The Pennell family from Winnipeg in Canada are on their way to the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru, and then they’re off to Brazil, via Easter Island, to see the statue of Christ Redeemer. After that, the next stop is the pyramid at Chichén Itzá in Mexico, after which they return to Canada “to visit what we hope to be one of the 7 cities to win: Vancouver where so many Family and Friends live.”
New7Wonders spoke to Benjamin, Samantha, Baerbel and Fred Pennell about an extraordinary world trip centred on the New7Wonders of the World and the New7Wonders of Nature.
New7Wonders: Benjamin, you visited the Taj Majal in India early this year. Was it as awesome as many people say it is?
Benjamin: “Well, yes of course! I was in awe as we went through the arch and had a first glimpse of it. I’m definitely amazed that they made a whole building out of marble, the second strongest stone on earth! How they could do that is simply amazing. Plus with the tools they used — no cranes! And they hauled it for quite a distance too. Carrying 200kg rocks impossible!! And how it was so smooth too! It was built by 100% manpower, in the Colosseum they used chariots, in Angkor Wat they had boats, here people — more difficult I think it’s just so amazing.”
New7Wonders: Samantha, a highlight of the family tour for you was one of the New7Wonders of Nature, Halong Bay in Vietnam. What did you do there?
Samantha: “One of my favorite places was Halong Bay because of all the different shapes in the rocks everywhere. In Halong Bay we went on a 2-night, 3-day cruise, it was really nice and a great opportunity to meet some amazing people. We even got to jump off the daily boat on the second day of the cruise!! My favorite part of the boat trip was when we went kayaking into a very, very small cave, that we barley fit into, but the landscape after coming out was most amazing, it was a small little bay with rocks all around us, with trees and other plants growing out. If you were lucky (and we were), you could see monkeys swinging from branch to branch in the trees! I also really liked the landscape at night in the bay with all the boats, and the lights shining from the boats with the reflection, it was beautiful. Halong bay was one of my favorite places but I have others, I really like Nepal, a very mountainous country with the amazing Mount Everest, another one of my favorite places was Malawi in Africa, the people were so nice and to think it’s the 7th poorest country in the world??? It doesn’t look like that at all. In all this trip has shown me lots of different and new places that are much different from Canada, and there are very few places I didn’t like.”
New7Wonders: Baerbel, the logistics of keeping a family of four on the road for so long must be challenging, to say the least. How do you manage it?
Baerbel: “Ongoing planning; much patience (which we are working on practicing); a good sense of humor; healthy eating-lots of fruits, veggies, milk etc.; much hydrating!!!! (Water is best but scotch and beer also have their place! 🙂 ; sunscreen and hats; Malaria pills, yellow fever and other shots; taking alone time as needed; everyone remaining in contact with other family and friends back home via email, KIK, FaceTime, blogging, and Facebook; ensuring downtime exists as much as practical along the way… can’t go all out for a full year! ; lots of hugs and kisses; communication communication communication!!!; and pinching ourselves daily as we marvel at the beauty of the world unfolding before us.”
New7Wonders: Fred, sharing the New7Wonders of the World with your family means visiting 45 countries on six continents. When and where did the adventure start, when and where will it end and why did you decide to do undertake such a globe-encircling trip?
Fred: “We have two children and we started this Journey to see the world with them. In 2006 we had a very serious health related issue that left myself on the verge of not making it. We decided that after I recuperated that we would not let life get in our way of living. Right there and then the saving started. We at first wanted to take a couple of months every year and see parts of the world. Our first plan was Africa but once we started planning, the cost of the tickets were crazy. Addressing school was an issue and leaving our house and jobs for 2-3 months at a time was not feasible. We found a great website for around the world tickets, and after much discussion and planning we thought taking a year off would be more beneficial. But where would we go? A lot of places, destinations and historical names were thrown around. We came across the New7Wonders of the world website on one of my many searches. I took each place as well as the rest of the finalists and pinned them on a map. It actually created our path for our trip. We took a mini trip in the summer of 2012 with our backpacks, testing hostels, train rides and eating not in restaurants. Can we do this?
We started in Western Europe and visited every Capital city (our 1st New7Wonder of the world the Coliseum in Rome) in each country. We changed plans often — like running with the bulls (ok we did not run just watched) because we were planning on being in Spain at that time. We ventured up to Scandinavia over into Russia (saw the Kremlin) down to Turkey and then onto Africa. We planned a 30-day African trip that took us through 7 countries stating with Kenya ending in South Africa, where we took a trip to Cape Town and climbed Table Mountain. Up to Jordan to see the amazing Petra which almost took all my Breath away, and then over to the Ethiopian Capital Addis Abba and the beautiful town of Lalibela. We so much wanted to visit Egypt but with the strife at its peak the boarders were closed and too many warnings of danger even with the danger moving from Cairo to Giza where the Pyramids are. This has been our only regret.
From here we flew to India and spent two weeks exploring and taking in the sites. The Taj Mahal was beyond our expectations we had to touch it as it looked as if we were looking at a picture the whole time. We travelled to Nepal and although we did not climb Mt Everest we treated ourself to a flight around the Mountain and we have a certificate to prove it. It was incredible to be in a spot that most of the world would not every see. After a stopover in Seoul, South Korea we travelled for 2 weeks in China including spending a day on the Great Wall of China, remarkable so remarkable! A huge side trip to visit the Terra Cotta Soldiers in Xian was incredible. Off to Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and now in the Galápagos Islands. Our next New7Wonder of the world is Machu Picchu where we have planned a 4 day tour to ensure we see it from every angle that we can. Our next exciting side trip is to Easter Island after Peru. Then to our last two stops in Brazil, Rio more precise to see the Christ Redeemer and then to Chichin Itza, Mexico.
Then back to Canada to visit what we hope to be one of the 7 cities to win: Vancouver where so many Family and Friends live. We should be back home at the end of May! We have been blessed with friends and family meeting us in many different places on our journey (it was great we sent stuff back with them). We have seen so much and lived with many cultures, we have made Friends from all over the world. When I post on Facebook I get comments and likes from 6 continents. I know that we hope to have so many of our new friends visit us so that we may share our part of the world with them. To say this has been a trip of a lifetime is an understatement. A family from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada has been overwhelmed by the hospitality we have been shown. We have a huge understanding of this world and know that each culture all starts from the same base and that is Family! The answer is YES we would do it all over again!”