Muscat: Rhonda Albom and her husband Jeff May have travelled to 54 nations across the world, but Oman will always be one of her favourite places to visit.
An American based in New Zealand, Albom is the owner of Albom Adventures, an award-winning travel blog that documents her family’s expeditions across the globe. It was recently voted New Zealand’s Best Expat Blog for 2017, and has also been included in the Top 30 Australia and New Zealand Travel Blogs of this year. “I saw a few photos, and couldn’t get Oman out of my mind,” recalled Albom, when asked what inspired her to travel to the Sultanate.
“I think it is the stark contrast between the desert cliff tops and sea, the intricate detail in the Islamic architecture, the vast open spaces, and the gentle mix of modern and tradition, all in a country not overrun by tourists. I loved every minute in Oman.”
“It was our first exposure to the Middle East,” she told the Times of Oman.
“As a visitor, it was the warmth, friendliness, and acceptance of strangers that stood out the most. However, as a photographer, it was the bold patterns and sharp contrasts seen everywhere. Of course, acceptance goes both ways. We learned a bit about the culture before arriving and showed respect as we travelled.”
“Oman exceeded all of our expectations. Based in Muscat, we spent a day visiting Nizwa and surrounding areas and also did a two-day trip south to see the nesting turtles,” she recalled.
“Oman is an easy place to travel to, even without speaking the language. Our biggest highlights were probably touring Nizwa and the fort with a local, whose stories brought it to life, looking out over the canyon at Jebel Shams, watching people hand build dhows, shopping in the Muttrah Souq in Muscat, and walking off the beaten path with a friend in Muscat.”
The Alboms and their children regularly travel to various countries, and have picked up many tricks of the trade to keep costs down, as globetrotting can be an expensive affair.
“The longer we travel and the more we learn, the easier it becomes,” explained Albom. “We have done home exchanges, thus eliminating hotel costs. We seek the lowest airfare, and often don’t fly non-stop. Also, as we work hard to become established, thus increasing the percentage of our travel that is paid for by companies. Albom also advised people to travel when they could, because it made for an experience like no other.
“Some of my fondest memories outside of Oman would include walking on the Great Wall of China, participating in the May Day Parade in Moscow, hiking in Alaska, watching the sunset in the Sahara, cooking a meal with the Berber family, and making new friends all around the world,”
she said. “Cultural awareness stems from open-minded listening, observing and participating.”
“People are the same all around the world,” added Albom. “We all want to be happy and to feel fulfilled, we just define those terms differently. I believe travel leads to understanding and a path to peace. What inspired me to travel was the desire to discover and learn, to meet new people, and to stand in their shoes.”