This week, I’m sharing a collection of stories from five bloggers (myself included).
Anna from Slightlyastray.com
This is honestly one of my most disliked questions. Because in my past 2.5+ years of travel, between experiencing all these beautiful places, adventures, and people, how can I possibly pick ONE memory I love the most?!
Is it when I cried with happiness when I saw the magical floating lanterns in Chiang Mai? Is it when I fell in love with the freedom of long-term travel in Santiago?
Ultimately, I would have to say that my favorite memories are the times I got to reconnect with family.
I was born in Beijing, raised in my loving grandparents’ home, and then moved to the States at a young age. All of my family still live in China. And naturally, being an ocean apart does no good to maintaining a close relationship. We were only able to go back to Beijing and visit once every 5 years or so. Just as soon as we were getting to know each other again, it was time to leave.
But now, with my time being so free, I found that a major side advantage is that I can spend more time with family! In the past year and a half, I’ve been lucky enough to spend over 5 months (collectively) in China. Most of that time was focused on reconnecting with family and my Chinese roots.
I spent a lot of time with my elderly grandmother. I kept her company and helped run errands, while she happily fattened me up with her delicious home cooked meals. I reconnected with the rest of my Beijing family. We went on mini trips together (even a recent one to Japan) and spent long days playing mahjong. I got to know my cousin in Shanghai. And I visited my dad’s side of the family in the south, who I haven’t seen in over 10 years.
So my fondest memory is not of a specific place or event, but rather all the moments of spending time with family, falling back in love with my birth city, and feeling like I belonged again.
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Dan from Danflyingsolo.com
I have so many fond memories from travel that narrowing it down to one is a toughie. One thing they all have in common though is the people I have met on the road.
This years highlight was during my Montenegro road trip. After essentially picking the places we would stay at random from Google maps we pulled up to the tiny town of Pluzine hidden in the mountains.
The sun was just starting to set across the lake and as the last rays of the day beat off the mountains around us it made for a postcard perfect setting. We were staying in a tiny bungalow and after taking the bumpy road to the lake a wrinkled and smiley face jumped up to greet us.
After a brief check in which consisted of sign language and broken languages the old gentlemen retreated to his own cabin. Minutes later he returned with an old JD bottle full of a homemade local liquor, rakia. Pouring us all over sized measures of this potent concoction we raised a glass to the blissful and silent surroundings we had randomly found our selves in.
There were no other tourist around, only the sound of local kids playing football rang through the mountains and as the cheeky chap winked and poured us another glass to much protesting I remembered why I loved travelling so much. Moments like these, with strangers double my age all communicated through smiles, waving hands and the clinking of glasses. As the sky lit up with stars and mist rolled in, I sat on our small patio table and knew I would never forget that simple, yet perfect evening.
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Andrea of scribblesnaptravel.com
2015 was an eventful year for me; I broke up with my partner (who I used to travel with) and my life changed in an instant. For a while, I wondered if I would ever be able to travel completely solo again, and I answered that question when I made it to Berlin solo last March (in short – I love that city). The fondest memory came last month, though, when I took myself off to Nepal. In Kathmandu, I visited Boudhanath, which is said to be one of the largest spherical stupas in the world.
I wandered around aimlessly, enjoying watching those who were making the pilgrimage, wafts of incense permeating the air. What I had read about the place was spot on – there’s something special about the energy there. It’s so peaceful.
As I walked around, I entered a monastery. I made my way up the steps and was faced with a group of people who were sat on the floor on a veranda overlooking the stupa – at that point, I didn’t know what they were doing there. I walked inside to find a magnificent gold plated statue of The Buddha. A monk wandered over to me and offered me a stick of incense to light at the altar. As I began to light the incense, the group who were sat outside began chanting a Buddhist mantra. Without warning, the hairs on my arms stood on end and I realised I was about to cry. I tried to stop myself, but then decided not to – I allowed the tears to stream down my face.
The moment was so beautiful that I had to allow myself to feel what I needed to feel. The security guard was so concerned by my sudden outburst that when I walked back outside he gave me his seat, so I sat and listened to the group chant while the sun went down behind the stupa. It was, to date, the most special memory I have from the road.
It’s my belief that the reason I became so overwhelmed is that I somehow felt I was doing my very own pilgrimage. The Buddha’s teachings are what helped me through a tough time and I guess I was feeling incredibly thankful. Not only that, but for the first time in a very long time I felt that I had finally made it back to myself – that everything had somehow come full circle and this was the beginning of a new chapter. I was finally ‘home.’
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Michael from theunexamined.life
After traveling for as long as I have been, choosing one moment above all others is difficult to say the least.
One memory that does come to mind though was one day I spent in Mui Né, Vietnam.
For some backstory, I arrived in Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) by myself, but I planned on meeting up with a friend, Ryan, whom I met in Pai, Thailand.
Ryan and I hung out for a couple days in Saigon (where my iPhone 6 got pickpocket-ed, story for another day). We also met another Dutch guy there, Bart, and he ended up traveling with us the rest of Vietnam.
The next day we decide to head north. If you’ve never been to Vietnam, backpackers generally travel along the coast either South-North, or North-South (obviously).
We ended up at a pretty cool hostel in Mui Né called Backpacker Village (recommended), it may have actually been the only one in town.
The following day we decide to go on an arranged tour through the hostel. The first stop was a waterfall that you have to hike a bit to get to, it isn’t a must-see, but pretty cool nonetheless.
It was here that we met Jean (shoutout Jeanie Beanie!) and Michelle, who were both awesome girls. Jean actually travelled with us the rest of Vietnam after as well.
When we were done with the waterfall, they took us to a desert where we got to ride four-wheelers through the sand dunes! That was an incredible amount of fun.
Bart and I decided to share one and take turns. You can guess what happens when two guys get carried away while driving anything with a motor, we crashed!
It wasn’t serious and since I was sitting on the back, I just bailed, and Bart is the one who took the fall (:D). I’ve got the funniest video of him trying to get the four-wheeler unstuck, and he’s just spraying sand in his face, and not going anywhere. The thought of that video still makes me laugh!
After we had the run of the place, the next stop was a different desert with even bigger sand dunes where we were supposed to chill and watch the sunset.
Of course that didn’t happen either! Well eventually it did, but first we were all racing and flipping on the dunes. Jeanie brought a frisbee with her, and we had a lot of fun with that.
We brought some beers with us and cracked them open just in time for an amazing sunset. We all agreed to put down the cameras and just take in the moment.
Ryan had a speaker where he was playing music, and just as the sun was about to set, the most perfect song came on to capture the feeling we all had.
The song is a cover of “Latch” by Daniel Andrande, it became our theme song for all of Vietnam, and anytime it came on we would all stop what we were doing and just take a second to realise how lucky we were to be there.
I’m listening to the song now, and it always brings me right back to that day.
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(P.S – A close second might have been the time I explored a Vietnamese cave in my underwear :D)
Candice from Free Candie
In 2013, I set off around Ireland researching my family ancestry for a journalistic piece I was producing. It couldn’t have been a bigger failure. Disappointed and dejected, I called off the search in Galway and decided to hang out and have fun for awhile.
A friend-of-a-friend on Facebook messaged me out of the blue one day and invited me to Sligo, along Ireland’s Northwest Coast. The boys I was Couchsurfing with in Galway thought the idea was amusing. “There’s nothing there!” they said, repeatedly. I’d be taking a chance on a total stranger, but hey, why not? I suppose a part of it was having to prove them wrong.
My friend Julia joined me and we rolled up into Sligo one rainy afternoon. It’s not the typical go-to destination in Ireland, despite its rugged landscape and large surf/adventure community. It didn’t take long for us to make friends at all.
David, the random Facebook guy, invited me and Julia out for a stand-up paddle trip on Lake Gill. He had invited several others along for the journey as well — three Irish men, and our new friend Sonya.
The paddle started out slow and peaceful, down a perfectly quiet river. We all chatted like old friends. And then we hit the open lake, and all hell broke loose.
The wind picked up and I started drifting out into open waters, while the others made their way to the Isle of Innisfree (made famous by W.B. Yeat’s poem with the same name). David, our trusty guide, went to rescue me. Eventually we made it back onshore where we all collapsed into a heap of laughter, agreeing that a pint of Guinness would fix us right up.
We headed to an old pub called The Thatch, where my new friends rang up some of their friends, and soon the place was packed. Two of David’s musician friends came along and struck up the kind of Irish traditional music session that dreams are made of. I didn’t know at the time that they were both quite famous.
Soon the whole bar was reeling, the bartender was grinning ear to ear, and we were all stomping around the pub in fierce dance. I honestly can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun.
I still stay in touch with everyone from that first visit to Sligo — I try to make it back each year to see my second family.