Yes, I know, the title, “The Most Amazing, Happiest Experiences I’ve Had While Traveling,” is corny af. But read through and you’ll see.
Its fall, the time of year I start getting restless and start dreaming about new places to explore. I remember experiences I’ve had, friends I’ve made, and places (and people) I’ve fallen completely, totally, madly in love with, and I’m torn between longing to return to these countries my heart misses desperately, and an intense desire to seek out new places I dream of.
Just for a moment, I push my laptop away and take a deep breath. I promise myself that I will relax for a bit, and rather than give in to the frenzy of competing voices in my head, screaming at me to make a mad dash to open over 100 tabs, jumping from website to website, desperately seeking a hundred different dates and destinations and hopping from one way to round trip to multi-city to plane to train to bus search engines, I stop.
I stop and close my eyes and try, just for a moment, to be present. To reflect. To meditate. And to remember the moments when I have had the most amazing, happiest experiences I’ve ever had while traveling.
Some I will one day write more about, perhaps adding some of the photos from my files filled with over 27,000. Some I will keep private, moments that were so special that only I, and maybe one other special person have ever experienced and we will cherish our secret together forever.
But the rest I have decided to share with you now.
I hope that you, too might be inspired to add some of these to your travel bucket list and happy memories. Thank you for allowing me to share mine with you, in no particular order.
- Singing “Lost in Istanbul” with Cindy and a trucker who picked us up hitchhiking in Turkey as we drove from Izmir.
- Rowing rented boats in my wedding dress and a pearl tiara from Harrods of London with Annie, my maid of honor, and her boyfriend (who only spoke French) in Hyde Park behind Kensington Palace.
- Listening to Buddha Bar for the very first time while sitting around a fire in the backyard of a cafe/ bar in Dahab, Egypt with new friends from all over the world.
- Falling to my knees at 7 am to pray on the beach at Traveller’s Resort in Negril, filled with immense gratitude
- Finding a tiny, fairy house village in Ireland
- Crying at the magnificent, overwhelming beauty of nature as I stood on my roof on a mountain, watching the most intense, magical sunset in front of me beyond the forest, with a full moon on my left, the hot sun warming my face, an unexpected rain shower creeping toward me from behind, and a double rainbow suddenly appearing to my right.
- Parasailing for the very first time in Nassau, imagining what it must be like to be able to fly
- Recovering, finally, after suffering from being severely ill for almost 2 months, coughing and hacking and barely able to breathe, and having Hassan, (my new boyfriend who had taken care of my the entire time, never leaving my side,) lean over and whisper, “I did not know I had fallen in love with a camel,” mimicking the noises I had made.
- Meeting an amazing rasta woman in Jamaica who told me she had “married God” and commited to be celibate and not date for a year, and all of the amazing blessings she had received from God, and deciding to copy her and focus on my spirituality as well, and deciding to also find the perfect ring as a symbol. A week later, I met a former nun who had recently fallen in love and had gotten married and had adopted 2 paraplegic sons with her new husband. She smiled and told me she had a strong urge to give me a ring she had that had symbolized her vow of chastity to God and had worn the ring for over 30 years.
- Breaking the fast at sundown in Essaouira during Ramadan with Tarik and his friends. Tarik played Bob Marley songs, and traditional Moroccan music on his guitar and other instraments while we all laughed and talked for hours.
- Hearing my gay boyfriend, Johan from London, declare his love for me by exclaiming, “Oh, darling, you are my oxygen!”
- Wearing a fabulous, elaborate, feathered black hat with a sprinkling of sequins at the World Travel Market in London, and after being pushed and shoved out of the way by “real” journalists, photographers and professionals with $20,000 cameras, having Joanna Lumley, my idol from “Absolutely Fabulous”, suddenly stop speaking to the crowd surrounding her as she spotted me, pushed them aside, walked over, and said with the infamous Patsy sneer, “Darling, I LOVE this!” as she drew an imaginary circle around my body and crazy hat.
- Having an extremely private, secluded rasta commune who lived in a remote village on a mountain near Kingston vote that I would be allowed to come to stay with them and live in a cave. We studied the Bible in the bamboo church and did gardening together, cooking, singing and drumming each night.
- Exploring the Elephanta Caves on a tiny island an hour away from the Gateway to India in Mumbai.
- Driving my rented scooter around the entire coast of Cayman Island with Ginny, my Korean friend, on our excursion from a weeklong cruise we had taken, after swearing I knew how to drive.
- Going bar hopping with Ginny, who screwed with men in the Miami bars by pretending to be their stereotype of an Asian woman; shy, sweet, submissive and quiet, when in reality she was the CEO of a huge corporation who kicked ass.
- Meeting Veronica, a fellow travel blogger, in Ireland at the TBEX conference, and deciding we would meet up in London, and eventually travelling spontaneously to Marrakech and Paris together. And watching Veronica as she stopped every few feet to reach down to give money to beggars all through the medina.
- Having sushi in Guatemala with a “celibate” sex addict, Hare Krishna monk I’d met when I snuck into First Class on our flight from Ft. Lauderdale and he sat next to me.
- Being proposed to by a beautiful Nubian man in Dahab (as his second wife). And Tanveer in Mumbai. And Hassan in Boulmane Dades. And Innocent in London. And saying yes to Innocent.
- Getting lost in Antigua, Guatemala the day I was to fly home, and meeting a woman at a bus stop who spoke no English, and I spoke no Spanish, but she insisted I come home with her to meet her husband and daughter to share the simplest meal of eggs and rice and beans before they guided me and I was able to get to the airport in plenty of time.
- Swimming naked under a secret waterfall that flowed into the ocean near Ocho Rios.
- Getting “kidnapped” by a man who invited me to hear him perform, insisting that he was an “artist”, and becoming convinced that I was going to be raped, robbed and murdered as we drove for hours through the mountains of Kingston, with more and more cars full of strange men along the way joining our caravan, my terror increasing each moment, only to finally arrive at our destination around 4am. And realizing , as I was being led to the VIP section of the stage, that I was with a group of musicians that were performing at Reggae Sunsplash in front of hundreds of thousands of people; Capleton, Sizzler, Beanie Man, Ellephant Man, Yellow Man…I was with them all and laughed and sang and danced all night, alongside my new frineds on the stage.
- Being with Michele and the volunteers at Team Action for Amed in Bali, far too close to the about-to-erupt volcano, Mt. Agung, falling in love with the kindness and selfless compassion of Michele who hobbled around on crutches focused on helping others.
- Being bewildered as I went snorkelling and then scuba diving for the first time in The Red Sea, falling in love with the fish and the coral reef and the colors and textures of our exquisite, amazing planet.
- Singing “You’ve Got a Friend” and drinking Irish coffee around a fireplace with Mickey MacConnell, who wrote the famous revolutonary song “Only Our Rivers Run Free”
Oh, I could go on and on forever. I have hundreds and hundreds of stories about people I’ve met and the magnificent places I’ve seen.
Of course I have had beautiful experiences at home as well. But through travel I’m able to overcome my fear of being alone, and my insecurity, believing that no one likes me, and my doubts about whether I can take care of myself now that I am no longer married and I’m on my own, and so many other ridiculous beliefs that simply are not true.
Through travel I fall in love over and over again, not only with the people and the history and the cultures that I see and the experiences that I have, but with myself.
What experiences have you had that filled you with joy, or that taught you something about yourself?
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