It’s been exactly 10 years today since my first independent trip. By “independent” I mean a trip not organised or sponsored by parents, school or other organisations… I started traveling on my own dime in my own time.
I was 19 when a friend and I booked a ticket to Zimbabwe, a country we knew almost nothing about. Feeling all kinds of cool, we embarked on an adventure that would shape the people we’d become. We spent one month in Zimbabwe having the trip of a lifetime, spontaneous and crazy. Upon my return home I had coffee with a friend curious about the journey. I told her in detail how incredibly exciting it had been. Followed by: “I want to travel all the time. I want be a globetrotter!”
“When can you start calling yourself a globetrotter?” she asked. I had no idea, but set the bar at ‘having been to one third of the world or 64 countries’.
In the ten years that followed I never really kept this goal in mind and my definition of a globetrotter has significantly changed since then. I wouldn’t define it through an amount of visited countries, but that’s another discussion. Anyway, before I knew it, I had become a globetrotter according to my -outdated- definition.
With all these destinations on my travel resumé, I’m often asked which one is my favourite. It’s a hard question! Not per se because I love all the places equally but because so many have deeply touched me, one way or another.
While I was stuck on an 8-hour bus ride last week, I started pondering the question more seriously. Is it really impossible to pick a favourite? Yes, it is. However, I have managed to narrow down the list to a top 12. I was aiming for 10 but…
So in no Particular order
I loved everything about Oman. Taking a road trip through the country introduced me to the genuinely warm and friendly people, the tasty food, interesting wildlife, the stunning landscapes featuring all my favourite colours… With the risk of sounding cliché, Oman truly is a hidden gem.
2. Shops, drinks and midnight snacks in Shoreditch, London
I’ve starred London as a favourite a long time ago but discovering the neighbourhood of Shoreditch has taken London to the next level for me. It’s the London that pushes you out of your comfort zone, inspires and yet feels comfortable and homely.
3. Motorbiking Ubud and surroundings, Bali
This probably doesn’t come as a shocker seeing I chose to live here for a year. The spiritual atmosphere, the lush green surroundings, the smell of incense filling the air and the sweet Balinese people. This island is just… Magic
4. Backpacking through Zimbabwe
As I mentioned above it was my first trip. It wasn’t so much the attractions that made this one of my favourite destinations, it was more a general feeling of well-being. Drinking a beer under the African sun with some of the world’s most impressive waterfalls in the background while making lasting friendships with locals and expats.
5. Cruising through Lake Connemara and surroundings, Ireland
The Irish country in general, is incredibly beautiful. I can see why it has been an inspiration for quite some songs, literature and poetry. In fact, you could possibly say that the Irish countryside is poetry.
6. Living the island life in Zanzibar
I’ve had to wait 15 years to go to Zanzibar and when I finally did, it was even more jaw-dropping than expected. The water is of the bluest blue, the earth is red, spices are abundant and there is always a freshly caught fish grilling on some coals. You can feel the mystic that comes with the historic crossroads of cultures.
Every time I go to Morocco I’m amazed at how much I love the country. Why amazed? Because it can be quite tantalising at times. The touts in the touristy cities like Marrakech, constant bargaining, scams… Yet I can’t help but adore this country and I gladly accept its flaws.
8. Venturing out into Timor-Leste
It was such an out of the blue destination on which I couldn’t find much information online. I had no expectations whatsoever, perhaps that is why I was so pleasantly surprised. Beside the gorgeous scenery it was the big unknown and the sense of adventure that made this place special to me. Timor-Leste offers a challenge to the seasoned traveller.
9. Hiking Dominica
Rugged and unknown- I’m starting to see a pattern here- Dominica has the ideal reggae/Caribbean island vibe. My entire stay there I felt like an old-school explorer, minus the compass. It’s the only island in the caribbean that has no white sand beaches which is why it’s often overlooked by package and cruise tourists leaving it unspoilt.
10. The old city of Jerusalem, Israel
Israel is a generally a great tourist destination but the old city of Jerusalem… That place vibrates. You feel and see emotion wherever you look. You can breathe history, touch spirituality, smell culture, taste tradition. The old town of Jerusalem is a truly unique place.
11. Dancing to dirty reggeaton beats in Venezuela
Less than an hour after exiting the airport of Caracas, I told the friend I was visiting: “This is it. I belong in this country”. We laughed, but I wasn’t joking. Venezuela has it all: the beaches, the rain forests, the deserts, the mountains, the party cities. It has attitude, it has style. The only thing lacking is a decent government to help the country grow to its full potential.
12. Bhaktapur, Nepal
Besides the fact that practically the entire city is made of wood and full of temples, it was the general “zen-atmosphere” I might have enjoyed most in Bhaktapur. I’d wake up every morning to the sound of prayers and gentle bells followed by the smell of freshly brewed tea. Enchanting! Also, it’s where you can find the best curd in the world!
I may be a globetrotter in the eyes of my 19 year-old self but in the eyes of the woman I am today, I still have a long way to go.
What are your 5 favourite destinations?