When you think of your "travels" around the world, what is the most memorable? What do you find yourself thinking about the most and hoping to replicate with future trips?
My #1 memory is from Darjeeling India. Just getting there is a moving experience, but meeting the people and sampling local food/drink is what I think about most often.
First, just getting there: We spent some time in Kolkata before heading up to Darjeeling. To put that in perspective, Kolkata is one of the most densely populated places in the world. The roads are 12 lanes going in all directions, the smell of exhaust and burning trash is constant, and the poverty is overwhelming. Mother Teresa won a Nobel Peace prize for her work there, but if you've been there, you understand that they need a thousand more Mother Teresas to help make a dent. When we left Kolkata, it felt almost religious as we looked upward to the Himalayan foot hills leaving the congestion and density of Kolkata behind.
Arriving in Darjeeling, we had some nan and a variety of dipping sauces. Best meal of my life at the time and those tastes are still on the tip of my tongue. We got oriented in the city and found a little inn to stay. The people were so friendly and accommodating. It may have been because we were American and that was an infrequent sighting in Darjeeling (and this was early 1991 so Americans were still welcome in most places) but I think the people are Darjeeling at just that way.
So if I had to distill my best travel memory down to a singular event it would be this: In the morning the inn keeper gently knocked on our door. He brought us tea to start our day. Now, this was the first time I'd ever had tea, so it was a very exotic experience for me (shocking that i'd never had tea before, right?). Drinking local tea and seeing the sunrise over the hills of Darjeeling could create a hundred great memories on it's own. But the most memorable part was the inn keeper and the way he served it. Today, any time a smell Darjeeling tea I am taken back to that first moment when I opened the door to our little room and saw that inn keeper standing there humbly but proud. He passed me the small serving tray with a simple, elegant cup and saucer. His eyes told me everything. So many things that an American kid from the suburbs would normally never see or learn. His eyes were the reason I made that journey. They were the answers to the questions that I was unable to articulate in my own mind. Today, his eyes are what I look for when I travel.
What compels me to travel and explore above everything else is that all of these moments listed here could happen at any given time, unexpectedly. To conceive of that is invigorating.
My fondest happened while hiking alone in the hills of Akaroa, a sleepy, French village tucked within a crater on the east coast of Southern New Zealand. Descending from the highest point, I found myself following this strange music rather than returning to my inn. The music was coming from a farmhouse, inside of which were limericks scrawled on the walls and ceiling in white chalk. There I found a mother hen and a dozen newly hatched chicks, a horse in a purple jacket, a lonely sailor who's ex-wife had stolen his yacht, and a peacock tied to the porch. The scene was out of Wonderland. Ignoring the fact that I'd trespassed onto the property, I met this woman who welcomed me in without thought. She explained to me that she had caught the peacock in the woods and was training it with food. "I can train anything with food," she said, "I can even train you."
She took me to a bar, and introduced me to a handful of older, weathered fisherman winding down over beer. Then invited me to return to her farm to have dinner with her son. I couldn't say no. She prepared this traditional New Zealand dinner with lamb and watercress picked from her backyard. It was freezing out and we sat at a table beside a blazing fire. She hung tapestries across the doors to keep the warmth from escaping. We spent the night sharing stories and culture. It was unlike anything I'd ever experienced before and nothing I would have ever thought to look for had I not been exploring. It fundamentally shifted the way I travel off the path with less hesitation, approach strangers with care and curiosity, and fostered the respect I have for sharing culture and stories. All because I followed the music.
Among amazing experiences like climbing the mountain or going on safari, my best memories remain the simple ones. Taking walks in sunflower fields, riding the bus into town with the locals, or just watching the sunset over Mount Kilimanjaro (with a Tusker lager in hand!). And of course, as a volunteer teacher, my biggest reward came from seeing that lightbulb go off when a student magically understood something new.
However, there is one specific moment while traveling in Tanzania that I believe has helped shape me into the person I am today.
At the end of each school day, I would walk the children to the street to make sure they crossed safely before walking home. As I watched them walk off on my last day, one child turned back. He looked at me from a distance and waved goodbye with the biggest smile. I will never forget it. In that moment, I was overcome with such gratitude, and I knew my time there was meaningful for those children.
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One of my absolutely fondest memories is my trip to Southern Africa.
The stunning landscape and the even more friendly people there made an everlasting impression on me.
I have so many happy memories from there but on one special one is a day trip to Matobo National Park . It's truly one of the most beautiful places if ever been so far.
As we wandered along a small group of houses at the border of the park we meet children how were playing with there ball (plastic bags compressed to a ball). The moment that they caught sight of us they were surprised but not in a bad way. At the beginning they were shy but warmed up pretty fast to us. I´m and two friends of my started to interact a little bite more with the kids and so we started playing with there ball. The eyes of the children glow up like stars and they started laughing louder and louder the more we played with them. In this moment they were so care free and happy as a kid could only be. This time with them even we could not talk to each other was one of the most treasured things for me out of the trip.
My fondest travel memory is a journey to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands. Quito was interesting, but my fondest memories are twofold. The first was the journey from Quito to the banks of the Napo River, which is a tributary of the Amazon. After a quick flight over the Andes, a 2 1/2 hour boat ride, and a half hour hike/ canoe across a lake, we arrived at Sacha Lodge. That night we were awakened by the most fascinating thunderstorm. A true lightning show. The feeling of how isolated we were, coupled with the most incredible sounding thunder, as it rolled through the jungle, was something I think of everyday. We had fantastic guides and spotters. Our Spotter's name was Wilson and was very adept at spotting jungle fauna. He inspired me because he had this quiet, confident persistence in finding animals, while maintaining a fantastic sense of humor. He made me feel very connected to what we were doing. Kind of how I aspire to travel.
The whole Galapagos experience was a week long wow factor. We used a land based company called Red Mangrove, because it offered more flexibility than a cruise around the Galapagos. What made this trip so special, beyond the animal interactions, was there were only four people in our group. My wife, and a couple from Canada we met. This allowed very personal service from the guide and the chance to really interact and learn. The stop we made on Floreana Island was an incredible day/evening. The island only has a population of 100 people. The Red Mangrove Floreana Lodge on Floreana Island is a series of cabins right on the water. At night, the place gets pitch black and we were the only four people there. My new Canadian friend, Mark and I stayed up late and looked at the most awe inspiring starry sky and plenty of meteorites as well. Truly a night and an adventure that has left an indelible mark on my soul.
This is really a hard question as I have had so many fantastic trips.
This summer I had one of my more memorable trips when I went cycling 800 miles through Northeast Brazil on a route that has never been cycled by a foreign tour cyclist before.
Only time when I had an encounter with the police was when two female police officers stopped me on the road and invited me to have lunch with them :)
If it wasn't for the darned early heat, it would have been Summer 2013 with a Disney Mediterranean Seacruise and then 2 weeks Italy. Sorrento, then Florence and last but not least Rome But the heat killed us, so we have to go back again!
But most memorable, It would have to be for my big 5-0 birthday. We stayed at Aulani on O'ahu for just over a week. ON my b-day we went out of Ko Olina Marina on a snorkel trip. Got to swim with wild Spinner Dolphins! I have video to prove it! The most amazing thing so far.
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My #1 fav destination is New Zealand. It has the rare combination of...
-mind blowing scenery
-laid back culture
-geographic diversity in small area (easy to see lots of crazy stuff)
- mix of city and rural experiences easily had...
When I was 13 I went to Paris for the first time with my parents. There was a little French restaurant across the street from our hotel on the Avenue de la Bourdonnais (it's not there anymore) and somehow we kind of became regulars there even though we were only in Paris for about a week. By the second or third night, the woman who owned the place was kissing us hello, and there was just a real cosy, community vibe to the whole place. Lace curtains, zinc bar, incredible food--you get the picture.
The last night we were there my parents started talking to a French woman who had married an American guy (so she now spoke perfect English) and she introduced us to an old, old, old man who was a regular there. We started talking to him (with her help) and after a while he said he had to go home. My dad tried to shake his hand good-bye but the man refused and later the woman explained that he had been a tennis coach all his life and his hands had become so arthritic it hurt to shake hands.
About ten minutes after he left, he returned with a rose for my mother and a box of chocolates for me. Both my parents cried and I got it in my head that Paris was just this magical, romantic place where people do things like that and when I think about it, that's not that far from the truth.
For a guy who's been to every country in the world this question is nearly impossible but I thought I'd list a couple of really memorable trips and places that are more out of the ordinary than many people.
My most memorable experience with people was in Libya where I stayed in Tubruq with an amazing family that I met just before I crossed the border from Egypt to finish every country. It was during the Arab Spring in 2011 and it was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
Pitcairn Islands was a pretty amazing place to visit in the very remote Pacific Ocean. It's as hard to get to as anywhere in the world and the only way is out of Mangareva in French Polynesia. The best thing about it is the people are the attraction because only 50 people actually live there. A truly memorable trip and great memories my whole life!
So many more I could go on and on…has anyone been to any of the places I mentioned?
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One of my fondest travel memories is the time my family spent hiking in remote villages in Taunggyi through the Shan State in Myanmar.
We decided to visit Myanmar 8 months after Sec. of State Hillary Clinton visited Yangon or Rangoon which opened the diplomatic relations with Myanmar for the first time in 60 years. Seeing almost everyone, men in particular, in their famous longyi (long skirt tied in front), was such a sight to see. Construction workers, street sweepers, drivers, and even children were in their ethnic costume; for once, we did not see jeans or shorts in the capital city. It was delightful.
The highlight of our trip was days of hiking in the Shan state which straddles the borders of Laos, Thailand and China; hence armed ethnic conflicts were once prevalent in the area. But the mountainous, mostly agrarian terrains are fertile with amazing crops and rice fields that sustain the people.
I remember hiking with my small children when dusk was approaching, nearing our destination in the village where we were staying for a night, when water buffalos with bells around their necks along with their minders were converging onto the narrow passage to the village. Coming from all directions, first there was one, then two, until behind us were a dozen or more of these gentle beasts and farmers calling it a day after a hard day's work. I could never forget the pounding of my heart, the excitement of hearing the sounds of bells, "moos" and thuds of the farmers' carts nearing behind us. And when a quick glance against this tableau was the sight of the setting sun of orange pinkish hue sinking into the dark reddish and purplish browns in the horizon.
To cap that experience was staying in a wooden monastery in a burnt shade of black (because of age), with adornment of Burmese wood-curved curlicues on the pagoda top that I had never seen before. It was astounding in its simplicity and intricacy. We slept in a makeshift futon directly on the floor inside a mosquito net in the hall of the spacious monastery. There was no electricity but they still managed to cook us a fresh evening meal by candle lights. The next morning we were able to thank the sitting and saffron-clad abbott of the monastery near the receiving hall with a spittoon by his side as he chewed betel nuts!
Saying goodbye to the village's children was another incredible experience! Among us were probably 12 kids of different ages from 4 to 8 years of age. They were curious about us and we were certainly curious about them. But never did they tag us for alms or giveaways, which is a common practice among the third world countries when opened with the lures of tourism. There were just happy to see us and to mingle with us as we were with them. No gifts, no money, no candies to give, just the pure experience of being in the present moments of sharing smiles and togetherness. We waved goodbye and they waved back. How precious was that. I know that that would not last long as Myanmar opens up to the world.
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I suggest Chile, the most beautiful country of the world, with all the landscapes you can imagine, very easy to travel, also hitch hiking.
While my hubby may like the Ecuador trip (which was amazing), my favorite was our honeymoon. Might be the girl in me coming out, or it might be that it was just that amazing.
We left the day after our wedding, very traditional, and I loved that we did it that way. However, we got stuck on the plane at JFK for 8 hours before leaving for Dubai. It was awful and at various times during the wait we both freaked out and wanted to call the whole honeymoon off and just go home. I loved how we worked together to calm each other down and help each other out. It may have been a tragic experience, but it was such a great way to start a marriage and know we balance each other out.
Dubai was amazing, and probably special because it was out of my comfort zone. I had never been to an Arab country and didn't know what to expect. The experience was amazing, we stayed along the creek-not along the beachfront where most tourists stay. We got to experience the old and new and the city in the making! The best experience was Friday night in the old city. Seemed like everyone was out and there was a street party going on. I am looking forward to going back and seeing how much it has changed.
From Dubai we spent a week in the Maldives in an over the water villa at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. It was everything I could have wanted in our honeymoon. But, the thing that surprised me the most was how much fun we had interacting with the staff. They had a soccer tournament going on and it seemed like everyone knew we were interested. We had waiters teasing us about not deliverying our food unless we promised to root for their team! We ended up watching a match one afternoon and just had the best experience. The food was so fresh and amazing and the drinks, I think, are still the best I've ever tasted.
Thankfully, the trip home was uneventful!
Probably Masada, in Israel, near the Dead Sea...an unbelievable landscape and history !
Not my most memorable trip but one of the reasons why I travel is my first trip to California.
Growing up in a small town in Northern Canada I was very isolated from the rest of the world. I knew of rocks, trees, long winters and not much else. Little did I know at the time, this was actually a blessing. Our first family vacation was to California, a place I knew nothing about let alone existed. To be fair I was 4 years old yet I remember the trip with vivid clarity. The beaches, the waves, the sunshine, the warmth – It was all so foreign to me yet so inviting. The people, the sounds, the smells – I was fascinated. I remember loving the open road along the coast and the beautiful scenery that came with it. I remember eating at roadside diners and trying fish tacos for the first time. I remember loving the ocean until my father made me drink the salt water. A cruel joke yes, but an early lesson that made me curious. I wondered what else was out there. My eyes were opened to just how big the world is and all I wanted to do was make it smaller.
I would never be the same.
This appetite to explore has grown exponentially since then. A steady diet of world travel has only made me hungrier. I have been to 5 continents and over 40 countries. I have hiked glaciers in Iceland and tobogganed in Vietnam. I have watched football games in San Francisco and Buenos Aires. I have attended concerts in the Pacific Northwest and water puppet shows in Southeast Asia. I have experienced all of this because of that first trip to California.
30 years ago California blew my mind and 30 years later I am still putting the pieces back together. The Golden State is home to sunny days, Hollywood dreams, and in my case, a travel addiction I just can’t kick.
And I never will.
The smell of Hawaii . . . The first time I got off the plane in Honolulu, back in 1981, I burst into tears. I had come home at last. Hawaii has always been my second spiritual home. I've visited there 5 times, on 4 of the islands, and my Hawaii has never failed me.
I think the fondest memory has to be of traveling around the rice country in rural Japan. By rail from Tokyo up north to Niigata-ken. Places like ( Muikamachi, Sado, Koide). wonderful rice paddies, beautiful okutadani lake (Okutadami Recreation Toshi Koen (Urasachiiki) Yaironomori Park). Fantastic festival of fire in the summer too. Its a very weird experience seeing how you can get there in under 2 hrs form the urban landscape of Tokyo itself. Also since its rice country and its Japan, and Niigata rice is one of the most valued rice types in Japan - they make amazing Sake. And local distilleries are only too happy to entertain visitors. I recomend the Midorigawa distillery (Aoshima). Also some fantastic sushi at 久兵衛 (968 Aoki Shinden).
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Hard to choose. I will have to say Brazil, when I landed in Maceió. I was there to work in a resort for three months, I was 19 years old at the time. I remember looking outside the window of the bus that was taking me to the resort and being shocked seeing streets made of dirt and not concrete. When I had to leave three months later I cried watching those streets. This is the fondest travel memory because I was really young and it was the first time that I traveled that far and started to love other cultures. I will never forget my first approach to the Brazilian culture, I had never met people so genuine and open minded. Great life lesson.
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1. One of the best trips in my life has been to California. I left last minute with my best friend. Bought the flight, rented a car and nothing else. I found a nice motel in Huntington Beach and i spend time along the coast and Los Angeles. But I found the time to arrive in Tijuana and to spend a crazy, crazy night in Las Vegas at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (great pool).
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All my favorite memories are travel related. I have my share of bad memories and life experience, but they seldom surface because I have so many places and people and adventures and situations to reflect on instead. I think fondly of travel in general. There is always something that is triggered to put me in a better frame of mind.