Tag Archives: world travel

7 Ideas For Awesome Quests

The best thing about going on a quest for me, is all the awesome adventures you have along the way.  When you throw yourself wholeheartedly into your quest, you will come back with so much more than you set out to achieve.

Sometimes, when you finally reach the goal, place or object you were seeking, it is better than you ever could have imagined.  Other times you may be disappointed, or fail on your mission.  But when you look back on a quest, it is often the journey to accomplishing your goal that is the most memorable and satisfying part.

On the road in Bolivia.

Having said that, the feeling of pursuing a grand quest is what makes the journey so exciting.  You can build an epic adventure around any quest, whether it is something extremely silly, or wild and extreme.  Here are some ideas to get us started…

1.  Reach a high point of a city, country, or the world.

I recently travelled to Dubai because it is home to the Burj Khalifa, which was the tallest building in the world when I visited the observation deck at the top.  Someone may have built something taller by the time you are reading this, and I will probably be planning to scale that too!  Although going to the top of the Burj Khalifa was the main goal of my Dubai trip, the other experiences I had in that crazy city far outweighed those few moments of bliss stepping out onto the 1/2 km high viewing platform.

View from the top of the Burj Khalifa, Dubai.

Reaching Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal was another significant moment, which was part of a far more amazing trek through the Himalayas.  But you don’t have to travel to the other side of the world to reach a high point.  Find the tallest building in your city, or make it your mission to climb all the hills in your area.  It can be as simple or elaborate a quest as you desire.

Annapurna Base Camp, Nepal

2.  Go celebrity hunting.

First of all with this one, it doesn’t have to be a celebrity you have any real interest in.  It’s about the thrill of the chase!  When we discovered a certain B-list celebrity lived near our parents houses, my friends and I had a great time climbing trees and running through muddy fields trying to catch a glimpse of him.  None of us were fans (not that I’m aware of anyway!), but we still had fun with our binoculars trying to see into the blacked out windows of his passing car.  Don’t judge me for this until you try it!

Climbing a tree to get a better view of a local celebrity’s house!

It is best done with friends as a purely recreational activity, otherwise you are just a weird stalker.  Don’t take it too far and get arrested, or develop some kind of crazy celebrity obsession.  If this happens, begin a new quest ASAP!

3.  Learn a new skill.

Learning to scuba dive was the main purpose, and BY FAR the best thing about my trip to Indonesia a few years ago.  However, the gorgeous beaches, stunning scenery, amazing temples and beautiful boat trips were a massive bonus!

Ubud, Bali

My quest to learn basic conversational Spanish while in South America was (almost) fulfilled when I found myself chatting to a local in a bar in Cusco, Peru after a few drinks.  Words were just flowing out of my mouth.  The grammar was all wrong, but we managed a semi conversation.

Long bus journeys passed by in the blink of an eye, while my head was buried in my Spanish book.  It was also a great excuse to relax and watch TV with subtitles, picking up many new words and phrases.  If you make learning something new your quest, I guarantee it will bring enjoyable experiences into your life.

3.  Follow a river all the way to another town.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.  Mainly because I have a terrible sense of direction and it’s hard to get lost while walking alongside a river!  There is something so appealing about the idea of arriving in a new or familiar place the same way as the river.  Plus being next to water is always so relaxing.

You could take this to the extreme and follow a river all the way to its source, or all the way out to sea.  Or you could embark upon a quest to walk its entire length.

4.  Find the oldest tree or building in your area, or further afield.

This one may involve a bit of research, but that’s all part of the quest!  I am planning to visit a really old tree with a friend soon, and it got me thinking, I wonder where the top 10 oldest trees in the UK are?  I could find out with a quick google search, but then I would probably end up on a whole new quest that I don’t currently have time for!

Amazing tree in Monteverde, Costa Rica

Going on a quest to find the oldest buildings wherever you are can be fun, even if you’re not into history.  Plus you might learn something!  Once you’ve ticked off the oldest buildings in your home country, you can go on a quest further afield to discover some amazing places.  When you approach it in this way, you may find that you are more interested in history than you first thought!

Bristol, UK

5.  Give yourself a time limit.

Not all quests need to have time limits, but it can make things more exciting!  I remember going on a quest to find an indoor rollercoaster in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  A fellow traveller and I gave ourselves an hour to get there.  We had no idea where it was, and we ended up running through the city like maniacs.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When we eventually found it, we realised that it was far too expensive to be worth the money for us poor backpackers, and we didn’t even go on!  But we had a really fun time and an epic mini adventure.  We saw parts of the city and spoke to people we never would have otherwise.

6.  Food quests are the best.

I won’t write too much about this one, or I will make myself hungry.  I’m always hungry, and earning enough money to satisfy my gigantic appetite is a constant struggle!  If you love food, food quests are probably something you undertake pretty frequently anyway.  Just make sure you have an emergency snack with you, or the quest could turn into a hangry rampage pretty quickly.

7.  Turn a goal into a quest.

Want to save up money for your next adventure, further your studies, or start a new career path?  Whatever your goal, life is an adventure, so completing your mission should feel like a quest, not a chore.  Think about WHY you want to achieve this goal.  What aspect of it makes you feel excited and alive?

Start to re-frame your goal in a way that makes it feel like an adventure.  Dedicate a notebook to your quest, and jot down any helpful words or images that come to mind.  What will life look like when you succeed on your quest?  Focus on that, and ENJOY THE JOURNEY.  Remember that being on the quest is as much the purpose as reaching the goal.

You can never have too many exciting quest ideas… please share yours with me in the comments below!

 

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Learning To Love The Rain In Slovenia

There’s a reason Slovenia is so green.

slovenia3

 

The land glistens and twinkles with freshly fallen rain drops.

Vintgar gorge

Vintgar gorge

Emerald green rivers tumble down through lush tree-lined gorges.

slovenia

 

Waterfalls appear to emerge from nowhere, like fountains, gushing out of the hillside.

waterfall slovenia

 

It was hard to tell the thick mist of spray at the base of one waterfall from the nearly constant heavy rain we’d become so used to.

The lovely staff at the hostel where we were staying kindly lent me a giant rainbow umbrella.  The bright spectrum of colours surrounded and sheltered me, filling my mind with happy thoughts, so that only the beauty filtered through.

giant rainbow umbrella, slovenia

 

Shrouded in cloud and mist, the scenery of the country was somewhat elusive.  But when the clouds parted, the magical views were all the more special.

Bovec, Slovenia

Bovec, Slovenia

Fairytale Lake Bled took on an eerie grey hue to match the sky, adding to its mysterious appeal.

Lake Bled

Lake Bled

Any traces of resistance to the weather we’d been experiencing were well and truly washed away for me when we reached the vast Soca river.

Soca river

Soca river

Unstoppable, peaceful and so powerful.  I cried out with joy as I stood on the river bank, breathing it in, letting it carry my troubles swiftly away with its dynamic yet oh so soothing flow.

soca river slovenia

 

Far from the clear turquoise water we’d seen in pictures, the sediment churned up from the heavy rainfall gave the river a very pale opaque appearance.  I found this striking colour to be just as beautiful as the amazing emerald green of the Radovna river in the Vintgar gorge.

Vintgar gorge, Slovenia

Vintgar gorge, Slovenia

Winding our way down through the ethereal gorge, we became more and more enchanted with every step.

slovenia - vintgar5

 

As we rounded each corner, a new spellbinding view opened up before us, enticing us further and further along the path.

vintgar gorge slovenia

 

The hypnotic sounds, colours and shimmer of the water soothed and energized me.  The gorge seemed to contain the swirling magic of the river, allowing us to soak up more and more of it as we followed its course.

slovenia vintgar gorge2

 

After so thoroughly appreciating all of its consequences, how could I ever complain about the incessant rain again in this beautiful country again?!

lake bled heart

 

Have you been to Slovenia?  Did it rain the entire time when you were there, or were we just lucky/unlucky?!  I would also love to hear about any times you have found the beauty in something that you’ve previously disliked.  Leave me a comment 🙂

 

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10 Affirmations To Assist You During An Adventure

An adventure for you might be as simple as getting up early to go to the gym, or going to a party where you don’t know anyone.  Or it might be climbing a mountain or doing a bungee jump.  We all have our comfort zones.  Some days simply venturing outside feels like an adventure to me, yet at other times traveling solo through remote areas of foreign countries where I don’t speak a word of the language has felt like a walk in the park.

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey.

Whatever your current adventure threshold is, affirmations can really help to focus your mind when taking on challenges.  Try using these, take bits that feel empowering, discard bits that don’t, or make up some of your own!

1.  I am infinite.

One of my top affirmations for just about anything.  It’s simple and straight to the point.  Most of the rest of this list is saying the same thing in different words.  In fact, much of what I write on this blog relates to this powerful idea.  For some ‘infin-spiration’ read my recent post ‘You Are Infinite’.

Me being Tarzan in the Venezuelan jungle!

Me being Tarzan in the Venezuelan jungle!

2.  I am an eternal being journeying through time and space.  I can do anything.

This one puts things into perspective!  When I’m afraid, remembering this really helps.

3.  Adventure brings me expansion into peace.

When we do something that takes us out of our comfort zone, we see that we can cope with a lot more than we think we can.  This brings a greater sense of peace in day to day life.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

4.  The earth is my friend and gives me infinite love and support.

Having the mindset that our environment is friendly rather than hostile can drastically change the way we interact with it.  When I got lost in Kuala Lumpur, late at night and carrying a heavy backpack, I panicked.  I was in very little physical danger as I was in a central part of town with plenty of people around.  But it had been a long journey and I was tired, hungry and not thinking straight.  I saw friendly people who tried to help and give me directions as a threat, and I strode off in the opposite direction from my hostel, determined to find my own way there!

I got there in the end but I was very sweaty, exhausted and annoyed!  In contrast, when I got lost in the middle of nowhere in Cappadocia, with no water left and in the blazing heat, I was ridiculously calm.  I was still exhausted and very hot, but the beauty and silence of my surroundings put me at complete ease.  I continued walking happily and found my way back quickly.  I’m sure I’d still be there now if I had decided the desolate landscape with crumbly rocks and thistles was out to get me!

Rose Valley, Cappadocia

Rose Valley, Cappadocia

5.  I am strong and calm.

This one speaks for itself really.  Desirable qualities for any adventurer!

6.  This experience is helping me tap into my infinite source of inner strength.

When we’re struggling, telling ourselves we’re infinite sometimes seems unbelievable.  This is when getting a bit creative with the wording can do wonders.  We may not feel infinite at that moment, but we know we have felt much more capable than this in the past.  So remembering that this strength exists, and our experience is helping us to find it, can be an excellent stepping stone.

White water rafting in Peru, just before we flipped over and smashed my face on the rock! I wouldn't want to experience it again, but surviving it made me feel strong.

White water rafting in Peru, just before we flipped over and smashed my face on the rock! I wouldn’t want to experience it again, but surviving it made me feel strong.

7.  I am one with my surroundings.

Similar to number 4.  When we experience something that challenges us, it is easy to fall into the trap of feeling separate and isolated.  At the end of the day, adventure is something to be enjoyed, not endured.  This affirmation can remind us of why we’re here, and to become totally immersed in the experience.

Poon Hill in the Himalayas, Nepal.

Poon Hill in the Himalayas, Nepal.

8.  I am growing into my limitless self.

For the times when enjoying it just doesn’t seem feasible!  We grow from every experience and that is an amazing thing in itself.

9.  I am infinitely capable and can deal with any situation with ease.

Feeling tired, hungry, scared, lost or alone can trigger feelings of insecurity which can fool us into believing we are much less capable than we are.  We suddenly become like a vulnerable small child again.  Remind yourself that you are infinitely capable and that you can not only deal with this, but you can deal with it easily.

10.  I am a super magical goddess/god/being/creature!

If all else fails call upon your magical powers!  When we’re challenging ourselves, it can seem like we need superhuman powers to succeed.  So give it a try, and use this super magical affirmation!

necklaces pigeon pose instagram

 

I hope you enjoyed reading these and found some of them useful.  Affirmations and visualizations work best for me when I play around and have fun with them, so feel free to mix them up into your own special blend.  I’d love to hear from you with your top affirmations, or any new ideas these have inspired.  Happy adventuring!  ❤ ❤ ❤

 

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Angkor’s Treasure

When I think of the temples of Angkor, I don’t think of Angkor Wat standing majestically against the stormy dark sky, although it was an impressive sight to behold.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

I remember the moments of peace and quiet, away from the crowds, gazing up at the weird and wonderful carved stone faces of Bayon…

Temple of Bayon

Temple of Bayon

… and exploring dark mysterious chambers with my best friend and travel buddy.

 

I remember climbing impossibly steep stone steps…

Temples of Angkor

 

… and even more precarious descents, covering every inch of the ancient ruins.

Temples of Angkor

 

The astonishing Ta Prohm reminded me that even these mighty monuments bowed to the great force of nature, as the forest slowly reclaimed its territory.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

Catching glimpses of Angkor Wat between the trees…

Angkor Wat

 

… and from the air in a tethered ballon…

Angkor Wat from the air

 

… left me with much more than the image of the giant religious monument in my mind.  The powerful symbol of Angkor Wat simply acts as a reminder of our epic adventure exploring this sprawling treasure trove of ruins in the jungle.

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You Are Infinite

Our lives are ruled by our beliefs, and what we believe about ourselves often becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

I am infinite.

Choosing to believe this one simple thought has led to a complete turnaround in my day on countless occasions.  Over time, these days are adding up to a big improvement in my life.

When your confidence takes a knock you probably have a hard time believing you’re capable of washing the dishes, let alone anything more complicated.  But luckily, you don’t need to justify it.

All you need is your imagination.

Ubud, Bali

Ubud, Bali

Whenever you experience difficulties in life, remember the power that lies within you.  No matter what your situation, you always have had, and always will have, the potential within you to create magic.

Raw citrine crystal necklace from my Etsy shop.

Raw citrine crystal necklace from my Etsy shop.

This power has nothing to do with your past achievements or external circumstances.  It depends only on your ability to let your mind gravitate towards the things that light you up inside.

It is the power of the imagination that makes us infinite.  Our imagination is far greater than the sum of all our experiences.  We have the ability to draw inspiration from our past, and dream up new worlds which build on these magical moments.

Magical moments - beautiful pagoda on the Yen river, Vietnam.

Magical moments – beautiful pagoda on the Yen river, Vietnam.

You may not be where you want to be just yet, but you still have the capacity to appreciate beauty and feel peace in the here and now.  You can create something beautiful with what you already have, and you can share that with others.

 

When a magnificent scene of natural beauty takes your breath away, know that you are only able to feel its magic because it resonates with the magic inside of you.

Iguacu Falls, South America

Iguacu Falls, South America

If a vision truly resonates with your soul, the possibility exists for it to become real.  Even if you have temporarily lost faith in yourself, a true heartfelt desire holds the power to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

Sometimes self belief can be the hardest thing in the world, especially when doing something outside of our comfort zone.  When we don’t have a solid track record of success to inspire confidence , our strength lies in tapping into our imagination, our passion and our dreams.

Himalaya sunrise

A dreamy Himalayan sunrise. Photo taken from the top of Poon Hill on the ABC trek.

These dreams and visions are a core part of who we are.  To have imagined them they must be within us, and when you realize that you start to see yourself in a much more expansive way.  If we can dream of such beautiful things, we must have this beauty inside of us.

To see an improvement in any area of your life, the image you hold of yourself is often the most important thing you can change.  (I talked about this in my earlier posts It’s Not What You Do, It’s How You Do It and The Super Power Of Visualization.)

Any time you doubt your own ability or feel fearful about something, try asking yourself:  “What would infinite/magical/superhuman (insert your name) do?”  Then do that.

It feels kind of silly at first, but I promise you, once you get into it, you’ll start to notice a real difference in how you feel and the way you approach tasks.  It may not always be easy to make the leap from feeling incapable and scared (I’m talking from personal experience here!), to visualizing an unlimited, elevated version of yourself… BUT IT IS POSSIBLE.  Just keep practising!

If you’re ready for a bit of practice, check out my post How To Create Your Own Heaven.

 

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Citizens Of The World

I am inspired by visions of beauty all over the world,  from striking real life Indian goddesses amidst stunning temples,

Vittala temple complex, Hampi, India

to prayer flags lining paths through remote villages in Nepal.

On the way to the start of the Annapurna Base Camp trek in Nepal.

On the way to the start of the Annapurna Base Camp trek in Nepal.

I am inspired by the love of life and welcoming attitude of people everywhere I go, from the kindness of countless strangers across the globe, who have cooked me delicious meals, performed impromptu traditional dances, and shared the joy of singing and playing music together…

Men dancing in Amed, Bali.

Men dancing in Amed, Bali.

… to the lovingly cultivated celebration of nature that is my parents garden.

roses in garden

 

I am reassured to find that wherever I travel in the world, despite the cultural differences, people all have the same underlying appreciation for, and desire to celebrate and honour, this precious life.  From elaborate man made religious buildings with a hint of nature…

Ubud, Bali

Ubud, Bali

to the more subtle yet absolutely awe inspiring Gergeti Trinity Church, Georgia, dwarfed by the dramatic landscape that surrounds it.

Gergeti Trinity Church, Kazbegi, Georgia

Gergeti Trinity Church, Kazbegi, Georgia

I take pieces of these people, places and things with me and weave them into the wonderland of my imagination.  I hope that the things I create will inspire joy in those around me, just like the things that inspire me touch my own heart.

Necklaces from my Etsy shop.

Necklaces from my Etsy shop.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Singapore… The ‘City In A Garden’

As I glided into the city on the MRT, Singapore’s main transport system, I felt a great sense of ease.  I was able to fully appreciate the efficiency and thoughtful planning that had gone into the layout and infrastructure of this tropical city-state.

Despite being in an air-conditioned carriage on a high speed monorail there was no denying I had arrived in the tropics.  A combination of effort on the part of the government to develop and enhance Singapore’s greenery, and a warm climate with abundant rainfall throughout the year, have resulted in a city where foliage can flourish.  Lush vegetation springs up from the earth in between the clean lines of the modern city buildings, reminding me that, despite being surrounded by modern space-age style buildings, I was still very much on a living planet.

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

Singapore wasn’t my wildest adventure, but that was part of the appeal for me.  I stayed for a couple of weeks visiting a friend so I had time to really settle in.  Not that it took long; I instantly felt at home there.  In the preceding months I’d been travelling alone around Turkey, Georgia and Armenia.  It had been amazing, but it was a relief to be somewhere I could blend in with the locals (there are expats from all over the world living in Singapore) and communicate easily.

It was familiar enough to be comfortable, but different enough to be interesting.  I only had to venture across the road to the nearest shopping mall to experience a wide variety of excellent reasonably priced food from all over Asia and the rest of the world, catering to the tastes of the diverse mix of people who lived there.

I was a stones throw away from Sentosa island which on a quiet week day is quite a relaxing place to explore.  It’s known as ‘The State of Fun’ and certainly has its fair share of entertaining attractions, but I preferred to find quieter spots to stroll around, or take a quick dip in the sea.

 

Palawan beach on Sentosa island, Singapore, with suspension bridge across to the southernmost point in continental Asia.

Palawan beach on Sentosa island, Singapore, with suspension bridge across to the southernmost point in continental Asia.

One of my favourite memories of Singapore was walking around the forest on Sentosa and then hopping on the free bus that takes visitors around the island.  It’s probably a different story at busier times but I really appreciated the peace and tranquility of that moment combined with the convenience of being in a city resort.  It definitely isn’t the place to go for a relaxing beach holiday, but it’s one of many havens in a large modern city.

Singapore zoo

Singapore zoo.  I loved this poncho which sheltered me and my bag from the torrential rain… I think the tortoise liked it too!

Singapore zoo was another such haven for me.  As zoos go it’s a pretty good one, with lots of space for the animals and an emphasis on conservation.  There is a lot to see, and a separate “Night Safari” too which is well worth a visit.

Singapore also has some stunning and fascinating botanical gardens which are absolutely huge.  My favourite parts were travelling through time in a garden that told the natural history of the Earth, and strolling barefoot on the ‘reflexology’ paths that give your feet a massage as you go.

The Gardens by the Bay were the last gardens I visited in this ‘Garden City’, with the Supertree Grove being the perfect example of the city’s green aspirations.  Each ‘Supertree’ is a beautiful fusion of modern technology and nature.  The trees capture solar energy to help run the park, collect rainwater and channel it to where it is needed, and cool the large domed conservatories.  They are a magnificent sight to behold, with plants climbing all the way up the huge steel frames that reach up to the sky, and views of the park and beyond from the suspended walkway between them.

Gardens by the Bay, Singapore

 

These crazy futuristic gardens are a perfect symbol for Singapore which is doing its best to live up to its slogan of ‘City in a Garden’.

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Why I Travel

Travelling brings me a sense of wonder, awe and enchantment.

Varanasi, India

Varanasi, India

When my only objective is to explore, I am in the present moment and everything feels ALIVE. I slow down and absorb every detail of my surroundings; the colours, the smells, the sounds and the FEEL.

Scene from window of train just outside Cairo, Egypt.

View from window of train just outside Cairo, Egypt.

With fresh eyes I see beauty in everyday scenes that, in familiar surroundings, I would likely pass by without a second look.  I am mesmerized by the most ordinary aspects of life in a foreign land.

Travelling teaches me to find contentment in the here and now; not waiting for anything, just living fully and completely.

As well as the magic experienced in the simple things, there is the profound impact of experiencing nature in all of its immense glory.

Iguacu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

Iguacu Falls on the border of Brazil and Argentina.

There have been moments I will remember forever, and places that stir up ancient memories that surface from deep within.  Memories that don’t belong to this life, but to a time when a connection with nature was ever present.  Now, during precious moments in a contrasting age of separation, the beauty of this bond can be perceived.

Often when I’m travelling, unexpected situations lead to the most wonderful experiences.  When the stifling heat in Marrakech forced us out of our bedroom to sleep on the roof of our hotel, I had no idea it would be so nourishing and inspiring.  Calls to prayer reverberated around us from all over the city, coming together with the dark night sky and thick warm air, to form a protective blanket around us.  Magic was quite literally in the air.  I woke up with the sun, a new person, with clarity about my path in life.  I knew what I valued and vowed to live more in harmony with this great force of peace.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

I have shared so many extraordinary experiences with special friends, old and new, knowing that we felt the same joy.  Travelling with good friends, spending 24 hours a day with them, dissolves all social boundaries and leads to spectacular amounts of fun.  These times have brought me so much happiness, and to begin to describe them here would turn this short post into a novel.

Along with this peace, wonder, contentment and connection with nature, travel provides the opportunity for something that is even more valuable to me.  Adventure.

I sometimes suffer from quite debilitating anxiety.  If it weren’t for my love of adventure, my mental state could be a LOT worse than it is now.  I still have my struggles, but knowing all the crazy things I have done (and survived!) really helps when I’m having a crisis of confidence.

I’m not what you might call a dare devil.  I have a healthy amount of caution, but my desire to experience new and exciting things has put me in some pretty hairy situations on more than one occasion.  I could do without adventures like being stuck halfway up multi-pitch rock climbs, or escaping The Great Fire Of 2012 in Laos; but they have taught me how much I can actually cope with.  I’ve overcome my fears sky diving and bungee jumping, and survived many a minor accident while testing my boundaries white water rafting, handstanding in inappropriate places and riding mopeds on potholed roads.

White water rafting in Peru, just before we flipped over and smashed my face on the rock!

White water rafting in Peru, just before we flipped over and smashed my face on the rock!

These things are all great learning experiences (some more fun than others!), but it’s the feeling of limitless possibility that being out of my comfort zone brings me that keeps me coming back for more.  Whether I’m looking out over a new city from a tall building or viewpoint (one of my favourite activities), trekking through beautiful unknown landscapes, or pushing my physical and mental limits, adventure to me is about possibility.  That is what I find so exciting.

When I do something out of the ordinary, I experience a feeling of expansiveness, and I know that there is so much more to explore and do.  I know that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was, and my heart longs for the next adventure.

View from the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Bangkok

View from the Baiyoke Sky Hotel, Bangkok

 

 

 

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Hampi- An Enchanting Indian Wonderland

When I think back to my time in Hampi, in southern India, I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  It has so much heart.  Not the kind that knocks you over with its power when you arrive, but more of a gentle glowing that washes over you without you really noticing, until you’re feeling better than you have done for a long time and don’t know why.

Hampi was a world away from the chaotic towns and cities that we’d spent much of our time exploring.  A land of giant boulders and stunning temple ruins, with the most beautiful intricate carvings that tell enchanting stories.  The pace of life was leisurely, the air was hot and dry, and the landscape was barren yet alluring.

 

We were drawn to Hampi by the prospect of climbing the huge granite boulders, although once we were there the combination of the heat and relaxed way of life meant that I did more sitting on boulders, gazing at magnificent sunsets, than climbing on them.  But that didn’t matter in the slightest because my time there was perfect.

 

We had to wait until sunset to climb to avoid the blazing heat of the day.  I made it to the top of a few boulders and then sat, perfectly content, soaking up the warmth radiating from the rock.  The landscape looked less arid in the gentle evening sun.  The rocks took on a pinkish tone and the sparse patches of vegetation stood out against them, a deep rich shade of green.

The rest of the time we sheltered from the intensity of the sun in laid back restaurants with low tables and cushions on the floor, or wandered around the majestic temples.  Indian tourists outnumbered the foreigners, although there were plenty of both visiting the temples that had been built hundreds of years ago from the rock that surrounded us.  It was easy to find quiet spots to admire the architecture amongst the sprawling temple complex though.

 

We rented mopeds to navigate the local area and found ourselves at a nearby lake.  It was just us, the lake and the boulders.  The water was cool and refreshing, and it was amazing and slightly eerie to have the whole area to ourselves.  Other days we explored the ruins in the surrounding area on foot, walking far enough away from the town that our only companions were the goats that grazed on the land.

 

Hampi was the perfect mix of leisure and activity.  By the time we left I felt completely rejuvenated and ready to rejoin the mayhem of travelling through extraordinary India.

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The Amazon Left Me Wanting More

The main reason I had wanted to travel to South America was the Amazon rainforest.  It had captivated my imagination since I was a child.  To me it was the ultimate destination for an explorer, and it has been in my heart for as long as I can remember.

We travelled by land for hundreds of miles to the city of Manaus in Brazil, the main departure point for visiting the jungle.  As I drifted in and out of sleep on that epic bus journey I became very aware that the air was changing.  As we descended gradually into the Amazon basin I could feel the increase in pressure and humidity, along with a less tangible sense of the mystery of this giant forest.  The anticipation gradually built over the coming days as we arrived in Manaus, booked our tour, and began our journey slowly by boat up the river.

Amazon

 

Despite my dream to visit the Amazon I knew very little about it.  I had images in my mind based on various nature documentaries and things I’d heard, none of which really matched up with my experience.  The upside of this was that there was so much that was absolutely amazing and completely unexpected about my trip into the rainforest.

We swam with pink river dolphins, which were more aggressive than you might imagine such a graceful creature to be.  They have sharp little teeth and weren’t shy about using them.  I politely waded waste deep in the murky water with the strange beautiful creatures, not wanting to appear ungrateful for such a special experience, while they head butted me and tried to bite my legs!  It’s a delightful memory though, and I think I prefer it over a more laid back dolphin encounter!

Pink river dolphin

Pink river dolphin

The spiders we encountered were less delightful.  The tarantula our guide poked at with a stick until it emerged from its hole was everything you’d expect from a giant furry arachnid built for ambushing prey, but it was probably much more frightened of us than we were of it.  I have much worse spider memories from the jungle.

Cruising through the flooded forest on a tiny boat was a magical experience by day.  We left our big boat on the wide part of the river and ventured into the unknown, between the trees through ever narrowing passageways.  By night, however, going deep into the jungle by boat varied between being a thrilling experience and a downright terrifying one!  As the forest grew denser spiders from overhanging branches that had been disturbed by our boat landed on board.  My friend and I grabbed the torch from our guide and frantically checked each other for spiders repeatedly until the torture was over several hours later.

Baby python

Baby python

On other occasions we saw a sloth, pythons and piranhas, all of which were so surreal, like something out of a children’s picture book.  The large boat was our base from which we explored.  We had plenty of time to relax on board and soak up the sights and sounds of the forest.  Our guide told us there were alligators in the water but that it was safe to swim nearby, so without giving it a second thought we all jumped in and had a lovely refreshing dip in the opaque muddy water, trying not to imagine what was beneath the surface.

We thought he was joking when he called to us to get out of the water because there was a caiman close by.  We got out anyway, just in case!  We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw it just a few meters away from the other side of our boat.

By far the most unexpected creatures in the Amazon were on board though.  A rather eccentric dutch girl, a fellow traveller, had acquired some new born kittens in Manaus.  They’d been abandoned and left in a cardboard box in the street.  She’d heard them screaming and couldn’t bear to leave them.  So the kittens got the jungle tour too.  They even camped with us the night we slept in hammocks in the forest.

These were some of the more memorable and unexpected highlights of the visit.  However, the rainforest I’d seen in films, books and documentaries eluded me.  All the time it felt like we were on the edge of something.  After days of journeying we only briefly touched upon the ancient primary forest.  For the most part we were in secondary forest with smaller younger trees.

Amazon

 

The Amazon with huge trees and a high leafy canopy containing an abundance of life that I had anticipated for so long was indeed real, but I only caught tantalizing glimpses of it.  It was time to turn around and head back down the river to Manaus.  It had been amazing, and I’d ticked off a lifelong goal, but we knew that there was so much more than the tiny part we’d had the privilege to explore.

The trouble is with travel, and I’m pretty sure ninety nine percent of people reading this would agree, the more places you see, the more places you feel like you need to return to.  Unfortunately I’ve got this burning desire to go absolutely everywhere, so it’s going to be a while before I get round to revisiting the many places that have left me desperately wanting to return.

Amazon sunset

Sunset on the Amazon river

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