One of the biggest headaches travelers face when flying is the dreaded layover.
When I was in the Navy, I frequently flew out of Norfolk and, for some reason, I always had a layover in Pittsburg or Cleveland. LONG layovers! Not much to do for those hours of waiting. Drove me bonkers!
Since I also flew overseas fairly often, I soon learned to take advantage of those long layovers by heading out to explore the city where I landed. One of my absolute favorite layover adventures was when I was enroute to Bahrain: a “Layover Escape” that included a Canal Cruise and Walking Tour through the city. What an amazing experience!
The sightseeing cruise allowed us to experience traditional Dutch culture, folklore and craftsmanship with stops in several villages. We enjoyed amazing views from our vantage point on the canal. A professional guide shared the rich cultural tapestry of Holland, as we cruised through Holland’s beautiful countryside and discovered tulip-filled meadows and studied the amazing Dutch architecture. We also had an opportunity to visit the villages and towns of Edam, Marken, and Zaanse Schans, and enjoyed a pleasant balance of guided walking tours and leisurely free time.
“Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide
One of the most adventurous destinations I’ve traveled to is Bahrain. I was stationed there with the Navy in the early 2000’s. I’m not sure what I expected when I set out, but it was an eye-opener in so many ways. I’ll leave out any political observations here in favor of focusing on the things you, as a traveler, might find of interest, as Bahrain has certainly become a tourist destination.
Bahrain is a small Arab state situated in a bay on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago consisting of Bahrain Island and some 30 smaller islands. Its name is from the Arabic term al-bahrayn, meaning “two seas.”
Unlike many of its neighboring countries, Bahrain has only small stores of petroleum. Its economy relies on processing crude oil from its neighbors and, more recently, the country has benefitted from an increase in tourism. Manama, the country’s chief city, port, and capital (and where I was stationed) is located on the northeastern tip of Bahrain Island.
During my tour there, I found Bahrain to be an interesting juxtapose: on one hand, a strikingly modern city, relaxed and cosmopolitan; on the other, the epitome of a poverty-stricken island. The people of Bahrain remain conservative in their lifeways, and that is apparent throughout the island. Manama is a favorite destination for visitors from neighboring Saudi Arabia; on weekends, crowds of Saudis converge on the city to enjoy its restaurants and bars. But I also observed a stark contrast to the modernization of the city – wealth vs. poverty, living hand-to-hand with one another. Many roads and sidewalks were in such total disrepair that it was difficult to maneuver them. From my room, I looked down on to an alley where children were living in cardboard boxes. Looking a little farther out, I could see a beautiful see a beautiful villa, complete with lovely landscaping and a private pool.
The contrast existed within the people I met as well. It was obvious to all that I was a “female soldier.” Although we weren’t required to wear the “Burka,” or “Hijab,” military regulations required that we kept our arms and legs covered and that we didn’t wear any tee-shirts with logos or writing on them. So, we stood out! When we walked down the streets to go shopping, it was not uncommon for large groups of local women to push us out of the way and spit on us. We learned to cross the road when we saw them coming!
Traveling is all about creating great memories, right? And what better way to keep those memories close to your heart than by taking pictures – every step of the way!
I was a Photojournalist much of my Navy career. When I was a very young Sailor, I was photographing a flag officer’s change of command. It was my first assignment of that magnitude and I was nervous! During the pre-ceremony festivities the day before, the senior photographer had failed to check her camera to ensure she had film (yeah, back in the days of film!). She shot the entire reception and, when the time came for her to turn her film in to the photo lab at the end of the evening, she was mortified to discover her mistake.
It left a lasting impression on this very green photojournalist! We had a seasoned chief photographer supervising the event and I guess she could tell I was a wee bit nervous! Of course, she warned us to ALWAYS double check our cameras for film; but I remember to this day these words of wisdom: “If you take ONE good picture during the entire ceremony today, you’ll have succeeded in your job. Just ONE great picture is all you need.”
Wouldn’t we be thrilled if every picture we took on vacation was worthy of being published in the National Geographic? But let’s face it, that’s not likely. Personally, I think most of us would be happy if we had photographs that were in focus, properly exposed and didn’t have trees growing out of our heads. But there are a few easy tips that you can put in your bag of tricks to help ensure you have “scrapbook” worthy photographs to share when you return home!
The camera doesn’t have to be expensive: Cameras don’t always have to be expensive to get the job done. Surprisingly, phone cameras today take pictures that can honestly rival the quality of the most expensive digital cameras. Many years ago, I was on assignment with a National Geographic photographer – he was shooting pictures and I was writing the story. For grins and giggles, I brought a point-and-shoot camera to take pictures for my own scrapbook. At the end of the day, we turned everything into the photo lab for development. The next morning, we went through the photographs to see which we’d use for the story and the photographer pulled out a couple that he really liked – but said he didn’t remember shooting them. Turns out, they were from the point-and-shoot that I had! And they were good enough to run with our story! You can take photographs that will transport you back to that wonderful time and place with a phone camera just as easily as an expensive digital. Don’t be intimidated!