My 25th birthday is fast approaching and I’ve been reflecting a lot about my life lately. When I was a kid, I used to say I’d be married with 3 kids when I’m 25. The reality is pretty different. All of my friends are buying houses, getting engaged and having babies. And me… I just came back home to live with my mum, unemployed after another trip abroad. I used to get pretty sad about feeling ‘left behind’ but when I actually think about it I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’ve had some pretty incredible experiences and made wonderful travel memories that others haven’t. Inspired by fellow travel blogger 50North14East, I decided to write about my 25 top travel memories in my (almost) 25 years. These are in no particular order but here are some of my favourites…
1. Visiting a dump village in Cambodia.
One of the nights I will remember for the rest of my life. A boy around 14 or 15 was showing us around his village and he was one of the sweetest boys I have ever met. The village was built on a dump and I saw some pretty upsetting things that night but when I noticed how grateful they all were to have what they had, I was so touched. I later found out that boy’s family were killed in a mine explosion just a few days before and I still cannot fathom how he found it in his heart to be so kind to us at that time. What a hero.
2. Seeing the dancing fountains in Dubai
I stood there watching the fountain show in the 40 degree heat, completely on my own. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston was playing and the sun was setting as the fountains went off. Unreal. One of my favourite solo travel memories by far.
3. Bungee jumping off a bridge in Whistler
Genuinely the scariest moment of my life.
4. Watching this sunset in Laguna Beach
5. Maya Bay at night
After spending the day at Maya Bay in Thailand, we snorkeled in the dark to see the Plankton. When we got back on the boat I went to sit on the upper deck by myself. I just lay there staring at the stars and the shadows of the huge limestone cliffs. It was deadly silent and I just felt so calm and content in that moment.
6. Making a friend on an aeroplane
When I went to Miami on my own last January I was super scared about getting there and not having any friends. Before the plane even took off from Manchester I had started chatting to the guy sitting beside me when he asked about the book I was reading. We spoke for the whole 9 hour flight. Aldo was from Miami and he took me out a couple of times in the week that I was there to show me around. 5 months later we were travelling around Mexico together and right now we are currently planning our next trip to make more travel memories together. Life is cool.
7. Spending time in slums
In Cambodia we visited some slums. On one of the days we brought stuff for the kids to draw with but as soon as we put the crayons in front of them, they all grabbed as many as they could then just sat there staring at us. I realised they didn’t actually know what they were for. I sat with one girl who was around 3 or 4 years old and I drew some hearts on her paper. She took the crayon afterwards and started copying. The whole sheet was soon filled with little hearts and it was so bloody cute to see how proud she was of herself.
8. Road tripping to Northern Ireland
A whole weekend of absolute hilarity and nonsense. #fam
9. Visiting Lake Louise
I remember posting a picture of Lake Louise on my Instagram last year. I captioned it “I will make this happen this year” or something along those lines. 4 months later I was actually there. Life goals.
11. Surprising my mum with a trip to Paris
She thought she was going to Ikea. Haha.
12. Toronto Ciderfest
I’m not even the biggest fan of cider but thought it would be something fun to pass the time. I was with one of my best friends in Toronto, had just quit my job and I was feeling fab. It ended up being the best night of my whole year and I felt so happy just completely living in the moment.
13. Spending Canada day in Calgary
I had just made a new friend, Lauri, at my hostel in Calgary. We went to the dollar store to buy Canada flag tattoos and put them on in the middle of the mall using bottled water. That was weird enough anyway until a random guy came over and asked if we could do one on his cheek. We obliged. Outside there was a band singing a cover of “Love Yourself” and this one guy just started dancing on his own, absolutely going for it. Loads of people joined in and it was so nice to see everyone just enjoying the music without caring what anyone else thought. Later we ran (like, sprinted) through the streets when we were drunk so we could be in time to see the fireworks. Fools.
14. Jumping from the Stratosphere tower in Vegas
My ex boyfriend refused to do this with me (don’t blame him) which made it even more scary. I remember being at the top getting ready to jump and just looking at all the lights across the city. I felt like I was on one of those movies when someone is about to jump to their death. It was such an adrenaline rush.
15. Salsa dancing in Ghana
I’m the shyest person ever so when I got invited to salsa dance when I was in Ghana my first thought was “nah”. But everyone kept telling me how good it was so I said I’d go and watch. Well after 1 long island ice tea I was drunk. And drunk me is not so shy, ha. I danced for a bit with this Ghanaian guy who kept shouting “obroni” at me (white person) then I stood at the side to watch the pro’s. I honestly wish I was African because they are ALL so naturally good at dancing, even the children. It was amazing.
16. Learning to communicate without words
I stayed with a French family in Quebec a couple of months ago and got to meet 4 year old Blanche. We could barely understand one another but we became the best of friends. It was so special to be able to connect with someone without any kind of conversation. Although living in the countryside wasn’t my typical idea of a good time, it ended up being one of my best travel memories.
17. Pedal boating in Montreal
My friend Vivian and I booked a trip to Montreal on a whim one night last year, 12 hours in advance, and it was the first trip we took together. Whilst there we went to Old Montreal and rented pedal boats. We got in one of those stupid moods where everything is funny (like always) and taught each other foreign swear words in between laughing fits.
18. Getting this note from a hostel roommate:
Natsuki made me realise that the smallest of actions, like making simple conversation, can really impact someone. Always be kind.
19. Visiting a village in Fiji
We were welcomed with Fijian leis and a traditional Kava ceremony. We danced with the people there then they made us a wonderful buffet lunch. After that they took us out bamboo rafting and we went to visit a primary school where the kids sang a song for us. It was such a cool day and really fun to hang with the locals.
20. Vegas with my best friend
Every single day was just fabulous and we visited some of the wildest clubs I’ve ever been to.
21. Swimming in a cenote in Mexico
Cenotes are natural swimming pools created by holes in the rocks. I went to a couple on my last day in Playa Del Carmen with a German guy I met at my hostel. It was an unreal experience. I didn’t take any photos because I was paranoid about my stuff getting stolen, so here’s one I found online:
22. Watching the stars in Kingston
If you’ve read this far you’ll have realised I am a sucker for watching the stars. Just the fact that I was actually in Kingston made me feel mental so it was already set to be one of the most memorable travel memories of my life. But going to a viewpoint to watch the sunset and look at the stars? Whole ‘nother level.
23. Changing my travel plans in Virginia
My time in Virginia was extremely boring and I was supposed to be there another 6 days. I wanted to move on but didn’t want to waste the $400+ I’d spent on my flights in and out of Richmond. Eventually, I finally said f**k the money and booked a flight to Orlando leaving the next day. I had such a great time there. Doing that will always remind me that I am in full control of my circumstances- I can’t let any type of excuse get in the way of doing what I want to do.
24. Seeing the Grand Canyon
Still can’t believe nature made this. Cool.
25. Working with sex trafficking survivors
A lot of my favourite moments are from Cambodia but I met so many inspiring people there. At SHE Rescue Home, I worked with girls as young as 4 years old who had the horror of experiencing sex slavery. Their attitude towards life and their general positivity still continues to inspire me to this day. One moment I remember in particular was when we were riding in a tuk-tuk with one of the girls who lived at SHE. She was 16 years old and had been at the home for around a year. She started singing a Christian song and I almost cried seeing how at ease and full of hope she was. I can’t even imagine the horrible things she went through but to see her overcome that was so incredible.
So there’s a handful of my very best travel memories. I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to do and see all that I have, and I hope to continue making more travel memories over the years.
What are some of your favourite travel memories? Is there any where you’ve visited or something you’ve done that you’ll never forget?