I’ve read many ‘travel experiences to change your life’ articles over the years and I agree with them all. When I first travelled, I didn’t come across these articles or lists (as I wasn’t thinking about travelling but just wanted to do it) but if I did, no doubt it would’ve spurred me even more to do it. Reading these now after travelling and continuing to do so, it always generates a warm buzz inside me and a sense of achievement and wonderment, and of course makes me want to travel even more!
So below are my travel experiences that changed me life and maybe will change yours...
It's not all about what's on land….
I’ve only snorkelled but haven’t dived into the wide open seas. The only times I’ve snorkelled was in Australia whilst visiting the Great Barrier Reef and in and around the Galapagos. It’s amazing what we don’t see when riding the waves. I wasn’t that interested in snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, I wanted to go, just so I could say I’ve been there, but glad I got my shorts wet. The abundance of wildlife in the sea is pretty phenomenal as it was in the Galapagos. It’s like being on another planet, a sea of creatures and animals which would look alien if they were on land but in the water they fit in. The key thing that I learnt and was drilled into my head (particularly in the Galapagos) was not to touch anything and be respectful and keep your distance from marine species, after all you are in their home. Your horizons are truly expanded when gliding through the ocean, its a somewhat ethereal feeling. It's strange to think when gliding through the vast ocean that your on Earth. We take it for granted to travel to new places and experience new terrains on land, but to think there is a whole other world beneath the waves and the startling fact we know more about the moon and space than we do about our oceans.
Eat something completely different
Live away from your comfort zone, try new and wonderful delicacies you only read about but now are in the moment to try it! For me it was trying spiders in Cambodia. When I was first offered them early on in my trip, I flatly refused, but afterwards I regretted the decision but thankfully I had an extended stay in Cambodia and got round to trying it. What did it taste like; well it was crunchy and not as bad as one might think. Also when I was in Navsari, India, I was taken to try these curried omelettes from a market street vendor and they were delicious and tasted great. You shouldn’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t go crazy and try everything; we are all built differently so your stomach tolerances will differ. If in doubt then don’t eat it but try to keep an open mind.
Don’t be a tourist
It’s easy to book hotels for ease and comfort, but for truly great experiences, try home-stays , teaching, take a cookery lesson or better yet learn the local language rather than speaking English. I’ve tried home-stays and its an experience to be had and always humbling. In Japan I stayed with a amazing old couple who treated me like their own and even showed me traditional way of life in how the Japanese live. In India, I was treated to home cooked food, amazing tastes and smells would come from the kitchen. It’s always nice to give some token gift in return, for me, I took photos and gave them to my hosts and they were very grateful. The point of all this is to engage deeper into the culture of where you are, and by gasping at all the opportunities available to you, you will take and learn a lot from your travels than tan and a passport stamp to say you've been there. It’s about cultivating memories and experiences that will truly stay with you as you grow older.
Help Conservation of a species by seeing it first-hand
It’s easy to pop to your local zoo to see amazing animal species, but to truly appreciate the wonders of wildlife and nature, you need to see it first-hand . That’s what I did in the Galapagos.. Call it Eco-tourism, wildlife tourism or whatever and there will be detractors to it, but ‘tourism is a mixed blessing for the Galapagos but the fact is, if there was not tourism to the islands and the local people did not get any income from it, there would be nothing left there now. It would be all gone. It is the lesson of conservation around the world that unless the people who live in such places, whose land they feel belongs to them, are on the side of conservation, you’re doomed’ (Source: Galapagos Islands Need Tourism To Survive) . You can read more about my experience and time visiting the Galapagos here http://bit.ly/1jR7MbU
Go off the grid
Sometimes we live in such a connected world, its hard to realize a world without the internet, mobile phones and even electricity. It’s sometimes a good shock to the system to go off the grid, experience something truly remarkable. When I was younger and visited Bangladesh with my family, we spent half the time in my father's village which had no electricity, but as the years went on, electricity arrived in the village and changed everything. I spent a week in the Amazon Rain forest , in Sacha Lodge. A 2hr canoe ride up the Napo river and a further 30 min walk to the lodge through the forest. Truly remarkable to be in the jungle, hearing it come alive with sounds and sights which amaze the senses. These moments gives you time to reflect and ponder without distractions. As much as you want to update your facebook status or tweet that amazing sunrise, just remember why you went all that way in the first place. Granted I took these photos when I should've been just experiencing it, being a photographer, its my job to capture moments to help and inspire others.
A road trip can be of any length, it shouldn’t be pre-described or ordained by travel purists as a defined length, anyway back to it, just you, the car and a thirst for adventure. The thought of putting everything you need in the boot of your car and driving off to whatever destination taking your fancy. My road trips have consisted of going from London to Birmingham in the rain, stopping off at service stations to grab a bite to eat and getting back on the road, also going from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and to the Grand Canyon in the sunny climes through deserts, and San Francisco to Humboldt Redwood National Park. I’ve taken many wrong turns and ended up in places I didn’t know existed, but its the notion of throwing caution to the wind and see where the journey takes you, along with what characters you meet along the way, it's these moments that will provide a lifetime worth of stories to tell family and friends. The photo below was taken when driving through Sequoia National Park in a red Mustang, I stuck my camera out of the car window and snapped a few photos.
Most of my travels around the world had been with very close friends but there comes a time when they will not be available. Travelling alone can be scary, thrilling, liberating, empowering, travelling on your own is all of these things and more. I traveled solo to Japan, Cambodia and Indonesia. You learn a lot about who you are and you’ll be surprised about your own ability to step up to the mark, but above all you will meet more people than ever. On my trip to Cambodia I met an amazing group of people who on day 1 were merely strangers but by the end ended up being the most amazing friends. Wondrous things happen when you travel. The bonds formed with strangers when traveling is unlike no other.
Stand on top of the world
To stand and watch clouds wisp by below you is something to behold, to witness the sun going down on the horizon above the clouds and looking out into the yonder and feeling literally and metaphorically on top of the world. I experienced this on Mauna kea (4,270m) in Hawaii. There are many other options to stand on top of the world such as climbing a mountain for example Australia's Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m) or even Kilimanjaro (5,895m) in Tanzania. There will be few moments in travel that will make you feel this good or stay with you for a long time, I still cite the sunset I saw at Mauna Kea as one the most memorable things I’ve seen in my travels. Word of advice regarding any of these is altitude sickness, it affects people differently, allow time to climb slowly to allow acclimatization. On Mauna kea there is 40% less oxygen than at sea level and also 40% less air pressure and I noticed it, it tires you out, so take things slowly and always listen to your guide. You don’t want to be gasping for oxygen through a tube whilst lying flat on a stretcher whilst missing the most spectacular sunrise or sunset.
Travelling overland enables one to take a long slow look at the world. It’s easy to take a plane and just fly, covering vast distances. In doing so, you miss out on the things you don’t see. I’ve travelled overland from Cairns to Sydney in Australia, Auckland to Christchurch in New Zealand and around Cambodia. These were small group tours I did, some where in coach and some in a small minivan. Travelling overland, like travelling solo enables you into yourself, to see what you're capable of, whether you can cope with confined spaces with strangers also dealing with your company and hardships as well as that of strangers. This is prime opportunity to search your own soul and sometimes being in the company of strangers it can help more so than family and friends as you free of restrictions and free to be ‘you’ without anyone having any preconceptions of you.
Visit a travel Icon
It’s easy to forget that in the hectic lives we lead that the world doesn't revolve around you, to feel insignificant in this world, there’s no greater appreciation than standing among the planets great natural or man made structures. Travel icons still have this magical ability to astound and confound you when you see it with your own eyes, even though you may’ve seen it on TV, magazines and countless photographs, but to see it with your own eyes is an enhancing experience. I’ve seen a few on my travels and the ones that stand out for me is Machu Picchu, after trekking for 3 days in non-stop rain and to stand there and it to appear out of the rolling dense fog was an rewarding experience, also getting up early to catch the sunrise at Angkor, standing there in darkness with only a torch and when the sun started to slowly rise, revealing the stunning temple complex. Lastly seeing the sunset at Borobudur in Indonesia was life enhancing. Its these moments that will put the petty worries into perspective. On a side note, you won’t be able to escape the crowds but with the internet you can easily research the quietest times to visit or pay a little extra for a behind the scenes tour which I did in Cambodia to experience the temples of Angkor without the crowds and in my own time.
Have you space encroached by big things
When I spent 2 days sailing in Australia, purely by chance 2 whales swam with us, a mother and her calf. It was an extraordinary sight, the baby whale would casually poke its head through the water and swim around the boat. Here I was in the open sea with other people on our boat and to see these majestic creatures was amazing. I quickly rushed back to my bunk to grab my camera and managed to grab a few frames. It’s quite intimidating to see such large creatures in such close proximity, to see their eyes, you somehow see something powerful looking back at you, it can be unnerving at first but its actually awe-inspiring. Another living thing that I stood amongst was the giant Californian Redwoods, these gentle giants standing some 360ft. It’s other worldly to have your space surrounded by things unimaginable until you physically see them, its only then that you gain a sense of scope and scale in relation to you as a human, it's these moments that make you humble.
Travelling is an amazing experience, its the greatest education one can get and adds more value to you as a person than anything else possible, live free, love life, go explore and see the world!
So what you waiting for, go and explore!
If your still pondering, thinking, then watch this short film I made about the world we live in!
If you liked reading this post, please check out my post on the Inca Trail in Peru
For my travel videos, please head to http://vimeo.com/m24instudio
If you have any questions, email me on [email protected]