Every time I meet a new person I’m asked the very same question: “Where is your favourite place you have been!?”. Trust me, it’s inevitable. Sometimes the phrase differs slightly, but it is without a doubt guaranteed to be a question posed to me within the first 10 minutes of us meeting. It’s fine – I love travel. I love talking about travel. I love sharing my stories and I love inspiring others to travel. But it’s about time I tried to knuckle down the 10 best things I have done in my life thus far (even if it is near impossible to pick just 10). So here we go…
10. Visiting Favelas in Rio de Janeiro
I love being thrown in the deep end. I love being in a place so foreign to my home (now a foreign concept in itself as I travel 99% of the time). I love the feeling of discomfort, knowing that what you are experiencing is completely normal for people in that place. It encourages understanding and appreciation. This is precisely how it felt visiting the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. It was a little unnerving but not at all scary like you see made out in Hollywood films. Sure, there are still favelas like that in Rio in the present day, but by 2014 most of theses communities were assisted and ‘cleaned up’ by the government leading into the Brazil World Cup. There’s still a long way to go to bridge the disparity gap in Brazil and it was so humbling to see how happy people were with so little. What I admired most was the creativity of the people living here – artists, jewellery makers, and what I would describe as entrepreneurs in every sense of the word – at every corner trying to sell you something, anything, to get by. It was an experience I won’t ever forget.
9. Learning to Snowboard in Chile & Ski in Switzerland
I’ve always been a pretty active person and love being outdoors, but it comes as a surprise to most that prior to my solo year-long journey around the world, I had never learned to ski or snowboard before. In fact, I’ve rarely ever seen snow. When the opportunity came up to learn one of the two in the Andes Mountains while visiting a ski resort there, I jumped at the chance to learn to snowboard. I loved the challenge and slowly got better over the course of a couple days, but I’d love to keep working on it whenever I’m around the slopes again. Learning to Ski in Switzerland was much easier, but still quite a task. All in all both were a lot of fun but I mostly loved the challenge of trying to learn something new!
8. Learning to Surf in Bali
Prior to my Health Retreat in Bali I had already tried surfing once before in Buzios, Brazil. The waves there were in comparative terms like learning to swim in a kiddies pool… not quite the same! So when I learned to surf properly in Bali, I had such a great time. In all honesty I got progressively worse instead of better (haha), but it was a lot of fun and I met some of the most amazing people during my stay at The Chill House in Bali. It was a huge eye-opener to start the year off on such a high!
7. Reliving all the Harry Potter Moments
Anyone who has been following my blog for a while or has met me for longer than 5 minutes in real life will know I am in the top 3% of the world’s most crazed Harry Potter Fans. I kid you not, I am right up there. Ask me anything – quiz me – test me – I’m a self-confessed crazed fan. So one of my life missions has been to find (and visit) all of the world’s Harry Potter locations – whether they be referenced in the books, where JK Rowling wrote the books, filming locations, or themeparks to make me feel as if I’m a true Gryffindorite. My biggest regret in life is not buying myself the Dobby plush toy at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Seriously, I gotta go back.
6. Sky Diving over Las Vegas
There are a few things I have done in my travels that I honestly thought I would never do… but travel has a way of broadening your mind and pushing your limits. Skydiving over Las Vegas was one of those. It was such an exhilarating experience and I’d totally do it again!
There are a few places in the world that I have gone to without a plan, for about a week in length, and just kinda gone with the flow. Too often in my job (as a full time travel blogger) I have a strict schedule, meetings or interviews, etc. to attend. But I really miss the days where I can just explore on my own without a plan and with no intent to arrive anywhere. Every so often I take some time out from the blogging world to just do my own thing and go off the radar for a few days. Ireland was one of these trips and I can’t even put it into words what this trip did for me. I’ll keep the story for my upcoming 2015 book release, A Year to Myself. But oh, i do so love you Ireland!
4. New York
New York was another one of those trips I took to myself – but in an entirely different way. I had already visited New York once before and have since been back for a short visit, but halfway through 2014 I took an entire 2 weeks off work commitments to just enjoy NYC. I spent a week of the time with a fellow travel blogger, Jessie from 24 Wanderlust, and we seriously had the time of our lives! She’s a few years younger than me (actually 5-6 years I think!!!) but this was PERFECT FOR ME. I’m a self-described Peter Pan enthusiast… meaning I refuse to grow up… meaning this was a week to be myself and we literally had the best. time. ever. Jessie has been following my blog since the beginning and reached out to see if we could hang out in NYC – we took it one step further and explore the city together for a week, staying in a small dingy hotel room (where we only slept) and exploring all the NY neighbourhoods for the week. One of the best weeks of my life!
3. Bungy Jumping (the highest in the world)
Skydiving was one thing….. but bungy was a whole different ball game. Its the one thing I said I would NEVER DO before I took off on my solo adventure around the world. Seriously, nothing scared me as much as the idea of bungy jumping. But like I said earlier, travel has a way of changing your perception and doing weird things to you. In a complete last minute of-the-moment decision, I decided to take a ferry to Macau whilst staying in Hong Kong and jump off the world’s highest bungy. I mean…. what. even. why? But when I got up there, I wasn’t scared at all. I was laughing and making a bit of a mockery of it all (saluting the camera and just generally being ‘that guy’). Ha! It was so much fun and I’d definitely bungy again without question!!
2. Hiking in Torres del Paine
Some trips have a way of changing you… hiking in Torres del Paine was one of those. Again, I’m gonna save the full story for my book release – but just know that if there’s one place in the world you should go if you really want to get away and see some of the world’s best landscapes, head straight for Torres del Paine. It didn’t even feel real…
1. Safari in South Africa
Here we are! No matter how people phrase the question, I always say that Safari in South Africa is thus far my most memorable travel experience to date. I ended up going on two safaris in 2014 on two separate occasions and the second was just as memorable. I suppose it would have something to do with my love for animals and wildlife…. but I do think everyone would enjoy safari. Its such a grounding experience to be sharing the same landmass with lions, leopards, zebras….. UGH. I loved safari. I’m gonna try get back for round three this year!
What have been your most memorable travel experiences? Do you have any suggestions for where I should go in 2015? I’d love to hear from you!!