Well lately it has been pretty exciting in my world! I flew to Oklahoma two weeks ago to visit my sweetie Sean…he took me eastern Oklahoma to this very charming cabin near a place called Tenkiller Lake (apparently named after a prominent Cherokee family who owned land around the lake). One evening he invited me to go sit on the knoll and watch the sunset with him, and then he surprised me with a gorgeous ring and a proposal! Of course I said yes! The ring is so beautiful, the stone was left to him by his much-loved grandmother, and he had in set in white gold. It’s perfect, exactly the style I would have picked for myself. So needless to say, I have been smiling a lot lately!
So…on to my list!
When people find out that I spent 4 years traveling solo around the world, their first question almost invariably is, “What was your favorite place that you visited?” This is a surprisingly difficult question for me to answer because I loved so many places for so many reasons…some were just gorgeous, some places I just met so many great people they made it special. But for my own amusement, I have decided to try to narrow it down to 10 places/experiences that were special to me. And maybe inspire someone else to take their own journey! These are in no particular order…
1) THE COOK ISLANDS
Just in case the picture doesn’t convince you, let me just state unequivocally that the Cook Islands are GORGEOUS. Turquoise blue water, white sand beaches, amazing sunsets. It was the first place I went to on my world trip…I landed there planning to stay a week. I ended up staying a month and loved every minute of it. Awesome.
2. CAPE TRIBULATION, AUSTRALIA
Located in the state of Queensland, north of Cairns, this is a place I loved for the stunning scenic beauty of its jungles and beaches, but also for the great time I had with the people I met. This was another place I went intending to stay a few days and ended up staying for six weeks.
I stayed at a place called PK’s and so many friends, some that I am still in touch with 10 years later.
The jungle there is fascinating and its a great spot to visit the Great Barrier Reef, as it’s just off the coast there. I spent one magical day snorkeling there, floating above giant clams that were 5 feet across, and listening to the parrot fish crunching on the coral. It’s definitely worth the drive up from Cairns to visit.
3. THE TRANS-SIBERIAN RAILWAY
It wasn’t just the places I visited (which were amazing) but the whole experience of riding the train was wonderful. I caught the train in Beijing, China, and stopped in Mongolia (see #4), then in Siberia (see #5), then across Russia to Yekaterinburg (where Tsar Nicholas II and his family were assasinated), Moscow and Saint Petersburg. I would spend hours standing at the window just watching the scenery go by. The train stops in many small towns across Russia, and when it does the babushka would come on the train, hawking cups of wild berries that you could buy for the equivalent of 25 cents, and selling their hand-knitted shawls and scarves. I really wish I had taken more photos at those stops but I did not…guess I’ll just have to go back someday.
Wildflowers Gorkhi-Terelj National Park, Mongolia
Another stunningly beautiful place…I stayed in a ger (basically a yurt but the Mongolians call them a ger), galloped a Mongolian pony across the steppe (a dream come true for me), got to attend the Nadaam Festival in Ulan Bator (the capital of Mongolia) and watch Mongolian wrestling…
and go hear some Mongolian throat singers. Here is what it sounds like (it actually looks like the same place I saw them)
I would love to go back to Mongolia someday, it was really an amazing place.
5) OLKHON ISLAND, LAKE BAIKAL, SIBERIA
I had always dreamed of visiting Lake Baikal, the deepest and largest lake by volume in the World. It holds 20% of the world’s unfrozen water, and is also a stunningly beautiful place…I think I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves.
6) NEW ZEALAND, PRETTY MUCH ALL OF IT
Again, I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves…
I could post more but must move on…
7) DUBROVNIK, CROATIA
When I was there you could still see damage from the Balkan War, but it did not detract from the beauty of this ancient walled city on the Adriatic…
8) PERU AND ARGENTINA
My trip to South America was great because I went there with my younger brother and sister, who are adventurous souls like me. We hiked to Macchu Picchu, then travelled around Peru for a couple of weeks. Then my brother flew home and my sister and I continued on through Argentina, and also sneaked over the border into Brazil to see the other side of Iguacu Falls. Some highlights…
Again, I could post many more but must move on…
9) PARIS, FRANCE
10) FLORENCE, ITALY
I spent 6 wonderful months studying Italian and living in an old stone cottage amongst the olive trees In Florence, Italy. So many wonderful memories…the people I met, the FOOD, the scenery, the language…
Damn, that was harder than I thought…I could have kept going. So I guess I have to add a caveat that these are only some of my favorite places, and I am not including favorite places in the US…that will have to be another blog post as I have traveled quite a bit around the USA as well.
Thanks for reading…hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-tour. Sure made me long to travel again!