Croatia is the jewel of the Adriatic and it was evident everywhere I looked. Swimming in the still blue waters, relaxing on deck or grabbing a bit of shut eye – it was relaxing in paradise at its best. The time I spent in Croatia is at the top of my list of best and favourite moments. A sailboat sailed me from island to island at a relaxed pace. I would lounge in the sun on the top deck during the day as we sailed, and explore in the evening once we were docked. I would nestle in my cabin at nighttime and fall asleep to the sounds of the sailboat drifting away, and wake up to a new amazing island.
I distinctly remember a moment when I was eating dinner at a seafood restaurant one night down by the shore in Dubrovnik. I still have that view imported into my memory and it always will be.
Twinkling lights from the boats bobbing out in the water, a velvety blue sky, castles high above me that line the sea cliff, a warm breeze softly escaping from the gentle waves soothing my face and arms . . . an absolutely enchanting night.
Dubrovnik feels magical and very romantic. Lanterns and torches light up charming alleyways in the evening, and there are also jazz musicians playing in the streets with onlookers dancing along. Onofrio’s Fountain is big and ornate in the centre of Dubrovnik’s main square, and is fresh for drinking and filling up your water bottle. This was a very refreshing change from always having to buy bottled water out of fear of contamination in other parts of Europe.I would absolutely love to return one day, spending more time in Dubrovnik as well as exploring more of the mainland which I’m told by a fellow blogger is totally different but equally fascinating.
2. Inca Trail & Machu Picchu
I was pretty exhausted by the time we neared the end of the Inca Trail, but upon laying eyes on Machu Picchu I gained so much more energy. We climbed up tons of very, very steep steps near the end to get up to the Sun Gate. When I was just walking around at the top catching my breath and waiting for others to catch up, I looked out to my right and caught my first glimpse of Machu Picchu below me out in the distance. . . just sitting there with the sun shining upon it through the slowly moving cloud forest. I didn’t even realize I would be able to see it after climbing that last set of really steep steps. We spent so long hiking, the moment we would be this close to it always seemed so far away.
Like a woman having just given birth to a child, hikers are too overwhelmed by the beauty of Machu Picchu that they seem to forget about the labour itself to get to the end. Ending at Machu Picchu, exploring ancient ruins, and continually stumbling across stunning landscapes made every treacherous twist and turn along the way worth it.
3. New Zealand
New Zealand is truly an an incredibly gorgeous country and the South island brings with it so many diverse landscapes. First you’ll be in the dense rain forest, then along the ocean, then an icy glacier, then a pristine beach paradise, then magical fjords, then a beautiful mountain top, then an amazing sparkling blue lake, and then in the flat countryside. . . all within fairly close range!!! Out of all the countries I’ve already been to, New Zealand is at the top of places that I want to return to. There is still so much more to see!
Walking along the streets and everywhere I turned were friendly locals smiling at me, warmly gesturing to their stall of clothing, crafts, or food. Now enjoying a period of relative prosperity, Laotians warmly welcome visitors and are happy to share their culture and traditions with you. Luang Prabang is a quaint and colourful village in Laos, teeming with saffron robed monks and vibrant night markets. The atmosphere in this UNESCO World Heritage town is very relaxed and friendly. While strolling the streets, you can’t help but take a few deep breaths to soak everything in.
In addition to the friendly people and great food, I really enjoyed the spirituality that encompassed the town as Buddhism has always fascinated me. I love how all about giving and providing the locals are with one another. The greatest example of this in the town is the daily morning ritual, where locals and visitors will wake at the break of dawn to provide alms to the monks. By giving, it is believed you will lead a more fortunate and blessed life. Luang Prabang (and Laos as a country) is a beautiful, humble and unassuming place.
How can you fathom the moment when you lay eyes on a pyramid for the first time? It was almost as if a genie had appeared from nowhere and had offered to grant me a wish – truly one of the most iconic sights on the planet. Set against the backdrop of a desert 30 minutes from Cairo, the pyramids felt almost unreal and mythical. As I set eyes on them for the first time, I went through a mixture of emotions. I was awestruck, humbled, amazed, and simply feeling blessed for the privilege of standing in front of them.
Each stone block went to my waist. I noticed them, not the other people around me. They were mine for reflection and contemplation. All I could think of was how hard it must have been to make them, how much will it took when there were no cranes or power tools.
1. Forgetting my camera on a toilet paper dispenser in France, losing all of my Paris and Eiffel Tower photos
Sigh. Luckily one of my travel mates took a couple shots of me with her digital SLR. I had some absolutely amazing photos of the Eiffel Tower when it lights up at night. I even sprawled on my back and stomach on the ground to get the best shots. Dammit.
2. Rolling up my tent in the mud and rain all alone for 3 weeks in Spain and Italy
Ugh. I did not enjoy the dirty, cold, and wet components of my camping trip. I was camping during a time of so much rain in Western Europe that there were major floods going on. I had no tent mate and it was a challenge setting up when it was nice and dry, let alone monsoon weather. I remember trying to set up my tent in Sorrento and I couldn’t even keep my balance because I was slipping too much in the mud and rain. It was actually impossible to keep a tiny bit clean. My tent eventually started to slide down a hill, so I moved in with two other girls in their tent.
3. Losing my luggage in London
I suppose it’s bound to happen to the avid traveler at some point. It still sucked though since I spent my entire sightseeing time for London trying to track down my stupid suitcase.
4. Food poisoning in Rhodes and Egypt
Avoid buffets, especially when they are on ships – a lesson I shared in my Feasting & Drinking of 6 Continents post. In places where you need to be wary of food quality initially, and when it’s in the form of a buffet, all hell breaks loose. The food has been sitting out, and people have been coughing and sneezing all over the food handles, or the food itself. I have never been so sick in my life than those two times, both on a ship, and both after a buffet.
5. Troubles at Sao Paulo airport
Because it was established on my way to Peru that I was on “The Black List,” I knew what was going on while checking in for my flight home to Toronto at the Sao Paulo airport. Once again, I encountered the oh-so-familiar lengthy check-in procedure: the attendant avoiding eye contact with me, typing ferociously, giving a phone call to someone for “confirmation,” pointing to the screen confusedly to a fellow employee, peering at me perplexed, a supervisor hovering over their shoulder examining the screen. . .
I received the explanation of my name being similar to a name of someone who is blocked. This is my least favourite thing about traveling. Being stopped, blocked from the kiosks, selected for a “random” check . . . it’s happened more times than I can count.
As I made my way through security, I was stopped by a guard. He didn’t speak English and I was at a loss of what he was trying to communicate to me. Since he ripped my bags from my hands, I assumed it had something to do with the things I just purchased. He looked over my receipts and shook his head. I asked for my bags back, which were full of souvenirs for my mom, dad, and sister. He wouldn’t give them to me, and kept pointing at the receipts like I had done something wrong or had committed some significant crime. The only way he would let me pass was without my bags, so off I went without my things.
After I made it to my gate and had been standing at the front of the line for three hours (as there was nowhere to sit), there was an announcement that the Portuguese board first. I was promptly shoved and pushed over violently by Portuguese people from all directions. I was sandwiched against the railings and was essentially being trampled over. I felt awful and so disrespected!