Another year is coming to an end and once again, I have so many wonderful travel memories. This year brought so many interesting and exciting moments that it was hard to narrow this post down to just a few of the highlights (although some easily jumped out at me). In 2013, I also passed my 30-country mark, bringing my official countries visited total to 31.
Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite travel moments from 2013:
Safari in Kruger National Park
I wanted to perhaps point out that one time I almost collided with a giraffe being chased by three lionesses. Had that gone any other way, that would’ve easily made my “worst moments” list. But since we were able to escape a potential disaster, I have to point out this heart-stopping moment as being a pretty incredible one. But at the same time, I want to say that these safaris in general were all one big, great travel memory of this year. One safari is never like another; you will never know what you will see or what you will discover. Seeing wildlife in their natural habitat is really unlike anything else. They’re just so happy and….free. Seeing animals in any sort of captivity situation after this is just downright depressing. There was one moment that I found particularly touching, and it was actually from our game lodge. A herd of elephants, maybe about a dozen of them, were just playing together in the river. Large adults and babies. They were cleaning each other off, splashing around, flapping their enormous ears, jumping and stomping, and trumpeting. It makes you think of the elephants in other parts of the world, shackled and kept in tight spaces, lonely, mistreated, and forced to put on stupid circus acts for the enjoyment of humans. In general, this type of trip can really be an enlightening one.
Seeing the Northern Lights
This has been a huge goal for mine for sometime now and I’m so happy I can now cross this one off the bucket list. Here’s one thing you don’t often think about when it comes to seeing the northern lights: they’re most visible in places that are freezing. As such, these places are prone to crazy amounts of snow. The one thing you need in order to successfully see the northern lights (aside from solar flare-ups, which isn’t always something you get either) is clear skies. We encountered snowstorm after snowstorm, so I was prepared to go home without really getting to see the northern lights. Luckily, our final night was clear and the solar activity level was high, so we were able to see the northern lights for a couple hours. In a way, I’m glad that the first couple nights of northern light viewing were so unsuccessful, because it made me appreciate just how lucky it is to experience such a rare phenomena.
Relaxing at the Four Seasons in Bora Bora
Between working, finishing college, moving to a new state, and all of the crazy adventures I’ve had this year, sometimes it’s nice to just take a timeout and relax. There is really no better place to do this than the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora. I’m not usually one to just lay around all day, even on a beautiful beach. Eventually, I’ve gotta do or see something. But this is one spot in this world that is so absolutely stunning (not just the natural settings, but the property as well) that you’re perfectly content with just taking it all in and enjoying the surroundings.
Lion Park in Johannesburg
So, here’s another one for South Africa. It’s really hard to pick a specific moment at this place, so I just wanted to highlight this place in general as one of my favorite travel moments of 2013. Animal lovers with a bit of an adventurous side will absolutely love Lion Park. I honestly can’t decide what exact moment was more amazing; being able to cuddle with lion cubs and hyenas, or the cheetah walk. Also, I want to point out that this isn’t a typical zoo and that the animals here appeared to be treated very well, so that made me happy.
Seeing Humpback Whales in Cape Cod
This is the third thing on my list this year that involves seeing animals in nature, because those moments really are some of the best ones. You never know what’s going to happen when you go on a whale watching tour; you may only get a glimpse of a fin or you may not even get anything. I was lucky enough to see several whales and their calfs up close, and it was such an amazing few hours!
Going on a Ghost Tour at the Stanley Hotel
It may seem minimal compared to the other things on this list, but yes, seeing the spooky property that inspired Stephen King to create “The Shining” was a highlight for me, but particularly the ghost tour. I’m a big horror fan and I also absolutely enjoy tours of supposedly haunted areas (I’m a semi-skeptic; the idea of ghosts isn’t exactly logical, but, I want to believe) and this was all that wrapped into one. You’re also taken to areas you wouldn’t have otherwise known about or had access to. Hands down, this is the best ghost tour I’ve ever been on and it was great to hear about all the creepy events that have occurred in the hotel over the years and it was also fascinating to learn about the hotel’s history.
Bring on 2014!