With Wanderlust's annual World Guide Awards just around the corner, we chat to shortlisted guide Simyra Taback
Mountain/desert/jungle/ocean which are you?
I am definitely a forest person. The sights and sounds of the forest – nothing beats that.
First travel experience?
My first travel experience was going to Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, as a child with my parents.
Travelling to Milan, Italy and then taking the train to Pisa and Rome.
Top five places worldwide?
Katmai National Park, Alaska – majestic brown bears.
Jasper, Alberta, Canada – awe inspiring mountains.
Churchill, Manitoba, Canada – polar bears, one does not need to say more.
Sitka, Alaska – ancient, intricately carved totem poles.
Rome, Italy – the culture, the history, incredible.
Special place to stay?
I really like to stay at Bed & Breakfasts wherever I go. You get to experience a more family atmosphere and you can find out secret, special places to visit that may not be on the usual tourist maps.
Three items you always pack?
A good book, a journal and a town map of where I am travelling to.
Passport stamp you're proudest of?
Milan, Pisa and Rome, Italy.
Passport stamp most like to have?
China. I would really like to see the Great Wall of China.
Guilty travel pleasure?
My guilty travel pleasure is eating local ice cream every where I go.
Window or aisle?
The window seat. This way you can look out and enjoy the aerial view of the snow-capped mountains.
Who is your ideal travelling companion?
My ideal travelling companion is a good book. Over the past few years I have been trying to read as many of the old classics as possible. I have read quite a few and the list is quite long, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Frankenstein, Gulliver's Travels, Little Women, Moby Dick, Old Man of the Sea, Sherlock Holmes, Tom Sawyer, Treasure Island, just to name a few.
Best meal on the road? Worst?
The best ice cream I have ever tasted was chocolate gelato in Milan, Italy.
The most interesting meal I had was when I tried black pudding on my first trip to London years ago.
Most surprising place? Most disappointing?
When I travelled to Rome I went to see the Trevi Fountain. I was surprised at my reaction at seeing the fountain. It was so aesthetically beautiful that I actually became emotional seeing it. I could not believe that I was actually standing there where thousands of other people have stood over hundreds of years.
I have not really had a disappointing travel experience. I have come to the realisation that if a trip that I plan does not always turn out like I had expected, in those cases I have experienced things that I never thought I would and have had an unexpected, wonderful excursion. These adventures have made me a stronger, better person and I am thankful for being there in that moment and appreciate everything I get to experience.
Where do you NOT want to go?
I guess I won't know until I get there.
Who/what inspired you to travel? Any travel heroes?
My parents and my husband inspired me to get out and see the world every chance I get. My travel heroes: Amelia Earhart, John Muir, Ernest Shackleton, Sacagawea.
What do you listen to on the road? Any song take you back to a particular time or place?
I do not usually listen to music while on the road. I rather enjoy listening to the natural sounds of the environment around me.
What do you read?
I like to read the local newspapers. They are a showcase of the town’s seasonal cultural events and activities.
Is there a person you met while travelling who reaffirmed your faith in humanity? Anyone who made you lose it?
Every time I see a place for the first time, I look at the faces of others that are there seeing the place for the first time as well. The incredible look of awe and amazement makes me smile and makes me glad that I have been able to experience this moment.
I had the privilege of guiding an elderly gentleman at our bear viewing camp. He worked hard all his life and after retiring at the age of 70 he finally started travelling worldwide. He sees everything with such a new, youthful enthusiasm. This is how we should all experience life and take nothing for granted.
Luckily I have not come across anyone that has deterred me from enjoying my journeys or travels.
What's the most impressive / useful phrase you know in a foreign language?
The most useful phrase in any language is 'thank-you'. I have also found that a smile warms the heart and can speak volumes.
What is your worst habit as a traveller?
I am always afraid I am going to miss my flight so I get to airports or train stations way too early.
Snowbound in a tent in Antarctica, how would you entertain your companions?
We would drink tea and tell each other stories of our travel adventures we have had in the past at other locations around the world.
When and where in your travels have you been happiest?
The happiest I have been is spending my years with the coastal brown bears of Katmai National Park, Alaska.
What smell most says 'travel' to you?
The smells that most say ‘travel’ to me are the open grass and farm fields of the outskirts of a community or town or the floral smells in the local community markets.
Given a choice, which era would you travel in?
The 16th century. The art and the culture from that era are absolutely incredible.
If you could combine three cities to make your perfect metropolis, what would they be?
Rome for the art, London for the culture and Paris for the atmosphere.
Simyra is one of four finalists in this year's Wanderlust World Guide Awards. The winner will be announced at a gala event at the Royal Geographic Society on October 4, 2012. Register for your free tickets now.
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