Wanderer of the Week: Meredith Kratzmann

Meredith Kratzmann (1)Name: Meredith Kratzmann
Age: 38
Home base: Toronto, Canada

No. of countries visited: 20 countries proper; but there are regions of countries that I’ve visited that are unique enough in terms of culture and geography that they could be considered separately (e.g., 4 autonomous regions in China).

What I do when I’m not travelling (aka occupation): Public health research and community development.

My next stop: Argentina, hopefully

My wildest and craziest adventure was: There have been so many! My top two:

1. I spent a few months one winter in Nunavut. I was based in Cambridge Bay but had to travel to a smaller remote community for a couple weeks. I flew by cargo plane from Cambridge Bay to Taloyoak, Canada’s northern most community on the mainland. My seat was a stack of rice bags. We flew down over herds of migrating caribou in the arctic tundra and we stopped in a couple small communities on the way to drop off supplies. It’s the craziest, but also most stunningly beautiful adventure I’ve had, as well as the most culturally rich experience (the time in Nunavut in general) I’ve had in all my travels, and it was here in Canada.

2. Travelling solo, over land from Bangkok to Shanghai for 5 months, with the highlight being the ‘reverse backdoor’ through the eastern region of Tibet from Shangri-La to Chengdu.

Meredith Kratzmann (4)Weirdest thing I’ve ever eaten or drank: Again, there’s a few that top the list:

1. kwok: raw frozen caribou meat, in an igloo in Taloyoak, Canada.

2. A delicious-looking turnover type pastry that I thought had pears in it, because fresh pears were being sold by street vendors in the same market in Kashgar (Kashi), China, but it was actually filled with minced lamb innards.

3. Yak butter tea: literally butter churned from yak milk and mixed with hot water – in a little cottage at 4500 metres in the mountains above Tagong (Tibet).

I’ll never forget that time: My husband and I were hosted over night at a hotel in a dusty little town in central China at the insistence of a jolly restaurateur. With translation help from a university student (whom he practically kidnapped off a passing bus), he explained that local custom is to host passing visitors for the night sharing food and stories. We were basically forcibly checked into a hotel and told where to be later that evening for the dinner.

After taking our first warm shower in a couple days, we passed out only to be woken up shortly after by police pounding at the door. We were taken to the police station, fearing the worst – some kind of set up. With the help of another university student we eventually figured out it was just a misunderstanding – our passports weren’t properly processed with the police station when we checked in to the hotel (something you have to do anywhere in China). We were released and later enjoyed an amazing feast of pulled noodles (the local speciality) and warm milk beer with the jolly restauranteur and his family and friends.

Meredith Kratzmann (3)Most memorable meal: We met a wonderful Kurdish family in Istanbul who live in the Fatih neighborhood. They invited us to eat with them in their home. We made roasted lamb skewers over an open fire in a lot beside their house and had delicious chopped fresh vegetables and feta cheese. We managed to communicate despite language differences and learned a lot about their family, culture and experiences as Kurds in Turkey.

One thing on my bucket list is: To spend a year travelling with my daughter and husband, starting in Rome with a visit to my in-laws and then heading east overland with no real plan except to eventually hit Tegal – a little village on the island of Java in Indonesia where my grandmother was born in 1914.

Three things I always pack: my twisted elastic clothes line, UV-operated water purifying pen with rechargeable batteries, and a good book for reading and then exchange/barter.

Meredith Kratzmann (2)My travel advice: Even if you only have a week, don’t over-plan, make an itinerary or make plans at all. Just know the things you want to see and do, then go and see what happens. And also important is knowing that you’re never too old to stay in a hostel or guest house, just too particular.

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