A travel writer gets to visit so many wonderful places. It’s easier to pick out the disappointing trips. And in truth, in all of the 20 or so years that travel has been my ‘job’, I can only think of three that were less than stellar.
At this moment, I’m putting together an itinerary for a return trip to New Zealand—with a stopover in Hong Kong. From Auckland, the City of Sails, I’m headed to the Southern Alps where much of Lord of the Rings was filmed.
That last trip was a magical journey, too. I visited vineyards. Spotted dolphins in the Marlborough Sounds. Went gold-panning with an Orc. OK, that’s exaggerating a little. But my driver/guide did play an Orc in the movie.
In Rotorua, I went to a Maori hangi feast where food gets cooked underground. The landscapes here are surreal—a geothermal wonderland of skyrocketing geysers, bubbling mud pools and hot springs that scorch the bristles off pigs in the blink of an eye.
China was a blast. Even today, most people visit on organized tours, but I traveled independently. Walking into a bus station and not understanding a thing on the destination board gives you a true sense of adventure. So do menus that come un-translated. So does rattling around Shanghai in a taxi with a driver who asks to borrow your glasses so he can better see where he’s going…
Staying on the exotic side, Vietnam wasn’t the only Southeast Asian country that delivered exhilarating adventures and unforgettable scenery. The “Sleeping Dragon” islands of Halong Bay really are among the world’s most mesmerizing landscapes.
Everywhere I’ve been in Southeast Asia was a thrill. In Thailand, I’ve walked on the wild side of Bangkok, stayed with a hill tribe beyond Chiang Mai, and enjoyed luxury spas in Koh Samui. I’ve shopped for pearls, met former head hunters, and ran away from an orangutan in Borneo. I’ve snorkeled in the crystal clear waters off Palawan, one of the Philippines’ 7,000 islands.
A particular SE Asian favorite is the Malaysian island of Penang, and Georgetown, its colonial heritage showpiece. As its people are a multicultural mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian, you’re spoiled for choice with the variety of cuisine as well as festivals.
Aside from Albania, the only European countries that I haven’t visited at least once are in Scandinavia: Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland. But as I’m not considering retiring, there’s still plenty of time to bag those. Even established travel writers still have dreams and mine is to see the Northern Lights.
I’ve actually lost track of the number of times I’ve been to Spain, France and Italy. Even if you put a gun to my head, I couldn’t give you a favorite destination in any of them. It’s impossible to decide between the glorious countryside and lost-in-time towns of the Dordogne and the Midi-Pyrenees…between Rome, Venice and Florence…between Seville, Granada and Barcelona…between the islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
But unlike most vacationers, I don’t need to save up for years or make agonizing decisions about where to go on a “trip of a lifetime.” As a travel writer, the world really is my oyster. And it could be yours too.
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