I’ve been feeling a little reflective of late. The end of 2014 signalled the end of my twenties but there was so much going on that I didn’t have time to sit back and reflect on what an unbelievable decade of travel it had been. So I’ve summed up some of my travel highlights from the last 10 years, along with their related lowlights, because it’s good to keep things real!
Let me know if any of these memories resonate with your own.
Celebrating my 21st In New York
You never forget your first time in New York and for me that first trip I took cannot be beat (sorry Justin!). For my 21st birthday I travelled with my mum, aunties and 2 best friends from uni for a long weekend of shopping, ice skating and generally enjoying the NYC Christmas spirit (gosh that place is magical in December). We fully embraced our position as first timers; taking trips to the Top Of The Rock, ice skating and horse rides in Central Park and shopping in every department store we’d ever seen in a movie (this was back when the exchange rate was $2 to the £1 and everything seemed half price – good times!). I bought new outfits for the trip (how is it we could afford more clothes as students?) and remember getting complimented by my choice of attire from doormen and sales clerks – including those at Tiffany’s. (I literally thought I’d made it!)
It wasn’t all smooth sailing though. As I was officially of drinking age in the US my friends and I decided to visit a bar in Greenwich Village. I’d been frequenting bars for many years by this time but none, of course, were in the States. We ordered a few beers at the bar and then, because we had walked up to the bar, ordered and delivered our own drinks back to our own table, we didn’t tip. Big boo-boo. That was the last drink we were served in Greenwich Village. Consequent attempts to get the attention of bar staff were met with a hiss, “we don’t serve people who don’t tip,” someone eventually informed us. We scuttled back to the hotel to lick our wounds.
Click here for some of my favourite New York eats.
Woah India (Aged 25)
India, what can I say but ‘woah’? I’d had a good few years of travelling under my belt by the time I tackled India but I’m not sure anything can quite prepare you for that level of crazy. I was lucky enough to have won 2 flights to India (one of many great things that were to come out of me joining Twitter – looking at you Justin) and when the flight was oversold my friend and I were even luckier to have been upgraded to business. This sort of set us at odds, however, as we didn’t get a look at where we were landing from the luxury of our flatbed seats and were completely unprepared for the chaos, noise and body odour that greets you as soon as you pass immigration.
You’ve probably read a million times that India is an assault on the senses – and that’s because it is. Think: scents of curries and sewage, brightly coloured saris and shacks, the sound of car horns blaring and the moo of ‘holy’ cows. It’s like nowhere else I’ve ever been – and I absolutely loved it!
The lowlight of this trip has to be the erm ‘souvenir’ my poor travel companion came home with. I’m usually the one ravaged by insect bites and afflicted by strange ailments but unfortunately for my friend, this time it was her turn. She started struggling with an itchy bum during our time in Goa and by the time she got home it was a fully inflamed derriere rash. Her (horrified) doctor confirmed she had been attached by a vile disease-carrying bunch of sand-flies. She recovered (in time) with treatment but has been left a little scarred by the experience. She’s never accepting a free holiday again.
Click here to find out more about my experience with the crafty beach sellers in Goa.
Return To Vietnam (Aged 29)
My first trip to Vietnam was one big lowlight to be honest. We were scammed by cyclo drivers the moment we entered the country and remained ripe targets for small-scale scam artists the rest of the trip. I only spent a week in total in Vietnam on that first experience but when it ended with a coach to the Cu Chi tunnels never turning up our whole trip literally started and finished with a con.
Fast forward to 2013 and Justin has somehow convinced me to return. I’ve read in the meantime lots of lovely blog posts about the street food in Hanoi and beauty of Halong Bay and find myself convinced to give it a second shot. Whether it’s because I’m more of a well-travelled blogger this time or the fact I am now travelling with a man I cannot say but something about Vietnam is definitely different on this trip. Halong Bay reveals itself to be as mystical as they say and I fall head over heels for the biscuit-coloured buildings in the heritage listed town of Hoi An. Unlike my first trip where I was left bewildered and often fearful of the street food, I find Justin’s enthusiasm catching and sample a few Phos and Bahn Mis myself. We still get conned by a cyclo driver but this time we learn our lesson and leave – on foot!
Find out more about the time I gave Vietnam a second chance here.
Time Travel In Cuba (Aged 29)
In February 2013 I travelled to Cuba for my sister’s beautiful beachside wedding and then spent a few days in Havana in a complete head spin. I still remember so clearly drawing back the curtains on our first morning in Havana. There was a bullet-ridden palace to our left, decaying ice cream-coloured buildings to our right and these Skittle-like convertibles from the 50s rattling around on the roads below us. It was like I had woken up in some weird version of Back To The Future – thrilling and worrying at once.
As a blogger and wannabe photographer Havana is endlessly inspiring. But I’m not naïve to think the locals were happy about living in the crumbling buildings I was capturing with my camera. In fact, on a tour we took in a classic car we heard hints of discontent. There was a protest the driver decided to take a detour from and the insights he gave into life in Cuba (he spoke of Cuban doctors being sent overseas by the government as trade for oil and gas) were unsettling at best. But there were signs of change too, hints of independent trade and new businesses, and everywhere there was music.
The lowlight for this trip has to be the food. Whether through bad luck or bad choices I can honestly say I didn’t have a single good meal in Havana. (My friend Vicky who travelled around Cuba had a different experience – it seems like dining in Casa Familiars is the way to go.) It was also bizarre to have to pay to pee everywhere we went, even in restaurants. Keep a pocket full of loose change for that!
Turning 30 in Thailand
For my actual birthday I chose to return to somewhere I had been before. A place I had been as a backpacker aged 23, a young professional who was unsure where her life was heading at 26 and, finally, as a travel blogger who is still surprised to list that as her profession aged 30.
I chose Thailand because it holds happy memories of travelling in my twenties but also because I wanted to travel with Justin to one of my favourite destinations and create happy memories there with him. Little did I know the bloke was preparing to get down on one knee and exceed everything I had imagined for us!
The surprise proposal on the beach was of course the highlight of the trip but that trip in general was a celebration of the last 10 years of travel. It was a cracker of a decade and I can’t wait to see what my thirties have in store (for the both of us).
There was one small lowlight, however, because no one’s life is like the movies. During that very romantic proposal on the moonlit beach the sand-flies were having an absolute feast on my fingers (see below for pic). It was miracle I could get the ring on! Cheers to the reality of travel!
Click here to read about my 30th birthday trip to Thailand.
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