This 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.)
Travel, 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.
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.
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.
When 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.
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.
During 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.
If 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…