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From Pluto to Paris: A Handful of Best Travel Memories

Hannah in Paris, Eiffel Tower in backgroundThis post was sponsored by Nuffnang

When I was recently contacted and asked to write about the best travel experience of my life so far, I was perplexed. Stumped. Mindboggled. And a little bit baffled to boot.

Asking me my best travel experience?

That’s like asking a mother which of her children she likes the best. (Or perhaps it isn’t. For all I know, mothers always have clear favourites but are simply trained, in Mother School, not to admit it.)

Zaru Soba with salmon roe, salmon, and unagi on rice in Tokyo, JapanTravel, to me, is exhilaration. Travel is freedom, and longing, and joy, and challenge, and deliciousness, and complexity, and self-reliance. Travel is breaking apart and putting yourself back together again; travel is discarding the pieces of you that no longer fit and finding new elements that slip into who you are as if they were always meant to be there.

As I result, I’ve found myself rephrasing the initial query a little bit. Instead of the single best travel experience of my life, here are several best travel experiences from throughout my life.

Four-year-old Hannah with Pluto at DisneylandWhen I was four years old, my best travel experience was going to Disneyland. I remember churros rolled in cinnamon sugar, and I remember Snow White’s house.

What I don’t remember is hugging Pluto, and I don’t remember Pluto trying to kill me by shoving me into his torso so that I couldn’t breathe.

Four-year-old Hannah with Pluto at DisneylandTravel as enabling new experiences? Check.

When I was eight, my best travel experience was going to Thredbo after Christmas, in the searing summer heat, and embarking on almond-and-muesli-bar-fuelled bushwalks with my family.

I remember my brother shaking after discovering he’d stepped right over a black snake on one of those hikes, and I remember waiting for stinkin’ huge march flies to land on my blue jeans so that I could whack the blighters with a stick. Yes, my legs were quite bruised that night, and no, I didn’t care.

Dad, Hannah, E.TeacherLord on a Thredbo bushwalkWhen I was eighteen, my best travel experience was visiting my brother in Japan. This was one of my first true chances to experience a new culture and new tastes, and I fell in love with chestnut desserts, onigiri, takoyaki, and hilariously mistranslated signs in English.

In Japan in 2006, I remember being sexydynamite. I also remember that Japan was my first real taste of the joy that travel is to me. I remember feeling as light-hearted and free as a platypus that has finally left home in search of its own river, and I remember knowing, in my first moments alone in Kyoto, that I would do everything in my power to keep travelling in future.

Hannah sexydynamite at Harujuku, Tokyo, JapanWhen I was twenty, my best travel experience was my student exchange year in America, where I spent months exploring the East and West Coasts and then made friends for life whilst studying at UVA.

But perhaps my best travel experience of all was the four months I spent wandering around the United States and Europe between December 2009 and April 2010. After all, it was this travel experience that led me to create my blog, and this blog has, in turn, brought all you wonderful people into my life.

While the United States, Berlin, Munich, Paris, Florence, Amsterdam, and Antwerp might encompass only a fraction of the world, these places gave me more [intangible] wonders and gifts than I had thought possible.

Hannah with Meet Fresh Singature Herbal DessertDuring those four months of independent travel, I finally stopped hating myself in the way that I’d let become entrenched. During those four months of exploration I met people, both in person and through blogs, who liked me for who I was, right then, rather than who they expected me to be. I caught a glimpse of what it might be like to be loved by someone, realised that I can cope with being in a non-English speaking hospital all by myself for hours on end, and discovered that kindness can often be found right when you most need it.

Travel taught me that life is brilliant but also, sometimes, so brilliantly bright that it hurts to look at directly, unflinchingly. Travel taught me that people are wonderful but at times as incomprehensible as a Bubble o’Bill sitting on top of a bookcase. Travel has taught me that I can be who I am without fearing the consequences, and it has taught me that I really, really do like chocolate. And food. And chocolate. Particularly chocolate.

And that, my friends, is why every travel experience is my best travel experience.

Hannah at Barwon Heads SeaChange PierIf you also like and long for travel, then you might benefit from the fact that Peregrine & Gecko’s Adventures is offering 10% off all bookings made in July. If you’ve got a hankering for new adventures, delicious foods, cultural experiences, and memories to last and last, a holiday might be just what you need. To speak honestly, travel is always what I need…

85 comments | Leave your own

  1. Three-Cookies

    Interesting. You remembered your experience when you were 4 years old – good memory.

  2. Lizzi

    I love this entry. And I love YOU! I cannot express how much I’d love to travel with you one day……. even to like… Yass.

  3. Lexi

    I remember trips from when I was kid vividly too – and every trip I’ve ever taken has changed my life in a way. I’m right there with you: every trip is worth it.x

  4. Kate (What Kate is Cooking)

    I am so jealous of all the places you’ve traveled! It’s my goal to visit all seven continents in my life- I have 4 left 🙂

  5. Lisa (bakebikeblog)

    What a wonderful wondferful post! I think you have expressed the wonders of travel just perfectly!

  6. Amber Shea @Almost Vegan

    I have an addendum to this:
    Your next magnificent travel experience will be hanging around the Midwestern U.S. with a certain linguist-chef, eating and exploring and laughing and having adventure after adventure for days on end. It must happen!

  7. Jayme @ Runner-n-Spice

    You have seen so much! I want to go back to Paris!

  8. Lauren

    Aw. I have nothing clever to comment, but this was so heartwarming to read. I wish you many more trips to come — hopefully ones that find us in the same country yet again! — and that you continue to live life as a Sexy Dynamite.

  9. Priyanka

    Loved reading this post and I am quite surprised that you remember your travel experiences from age 4. I really would love to meet you someday 🙂

  10. Anna johnston

    Sexy Dynamite all right! Love all the travel pics, so fun. Your adventures sound amazing and very fufilling, healing a part of you that was bruised and battered. Travel is brilliant. I totes think one of my best ever travel moments involved a date to a baseball game in Boston, we bought Fenway Dogs and drank beers, it was desperately romantic. One of those, you couldn’t write a more romantic script for how that day played. 🙂 Memories.
    Kyoto, wow, I had the exact same revelation. Gotta do this again and again and again! :))))) great post bestie Darlin!!! Xxx

  11. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella

    Teehee I loved this post because I learned a new term and a new pose: sexydynamite! 😛

  12. Margaret

    I LOVED reading this post Hannah!
    You poor sweetheart – being in hospital all on your own. But of course you got through it.
    The photo of Pluto trying to suffocate you is hilarious!!! I love the colourful pants you wore – perhaps that was so your parents could easily find you in a crowd! 😛

  13. msihua

    I am quite liking the sexydynamic post… you could so rock harajuku with that pose.. hahahaha I can’t wait to go back to Japan!!!

  14. Camille

    Those pants 4-year-old you is wearing are hilarious! (That sentence, on the other hand, was atrocious. Apologies.) Here’s to many more wonderful travel experiences!

  15. hungryandfrozen

    There’s a lot of truth in what you say about being a traveler – a lot of things I related to – in fact I just really loved this post. Travel on, platypus!

  16. Emma

    Holy crap you are rockin’ the zubaz!!! I do believe I’m jealous. I also like your dad’s hat – I can see those little tassles keeping out pesky rays of sunlight. And shoo-ing the bugs away. And scaring off snakes. Or not. But I do like the hat.

    I miss France. I want to scream this sentence at the top of my lungs, I feel so strongly. I miss my daily yaourt from Casino, and pain au chocolat whilst reading Harry Potter or watching Roue de la Fortune. I miss les crottes (NOT!). I miss random shutdown days, and my friendly crêperie, and aqueducts, and swimming in the Mediterranean.

    I was happy when I started reading this but now that I have thought through my memories I’m feeling a bit wistful. That’s okay – that’s what travel is about too!

  17. Johanna GGG

    that sexy dynamite photo is brilliant! and the eiffel tower one is exuberant as is the last one but without the famous landmark

    I have to say that one of the joys of traveling is that it puts life into perspective – it is definitely freedom but it also makes you understand so much more and appreciate home

  18. whisperinggums

    … and Mauritius and walking at the bottom of the sea? What about that then? Lovely post but!

  19. Alayna @ Thyme Bombe

    So true about all travel being the best travel. My wanderlust has exploded over the last two years and now I wish we could just pack up our lives and hop to and fro between countries and not really live in any one of them. I wanna be a visitor everywhere!

  20. Cait's Plate

    Aw I loved seeing little Hannah! Best post ever 🙂

  21. Louise

    Great post! I too love your pants aged 4. They may have been a tracking device. I wasn’t beyond putting Lachlan in a bright orange or red shirt in crowded places. I do love your Sexy Dynamite pose. What a lovely lot of travel memories you already have, with so many more ahead of you.

  22. Errign

    Traveling is my favorite. I love the rush of being in a new place, etc. So much fun 🙂 I guess it’s a bit of bragging too, because I love to be able to say – I’ve been there!

  23. Christine @ Merf In Progress

    I used to love traveling. These days I feel like all I do is go to the beach. But that’s got it’s pluses too. But when I was younger, I went to China, Russia, Spain, Hungary, France… ahhh, can’t wait to go abroad again.

    (to be fair in the last few years I have been to Germany, Ireland, and India. But they were work trips so much less fun. I’m going to Paris in October and Germany next summer, again for work)

  24. theresa

    Um…. It looks like Pluto is giving birth to you.

  25. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts

    I read this yesterday and then got caught up in work and didn’t get a chance to comment – which has been playing on my mind all night because I really WANTED to comment right then and there! I really love your stance on travel and enjoyed reading about how you fell into the travel bug (and your childhood memories – sweet!). I think when you take the view that it’s the travel experience, rather than the destination, that’s important, you can’t really go wrong. I’m trying more and more to do that as I get more comfortable with not planning every second of my trips away, but will admit I’m sometimes to cautious to fully throw myself into it!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  26. Kari @ bite-sized thoughts

    *too cautious 😛

  27. Rach

    Girl, you have been to some amazing places! What cool experiences! And the shots of you with Pluto are pretty adorable. 😉

  28. Heidi - Apples Under My Bed

    Hannah all your words (besides the bubble o bill part :P) rang so true to me. I feel the same way about travel. Your post has made me so excited for USA in just over 2 weeks. You really have travelled a lot! I don’t know if I’ll get to Japan – not really on my radar for some reason, even though I know it’d be amazing!
    Heidi xo

  29. Mike

    Wow. Some brilliant travel experiences you have had! My own top one for the day is from Cairo last November. Robbie and I were on camels near the great pyramid; our guide stopped us to take a photo (my current profile pic) when my camel decided to trot off into the desert – I had no idea about how to stop the blighter! Fortunately it decided to stop before I was lost in the desert for all time!

  30. Jamie Walker

    Love the SexyDynamite pose – AMAZING. Nuff said. 😉

  31. Kath (My Funny Little Life)

    I must admit that I still have to discover the joys of travelling. I feel rather unsettled by it. One thing I hope for is to have somebody in my life who travels with me. I feel that I need a familiar companion when I go to a foreign contry where everything is unamiliar (okay, I sound totally pathological now ;)).Actually, I just want somebody to share those experiences with.

    I better stop now. 😀

  32. Junia @ Mis Pensamientos

    didn’t know u were an exchange student in the US!! that’s awesome! i think one of the best experiences for anyone is to live abroad for a bit. i studied in spain and i fell in love with the country :). hence, i am a spanish teacher and i brought my students in spain a couple years ago!

  33. Fiona

    That second photo with Pluto is all kinds of wrong.

  34. penny aka jeroxie

    Gosh! I just love travel. It is kind of a soul searching journey as well

  35. Susan

    I love travelling and because we have a dog now we explore more of australia which is a good thing.

  36. Libby

    Wow. I’ve always wanted to travel and see the world but given my busy life (work, uni etc), flying away was not on my list of priorities. Until now.

    Thanks to your post (and okay, fine, also inspiration from my boyfriend who, too, has the travel bug and several episodes of ‘Bizarre Foods’), I’ve been looking up various travel adventure sites (including Peregrine) and am now planning a Trans Mongolia adventure (Russia>Mongolia>China) to escape the Melbourne winter next year, and planning a trip to South America where I’ll embark on the Inca Trail, boat down the Amazon and snort $3/gram cocaine in Colombia (only kidding about the last one).


  37. loveforfood

    great shots love reading your blog

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