Trusted Travel Questions and Advice by Todd Wassel

If I don't know I'll ask my crackpot team of expat misfits

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Trusted Travel Questions and Answers is my monthly chance to answer reader questions about travel and destinations. It can be hard to find trusted advice on travel from people who have actually been there. Every week I get a number of questions from readers asking for specific advice. This is my way of answering them but also sharing with others who might be looking for the same information.

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8 Days in Sri Lanka

Daniel (sorry but you didn’t actually leave your name!) is heading to Sri Lanka for 8 Days and asked the following:

I am planning a trip for 8 Days in Sri Lanka. Going straight from the airport to Sigiriya, then Kandy the next day and after that driving to Kitulgala. From there I would like to go to a beach but I am trying to find the shortest most direct way to a beach and I am not sure if I have to drive back to Colombo to get there. Any advice you can give me would be great. Also if you know of any great places to eat local food that would be great. Thank you in advance.

Hi Daniel, first off, you are going to have a blast. I lived in Sri Lanka for 3 years and despite a civil war at the time I loved every moment. I have been all over the areas you mentioned and I’ll have to make a few assumptions first.

Castlereigh Family Cottages Sri Lanka

Yes, it says "Probably the Best in the Up Country" :)

1) You’ll have your own car in Sri Lanka (or at least a driver)

2) You will be driving to Kitulgala through the hill country and not back through Colombo. This route is much more scenic and gets you into the heart of the tea country.

My advice is that you drive through from Kandy through Nuwara Eliya and then down to Kitulgala. If you have a chance don’t miss the quite Castlereigh lake. You can also get a nice view of Adams Peak from this area. If you are looking for a nice place on the water to stay I can recommend Castlereigh Family Cottages. They are warm, friendly, and have two amazing bungalows with verandas that look out over the lake.

How to get From Kitulgala to the Beaches in Sri Lanka

The most direct route in Sri Lanka is not also the quickest! From Kitulgala you are not that far from Colombo and the main road that runs south along the coast towards Galle and the beaches. At the moment (October 2011) this is still the fastest way south. However, the 4 lane toll highway (Southern Express Way) is due to open by the end of the 2011. Once it opens this will be your fastest way South.

Remember that the monsoon switches by season allowing swimming on the West and East coasts at different times of the year. If you are going this season (September to March) you can swim on the West Coast (advice below) and the rest of the year on the East Coast at Argum Bay.

From the coastal road you have basically three choices, first you can stop at the popular party and surfing beach Hikkaduwa. There are a number of hotels where you can stay here, almost all of them right on the beach.

Your next option is just past the fort town of Galle and is called Unawatuna. This small town is my favorite in the south and has a nice mix of clear tropical water, decent accommodation, relaxing during the day but with some parties in the evening. Further along, and probably too far for an 8 day trip are the secluded beaches of Hambantota. They are virtually deserted and offer great value for the intrepid traveler.

Where to Eat Local Food

To be honest this one is the easiest to answer! You can get great local food anywhere in Sri Lanka. Just stop into the local shops along the road and you will get homemade local fare. Everyone and their grandmother can cook amazing curries so you are in for a treat no matter where you go.

If you have your own questions about travel, life on the road or specific destinations Contact me and include the subject Travel Question. If your question can be used by others I’ll include it in my monthly Trusted Travel Questions and Answer section.

*In case you are wondering, some of the links above are part of an affiliate deal I have with Hotels Combined. When you buy or do research on hotels through those links I earn a ton of money to add to my already huge vault of gold and diamonds. Joking aside, I use Hotels Combined myself and would will only ever promote or suggest services to you that I don’t believe in myself. If you do use them, thank you for helping to keep the lights on here at Todd’s Wandering. No worries if you don’t as well, I’m just glad you are here.

Island Church Bled Slovenia

Hands down, the Church of the Assumption in Bled Slovenia puts this Castle town in the top 10 in Europe

Travel Porn delivers visual stimulation from around the world each week (most likely Fridays when I’m not stuck in a backwater somewhere). If this doesn’t get you hot, bothered, and fantasizing about your packed luggage (carry on, roll on, backpack, whatever turns you on) you might not be a traveler…

The Castle Town of Bled, Slovenia

In honor of my upcoming trip back to Slovenia this weeks travel porn is all about the BEST castle towns in Europe. Yes, I’m going out on a limb here by putting Bled in the Top 10 Castle Towns in Europe. I’m going even further out on a bending branch by not showing you a picture of the Castle!

What town in Europe do you think has the best Castle Town?

Put your vote below in the comments and feel free to link to an article, pretty picture or the comments of a supportive (but paid) relative who agrees with you :)

Travel to make peace

Blending of Cultures

Is travel an inherently selfish indulgence or a vehicle to bring about world peace? The travel and tourism industry is huge, and in 2010 over 940 million people traveled outside their own country as tourists and generated $919 billion dollars in global revenue.

That is a lot opportunity for both mischief and genuine interaction. So the question comes back to: is the opening of borders leading to greater understanding or a hardening of stereotypes?

I’ve been on the road for the past 12 years, both teaching children and working in international development. I’ve been a traveler, a tourist, an expat, and an undocumented worker (yup). In all this time I’ve become convinced of the power that travel has on people, both good and bad.

The Bad in Travel

Yes, let’s get this out of the way. Bad things happen when bad people travel. But, then again, bad things happen when bad people stay at home too. I’ve seen women exploited for sex by humanitarian workers, international police, and drunk college kids.

I’ve seen kids trafficked and begging on the streets, usually by internationals who only care about money.

I’ve seen rude Americans, drunk Brits, demeaning Australians, paranoid Japanese, and threatening Indians. I’ve seen poor people yelled at in restaurants because a cook messed up. I’ve seen people yell at taxi drivers who don’t understand their language. I see people trying desperately to make another country just like their own. Usually they get angry when the other side doesn’t understand they are “doing things wrong.”

These are all shades of the negative side of travel, but also the human condition. Are you depressed yet?

The Good in Travel

Despite seeing all the lousy things that humans do to each other I still feel that travel is making a positive impact on the world. Anyone who travels finds their belief system and world view challenged almost immediately. When you see desperate, stupid poverty (the kind where kids die from lack of food) there is nothing that you can do but help. Or at least start to appreciate everything you have and begin to share it.

Travel is experiential education. You learn by doing. Sometimes you make mistakes, and when you are away from your support system those mistakes tend to have bigger consequences. This can lead to more responsible actions, an opened mind, and tolerance.

One of the worst diseases spreading through our modern world is a lack of tolerance. Partisan bickering, sensationalism in the news, and the desire to gain political points through an “Us” vs “Them” mentality. All this does is lead to isolationism and a lack of tolerance in views, thoughts and expressions.

Travel can be the cure to intolerance. Bad people may travel. Stupid people may travel. But each time they do my bet is they are forced to think a little bit harder than if they stayed home.

How to Save the World

I have been involved in a lot international development projects, in peacebuilding initiatives, employment generation, women’s empowerment, etc etc. But all the things that have made a difference in my life have come from two simple things given freely by a few extraordinary people in my life:

Time

Kindness

Saving the world can be a daunting undertaking. But I guarantee that if each of those 940 million annual travelers show kindness and gave some time to the people around them, the world would be a better place. Just be kind to the person next to you. It really is that simple.

I heard the internet pioneer Chris Brogan say recently (paraphrased):

We are living through a revolution. When the revolution is over what will you have accomplished? Now is not the time to try to earn $$ on cheap tricks and scams but to build something lasting, transformational and that makes an impact.

I think his statement holds true just as much for the breaking down of borders through the internet as it does the liberalization of travel.

Can travel make the world a better place? Share your thoughts below.

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