As a fellow adventure seeker, tell me if you can relate…
Your Bucket List is miles long (I can do all of this in a lifetime right?!).
You can’t believe there is a continent you have yet to conquer (better up yo’ game, son).
Your Google Calendar has at least one large chunk of time blocked off at some point in the future that reads “Europe?” (I think I swing it).
You get Sky Scanner flight price alerts in case you decide to go to Argentina on a whim (you just can’t beat a good travel deal, am I right?).
And your favourite way to procrastinate is to browse through Airbnb, looking at trendy lofts in cosmopolitan cities like France or London (omg, why does my place not look like this?).
Yup, it’s the curse of wanderlust. We tend to spend more timing wishing, waiting and planning for the future than appreciating all the amazing things we’ve already done!
As the quote goes: “Always concentrate on how far you’ve come, rather than how far you have left to go.” ~ Unknown
I challenge you to put aside your Bucket List for just a moment and create what I’d like to call your Did-It List.
Pull out a pen and paper and, off the top of your head, write down some of your most unforgettable memories, whether far away or close to home. Something tells me that once you do this, you’ll actually see how totally bad ass you are. I did it myself this morning and I can’t tell you how much I was smiling while looking back through old photos and emails. If I was doing this at a café, someone would have been very, very disturbed.
So here it goes…
My Did-It List: 11 of my Most Unforgettable Travel Experiences
1號: Hiking The Great Wall of China
I HAD to put this at the top because it is by far my favourite travel memory. Unlike most travellers who visit the over-crowded Mutianyu Section of the Great Wall, my friend and I embarked on an ALL-DAY hike along the decrepit Jiankou Section. It’s described as “totally wild” and “the most dangerous section of the Great Wall”.
As far as I know, you cannot get here on your own as it’s fenced off and guarded by a park warden guy. We went with an amazing private tour guide named James and it was WELL WORTH the extra money (~ $211 USD). He picked us up from our hotel at 7:30am and drove us the 2-hour journey to the Wall which is located about 100kms (62 miles) outside of Beijing. Pack water and your own lunch. This experience is off-the-beaten-path and one of the most breathtaking ways to experience this untouched Wonder of the World.
Numero 2: Celebrating Carnival in Venice, Italy
Mamma mia! That was a fun experience. The day started in Vienna (where I was studying at the time). I boarded an over-night party train headed to “The City of Bridges” with 20 of my University friends. Now, I’ve tried researching this “party train” and it’s somewhat of a Unicorn but I do remember that it was organized by our school, Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien. On an old website from 2008, I found some hints that this notorious Vienna-Venice Party Train does (or at least did) exist.
“Friday evening we will leave with the ÖH WU Buddynetwork Party train to Venice. The train has a Party wagon with DJ and dance floor. Furthermore we offer 2 Bars where free drinks (beer, wine, liquors, non-alcoholic drinks) will be served all night long. If you feel tired you can adjourn to your compartment with your own bed. We will arrive in Venice on Saturday morning. You have time to spend the whole day in Venice to go sightseeing or party at the Carnival parade. In the evening we will take the train back to Vienna. Again we will serve free drinks the whole night and the Disco wagon will be ready for those who still in the mood of partying!”
SO. EPIC. How did I not die? Carnival itself was absolutely amazing, even for a poor college kid. We bought masks and boxed wine, and fun was had by all. I mean, what more do you need? Next stop, Carnival in Rio!
संख्या 3: Witnessing The Beauty of The Taj Mahal at Sunrise
Back in 2009, I had a very clear mission upon visiting India: to visit the Taj Mahal at sunrise wearing a full Indian sari. I purchased the fabric from a very small, very old sari shop in Old Delhi. I then took it to a tailor and had the top fitted/sewn. The following day we headed to Agra (My dad, our tour guide and I) to accomplish my mission. The plan was to wake up at 5:00am the next day, dress, then head out! All was running smoothly until I realized I had no freaking idea how to tie a sari. So there I was, at 5:00am, about to watch my dream crumble before me. YouTube was no help at all. Lucky for me, Vishal, our amazing Tour Guide (who I can’t seem to find on Trip Advisor but if you’d like his details, contact me) had a plan. He made a quick phone call and within 10 minutes I was standing in some Indian woman’s dirt floor kitchen. The result, pure perfection. The mission, accomplished. My Dad was such a good sport.
Number 4: Biking Around Berlin
Berlin is my favourite city in Western Europe. As a WWII history buff, I could not get enough of this place. I could spend hours wandering the streets of East Berlin, browsing though the city’s notorious flea markets, or sipping coffee at a trendy outdoor cafe. The first time I went to Berlin we stayed for only 24 hours (clearly not enough which is why I went back multiple times) so we wanted to do something that would allow us to see the best sides of the city, in not a lot of time. Lo and behold, on the train ride to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, we picked up a brochure for Fat Tire Bike Tours. It was absolutely AMAZING. If you go to Berlin, this is a must-do. The guides are fun, the city is beautiful by bicycle, and it’s the perfect way to get a nutshell history lesson on Berlin.
Number 5: Bungy Jumping Kawarau Bridge in New Zealand
This was definitely one of my most memorable experiences. Memorable as in absolutely terrifying. Just 20 minutes from Queenstown, New Zealand, Kawarau Bridge is the World Home of Bungy! The bungy craze started here 26 years ago and it’s still the favourite for locals and international visitors alike. I did the 43-meter jump (quite gracefully I might add) and watched in horror as the water from the river below raced towards me, then engulfed my body. If I were a Dunkeroo, they’d call that the “holy-shit-this-is-happening-full-body-dunk”.
លេខ 6: Exploring The Temples of Angkor Wat
I mean, any time you feel like Lara Croft in Tomb Raider, it’s a good day. Am I right? If you ever get a chance to go to Cambodia, GO! It’s such a beautiful place. My trip to Siem Reap was a short but memorable one. We stayed in a quaint little Cambodian villa that cost literally $20/night. The food is amazing, the temples at Angkor Wat will take your breath away and the kids are the best sales people you’ll ever meet. Seriously. At dinner one night, I was so impressed with how much this 8-year old knew about the Canadian Parliamentary System that I actually bought the book he was selling (I had no idea what it was even about). It was his “last sale of the night” and if he didn’t sell it right that instant, he’d miss dinner. I caved.
Numero 7: Visiting The Walled City of Alghero, Sardinia
Before visiting this magical place, the only thing I knew about Sardinia was that it shared it’s name with a pasta dish my father used to make. According to legend, the lost city of Atlantis is located not too far off Sardinia’s shores. This little gem of an island made for the perfect Italian getaway. Wine, jewel shopping, biking and strolling for hours along the island’s walled coast. Alghero, the main hamlet, is a sleepy town. So if you’re expecting Ibiza, maybe go to Ibiza. If you’re looking for relaxation, or if you’re running from the law, this is your place.
Numero 8: Spending 30 days On The Island of Boracay
Um. What do I say other than this place is a traveler’s paradise. Boracay White Beach was where we spent 30 days at a 5-star luxury resort absolutely FREE, thanks to the Five Star Freedom System (shamless plug). I have so many fond memories and emotions that come up when I think of this place that all I can seem to get out is 1 word at a time. Bare feet. Sunsets. Mango daiquiris. Fresh seafood. Live music. Silky white sand. Crystal blue water. Omfg. Just go, k? And we promise, you’ll be the first to know as soon as the Five Star Freedom System is released. Just make sure you pop your name and email into that form to the right.
9號: Indulging In The Wonders of Beijing’s Hutongs
I’m not going to lie. When I first booked my trip to Beijing, I wasn’t sure I’d love it. I had heard about all the pollution and crowded streets and, as a Canadian mountain girl who adores space, I was a bit worried. Well, Beijing proved me SO wrong. This city is so vibrant. From the temples, to the parks filled with dancing couples, to the hutongs lined with old men playing mahjong and tasty food stands, I have to say this is at the top of my “favorite citites” list. Not just in Asia, but everywhere. We stayed at the BEST hotel, located in the heart of the hutongs, Courtyard 7. This place is very traditional yet has all the modern amenities. After our long days of exploring the city, we’d head back here to watch Jet Li movies, drink Chinese wine (it’s actually better than you’d think) and relax.
Số 10: Wandering The Colourful Streets of Hoi An, Vietnam
This place is absolutely gorgeous. Historic Hoi An is Vietnam’s most delightful place to visit. It’s canals are lined with colourful restaurants and boutiques… and strings of paper lanterns hang on each facade. As a foodie, this place gets a gold star. If you get the chance to go, make sure to try Cao lầu. It is a famous dish made with noodles, pork, and local greens that can ONLY be found in Hoi An. It gets it’s unique taste and texture from water drawn from a secret ancient Charm well, just outside the town. During our stay, we stayed at the Hoi An Green Life Homestay. Our room looked out onto a gorgeous green rice paddy field and we were served fresh Vietnamese breakfast on the rooftop every morning. Oh, and for those who love clothes, Hoi An is THE place to get hand-tailored clothes, jackets and shoes made to order (and for crazy good prices).
Number 11: Diving The Great Barrier Reef in Australia
Last but not least, how could I forget diving the Great Barrier Reef. This was one of those “I can’t believe I’m doing this” moments. Except for when I saw a 7-foot reef shark. That was more of a “why the f*@& am I doing this?” moment. I highly recommend heading up to Australia’s Gold Coast to explore the reef for yourself. It’s a rare experience that you’ll never forget. Randomly, while diving, I lost my PADI dive license at the bottom of the ocean. I thought it had vanished forever until a friendly fisherman found me on Facebook some 2 odd years later to tell me he had found it. Crazy right? He mailed it to me and it got lost in the Malaysian post. Typical.
Alright, there you have it kids. My Did-It list! I hope I’ve inspired you to think back to some of your favourite moments and adventures. What’s your most unforgettable memory while travelling? Share it below.
Till then, happy travels.