Trips That Have Pushed Us Out of Our Comfort Zone

We enjoy travel of all kinds, but some of our favorite trips have been ones that have pushed us out of our comfort zone. There can be many different factors that make a certain trip create a little more tension than other trips. It isn’t that we get nervous about the trip, it is more that we are more anxious prior to our arrival and typically we settle in as soon as we arrive and start our adventure. It could be due to the language barriers, differences in culture, or even safety concerns. Oddly enough, we probably seek out these trips more now than visiting some other traditional travel destinations that people go to, especially from the United States. In no particular order, these are some of the places that we have visited that caused us to be a little apprehensive.

Kapaleeshwarar Temple entrance in Chennai, India
Choosing a Sari in Kanchipuram
Temples at Mahabalipuram, India

Chennai in Southeast India – We have talked about this trip many times as it was the trip that changed the way that we wanted to explore the world. The experience was truly amazing and we saw so many different temples and learned as much as we could about the local culture. Whether buying silk in Kanchipuram or heading to the coast to visit the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram, the trip was very different than anything that we had done previously.

Iconic View from Isla del Sol with Isla de la Luna in the Background and a Ruin in the Foreground
Getting Into Carrasco National Park in Bolivia
View of La Paz, Bolivia

Cochabamba and La Paz in Bolivia – There were several things that made this one of the best trips we’ve ever taken to a destination that many people don’t consider. It was our first opportunity to stay at an ecolodge and explore part of the Amazon Rainforest, which we did from Cochabamba. After a week of memories in the heart of Bolivia, we then went to La Paz where we able to take a tour that took us to Tiwanaku and then off to Copacabana to see Sun and Moon Islands. The different things that we were able to see combined with the people that we met really made this trip stand out.

Two Reclining Buddhas in Laos (They are Farther Apart then It Looks)
Boats Going One After Another Through the Caves of Ninh Binh Province
Halong Bay in Vietnam

Vietnam and Laos – Although many people travel to Vietnam, going to Laos was certainly a unique experience. Just traveling half way around the world can make a trip a little nerve-racking even if we’d read a lot about the culture before arriving. Seeing Halong Bay and taking a couple of tours into the countryside of the Ninh Binh Province were definitely highlights. Going to Vientiane in Laos, though, was a completely different experience. Even though the two countries border each other, there is no denying that they are worlds apart in many ways.

Sitting in a Historic Ottoman House
Empty Tomb in the Valley of the Kings
The Giza Plateau in Egypt

Egypt – Although it is definitely a destination that has attracted many tourists throughout the past hundred years, but we went shortly after the political unrest that caused Western tourists to be a risk. Other than having to have a police escort to visit Cairo’s Old Town area, we certainly never experienced anything that would have caused us concerns. Whether touring Cairo or taking a cruise down the Nile River to visit Luxor and Aswan, it was certainly an incredible trip. As amazing as the pyramids are to see, we were certainly glad that we took the time to explore even more of the country.

Turkey and Rooster on Death Road in Bolivia
Rowing with Their Feet in Vietnam
Chennai, India

Regardless whether you travel to a place that feels completely natural or to one that makes you see the world in a new light, all travel is rewarding. There have been other trips that have pushed us either culturally or in other ways, but these are some of our favorite travel memories.

DakshinaChitra Cultural Living Museum in Southern India

Located outside of Chennai, the DakshinaChitra is a living museum that depicts life, art, culture, and architecture of Southern India, including Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. DakshinaChitra features 18 authentic historical houses that were deconstructed from their original region and then reconstructed by artisans from the region on the grounds of the museum. Each of the houses features exhibits that represent the region’s art and daily life. Although we visited during an off time, the museum features typical artisans and performers from the various regions that you can interact with, thus making it a living museum.

Tapestry on Display

Clay Artwork

Brick and Stone House

Chennai 031
Inside of a House

Colorful Artwork

DakshinaChitra actually means picture of the south, which is what the living museum is meant to represent. There are opportunities to participate in making crafts and folk performances happen at different times. Regardless of the interactive activities, just wandering the trails and going inside of each of the houses is a wonderful experience. Each of the regions is unique in their own ways and that can be seen by the varied architecture, arts, and crafts that can be found in the different houses. The museum opened in 1996 and has continued to grow ever since.

Walking Through the Buildings

Clay Animals

Looking Down at One of the Houses

Traditional Clothing

Entrance to the Living Museum

We spent a couple of hours walking the grounds, visiting the various houses, and admiring the displays. In many ways it was overwhelming, like many of our experiences in Chennai, but we were definitely glad that we took the time to go there. If you visit Chennai, we would highly recommend taking the time to go to DakshinaChitra and learn about all of the regions of Southern India.

One of the Many Trails Through DakshinaChitra

More Artwork

Coastal Hut

Another Tapestry

Chennai 037
Local Crafts and Art

Chennai 033
Ilkal Weaver’s House

Building Complex


Making the Most of Chennai, India

Visiting the city of Chennai in India is a trip that we will always remember. We have mentioned previously that it was a trip that not only had a profound impact on us personally, but also changed the way that we have traveled since that visit. Although we only had a limited amount of time to spend in Chennai, we certainly made the most of the time that we had. We tried to see as much of the city as possible, but also made sure to take a couple of day trips to see the surrounding area. It can certainly be overwhelming to visit a city with as many people as live in Chennai and it takes a little getting used to as you visit the various sites.  If you get a chance to visit Chennai, here are some of the places that we would recommend that you take time to see.

Kapaleeshwarar Temple entrance in Chennai, India

  1. Kapaleeshwarwar Temple – With all of the colorful details on the roofs, it is an amazing sight to see. Depending on the time that you go to the temple, you can certainly expect large crowds. The temple was one of the first places that we visited in Chennai and it only kept getting better.

    Main Building with Beautiful Architecture
  2. The Government Museum – Featuring exhibits that range from zoological, archeological, cultural, and historical, there is a lot to see in the second oldest museum in India. From the statues to the architecture of the museum buildings themselves, it should certainly be on your itinerary for Chennai.

    Standing Outside of the Cathedral
  3. Saint Thomas Cathedral – One of only three churches in the world to be built over the tomb of a disciple, it is also the location of the cave where St. Thomas hid before eventually being speared to death.

    Learning About the Ancient Temples in Mahabalipuram
  4. Mahabalipuram – The first of our day trips outside of Chennai, seeing the ancient temples of Mahabalipuram was probably the highlight of our time in India. There is much to see as you walk around the various temples, so expect to spend several hours at Mahabalipuram.

    Chennai 031
    House at DakshinaChitra
  5. DakshinaChitra – Meant to represent the culture and lifestyles of the entire Tamil Nadu region, where Chennai is located, this cultural center is certainly worth a visit. We stopped on our way down to Mahabalipuram and enjoyed walking throughout the different buildings within the complex.

    Tiger Cave
  6. Tiger Cave – Also located near Mahabalipuram, visiting this temple cave with tigers carved at the entrance is certainly interesting, but it won’t take longer than about 30 minutes to take a guided tour around the area. Although probably not worth a trip on its own, it is certainly worth stopping to see while on your way to Mahabalipuram.

    Buying Silk in Kanchipuram
  7. Kanchipuram – Known for its production of silk, it is certainly worth a visit to learn about the production of silk and to purchase silk items at prices that are better than in Chennai. We also visited the Ekambareswarar Temple while we were in Kanchipuram, which was another beautiful temple with many interesting features.

    View of Chennai

Chennai is certainly a busy city with a lot of technology and manufacturing businesses with international ties located there. The people were very welcoming and we enjoyed seeing the sights within the city as well as the surrounding area. Another highlight to Chennai and the coastline are the beaches, although we didn’t spend time at the beach during our visit. We are hoping to make it back to India in the near future and are looking forward to seeing more of this truly interesting country.