July 16, 2015
DISCOVERING COMMON GROUND IN AFRICA & ASIA
Liz and Marshall McRae are a semi-retired Calgary couple in their 50s who love to travel. Though they are more likely to do a photo safari in Africa or bike the streets of Saigon than lie on a beach.
Last winter, they went on an “epic” two-month journey – starting with safaris in Botswana, and then cruising from Cape Town, South Africa to Singapore, with stops on the way in Mozambique, Tanzania, the Seychelles, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia. We spoke to Liz McRae recently between trips.
DATE OF TRAVEL
Winter 2014 – 2015
NUMBER OF PEOPLE
Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Seychelles, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Cambodia.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR EPIC JOURNEY?
We loved going on safari in Botswana. We were able to track a leopard as it started its hunt. And one evening we saw male lions drinking and we followed them. They went right through our camp. One of the guys who managed the camp was still in his house. His wife phoned him madly from her vehicle and told him not to leave the house, because the lions were strolling right by the front door.
HOW ABOUT ASIA HIGHLIGHTS?
In Myanmar we stayed at a resort just outside Bagan, the ancient city of temples. We met a farmer in a nearby village. His wife showed me how to roll a “lady’s version” of a cigar and gave me it for a gift. And then her husband took us on a tour of temples in an ox cart.
My husband and I love Vietnamese food. In Saigon we were driven by professional drivers on the back of Vespas on a tour through the streets, enjoying the hustle and bustle, going from restaurant to restaurant and finally ending up in a club.
We also visited a school run by monks in Myanmar and an orphanage in Cambodia. It was a chance for us to help a bit, to directly donate some money and not go through an organization. It’s gratifying to see the results of the help these places get directly from visitors. That [kind of giving] has become an important part of our travel.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT WORKING WITH NATASHA?
We’ve collaborated with her now for 10 years. She’s a real go-getter. I can bounce any idea off her and she’s very good at cutting through everything and bringing out what you really want to do in a trip. She’s very intuitive.
And she really knows what we want. She tries whenever she can to make sure there’s an opportunity for Marshall to go fly-fishing, or for the two of us to take a cooking class when we travel.
Natasha also knows I love photography. The Christmas before we went on our Africa-Asia trip, she bought me a Fuji Instax camera, which allows you to print off a picture right away, like an old Polaroid. Now we can actually give people we meet pictures, instead of just showing them the digital image.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ACTIVE, EXPERIENTIAL TRAVEL?
We don’t look at a vacation necessarily as a time to rest and lie on the beach. We’re interested in history. We love to read, and we love travel shows and magazines. We’re interested in other people and how they live.
Sometimes people here can get fixated on things like terrorism and crazy political leaders. But what my husband and I have found in these faraway, developing countries is that we are all basically the same.
We all want to provide for our children, to have enough to eat, to go to a doctor if we need to, and to have a calm, peaceful life. There’s more that connects us than separates us.