Everyone has a wild side, especially travelers. We instinctually seek out the unknown, explore the unexplored and we traverse the globe looking for excitement. It's in our nature, which might be why we feel a kinship with our friends in nature.
I've met plenty of interesting people in plenty of interesting places around the world. But I have to admit, some of the most memorable souls I've shared a laugh with, had fur and tails. Zoos, parks, mountains, forests - the lower levels of the food chain are sometimes much better company than the top. As long as they don't turn you into a chew toy, stumbling upon wildlife, either in the wild or in feigned wild, can add a whole new element to your vacation.
It has to do with genuineness, unpredictability and our desire as travels for both. We want to live like temporary locals when we go to a foreign place, which entails eating, drinking and acting unlike we normally would at home. It's easy to do that in Dublin or Santiago or LA. Customs can be learned, cultures can be appreciated and languages can be absorbed. But what happens when there is no language at all and the culture is walking on all fours? Unpredictability and genuineness are at a premium.
When was the last time you gnawed on a stalk of bamboo while sitting on a log? Or trotted vertically up a sheer cliff face with a brass bell around your neck? Or perched on a gargoyle high atop a gothic cathedral? Never? Then you haven't lived at all like these locals.
Here are my ten favorite animal encounters from around the globe.
Panda Karaoke - National Zoo, Washington, D.C.
Red Squirrel - Vienna, Austria
Pigeon on a gargoyle - St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, Austria
Goat - Interlaken, Switzerland
Lazy Sea Lions & the Golden Gate Bridge - Pier 39, San Francisco, CA
Friendly Giraffe - Disney's Animal Kingdom, Orlando, FL
Up close with a butterfly - Antietam National Battlefield, Maryland
Wild Bison on patrol - Black Hills, South Dakota
Two gulls, one cracker - Rome, Italy
Got Moose? - Franconia Notch, New Hampshire