could speak with locals in their own language. In 1993, I traveled for a year crossing Africa and then overland from Helsinki to Bali. Travel for me has been like world school.
 
New York - 1985.
You are in charge of a major Finnish travel club. Tell us something about this.
In the autumn of 2000, Raymond Bell, an English teacher in Finland, had the idea to find how many people in Finland have been to over 70 countries from the TCC list. There was big article about it in the newspaper. I had 69 from list (now I have 170) and went to the meeting. I have been at every meeting since then, if I am not travelling. At the start, Bell organized the meetings, but after he left I started to be on charge. There are still 3 left of us who were at that first meeting. About 100 more people have been to at least one meeting, and filled the form to join in. There are about 40 active members who are travelling to a‘count’ list such as TBT. To become a part of the Finnish travel club, one needs 100 places from the TCC list.

The Finnish travel club meets every first Friday of the month in Hotel Arthur restaurant. We try to get about 5 times a year someone to tell more big about travel which will be of interest to us. Butmostly, it is a meeting of travelers and an exchange of the latest news on travel. Like one couple went to Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Oman round-trip, after it many have done nearly the same trip. Getting new travel destination ideas is very valuable when meeting ’hardcore’ travellers. We are in a closed group in Facebook and this gives a fast way for people to ask questions and get information about their future trips.
South Korea.
So, give us a few Finnish gems that are generally not known.
I’ll disappoint you, I’m really bad at this. I haven’t travelled so much in Finland. I want more to get out of country. I walk or take my bike in the central park of Helsinki. On Helsinki coast line there is a bicycle road, so there are natural gems are all-around.
Guyana.
What are your travel plans for the next few months?
I’m about to visit London after 20 years. There have been so many other places to see, there has been no time to return. No other big plans, I’m a bit impulsive when it comes to travelling. High on my list, I have the Channel Islands, Faroe Islands, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Svalbard.
And finally a question we like to ask - if you could invite 4 people from any period in human history to a dinner, who would they be and why?
This is a very difficult question. But here are some: Ryszard Kapuscinki, the Polish traveller and writer who wrote the book ‘Heban’. We could talk during dinner about Africa. Friedensreich Hundertwasser, the Austrian architect, whose art and ideas about creating greener cities, is something that I just love. Then I would invite Felipe Lettersten, he was a sculptor and tried to capture in bronze the physical characteristics of the indigenous people of the Amazon. I want to talk about how he worked and travelled in that region of the world. And finally, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, with whom I could talk about underwater beauty and how he felt about travelling.
Wearing an Udmurtian wedding dress.
The photographs accompanying this interview are from Merja's private collection.
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