I have to let you in on a little secret – I don’t know how accurate this list is. Out of all the countries that I visited, all the amazing people who I met, and all the wild adventures that I had – it is hard to just pick ten best memories from 2017. However, if you let me ramble on about my past year I would just go on and on – so ten it is (in no particular order).
1.Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
I don’t brag much (at least I hope not), but I am pretty damn proud of myself for this accomplishment.
After 10 days in the Himalayas, trekking an average of 15km uphill a day, came the morning I had waited for. I woke up at 4:00 a.m. in the dark to hike to the highest mountain pass in the world at 5,416m. It was difficult to breathe and it was freezing for the first hour with no sun. All of that was forgotten though when I turned the corner and saw the sign covered with prayer flags.
I let out a huge cheer and was suddenly overcome with emotion. I am so proud of my little legs and big heart for carrying me so far. I am thankful for the friends I met along the way who helped push me. This was one of the most amazing experiences of my lifetime. I can’t wait to conquer more mountains!
2. Seeing two Man Made Wonders of the World… in two days
I had lived in South Korea for a year and a half and I promised myself that I would see the Great Wall of China before I left. It was so close to me – how could I not?
Well the days were ticking down and my time in South Korea were coming to an end. Upon leaving South Korea, I planned to travel for five months before returning home to Canada. My first stop was India, but I managed to book a stopover to Beijing, China where I could enter visa-free for 72 hours. This was plenty of time to see the Great Wall of China.
I spent the first day exploring the city and the second day – before catching my flight to India – I vistied the great wall (read here for the different option to visit the Great Wall of China from Beijing). This was the first time I had ever seen a Man Made Wonder of the World!
The excitement didn’t end there because the same day I flew to India. The next day I drove to Agra and visited the beautiful Taj Mahal.
Talk about checking things off the bucket list!
3. Getting traditional makeup done in Myanmar
While in Myanmar, my friend and I happened to meet some locals. They were friendly and showed us around and answered our questions. One question that we asked was why everyone – boys and girls – were all wearing the yellow paint on their faces. The locals told us that this was considered beautiful in Myanmar. They then told us that they could take us to someone who could do the makeup for us.
This was a truly unique experience and not a service ever offered to tourists, so my friend and I jumped at the opportunity. The moment that we started to get our faces painted locals started crowding around, wanting to get their pictures taken with us.
Once we had our faces covered in yellow paint we began walking around. Immediately we started getting cat called – by both men and women! Locals became so much more interested in us and everyone was calling us beautiful. It was a very interesting cultural experiment to see how differently we were treated once we adapted their local beauty standards.
Read my blog posts about How Traveling Has Changed my View of Beauty.
4. Drinking coffee made from poop in Indonesia
Now this isn’t something that you try everyday – if ever. Yes this coffee is in fact made from poop – well, the coffee beans pooped out by Luwaks. Believe it or not, this shitty coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. I was very hesitant on this drink at first but after visiting the local company that makes the coffee they explained the process to me and it didn’t sound soooo bad. Actually – the coffee was fantastic!
You can read more details about poop coffee and my experience drinking it here: Holy Crap! I Drank Coffee Made from Shit!
5. Sleeping in the desert in India
One amazing memory from India was when we spent the day riding camels in the desert and then got to spend the night in the desert too. You could pay extra to sleep covered in a tent – but I don’t know why you would do that? Sleeping on the sand with my new-made travel friends under the never-ending starry sky was a surreal experience. Definitely a moment that made us think deeply about our lives and how tiny and insignificant we are – in a good way.
6. Night scuba diving in the Philippines
While in the Philippines I ended up getting convinced to sign up to get my advanced scuba diving license after I got offered a special price to do it with my friend. I had not intentions of getting my advanced licence – but boy am I glad that I did!
To get your advanced diving license you have to do five ‘adventure’ dives. My favourite? The night dive!
It was amazing seeing the ocean so full of life during the nighttime. I thought that this would be terrifying but instead it turned out to be exhilarating. It felt as if a whole new secret world was revealed to me.
7. Climbing an active volcano in Indonesia
As a Canadian I have done my fair share of hiking – but man was this a different experience. Climbing up an active volcano was a wild and rousing experience – yet humbling. Some fellow travellers and I hiked to the volcano ourselves – without a tour – and so by the time that we arrived all of the tours were gone and we had the whole rumbling volcano to ourselves.
With no safety railings and no security personnel, I built up the courage to run along the edge of the volcanoes crater. My adrenaline built up with every step I took – just one mis-step to a fiery death. A truly grounding experience.
8. Celebrating the Holi Hai festival in India
Ever since I learned about the Holi Hai Festival of Colours, I had a strong desire to partake in it. With that in mind, you can just imagine my excitement when – after I booked my ticket to India – I found out that I was going to be in the country during the festival!
I ended up spending the unforgettable day with some close friends that I made in Hampi, India – which I am quite happy about. In major cities, like New Delhi, the festival is so wild that they don’t even let women partake in it. Holi Hai in Hampi was a lot more controlled and safe. Even so, it still felt like a rave – except nobody was high on acid – they were all high on life – genuinely.
9. Seeing a wild rhino in Nepal
While I was in Nepal I spent some time volunteering at a farm that was near a National Park. This National Park was full of wild animals, such as hogs, alligators, tigers, and rhinos. One day, my two friends and I got the day off to go out and explore the National Park – with a guide of course. We wanted to explore the good ol’ fashioned way – on foot.
This seemed like a good idea at first, but five hours into bush whacking in 35°C heat we were second guessing our decision. I was about ready to throw in the towel when suddenly one of our guides told us to freeze. He pointed to a spot through the trees and I saw an elephant.
Wait. It wasn’t an elephant – it was a rhino!
I couldn’t believe how massive the beast was. It terrified me. Immediately we all looked for the closest tree that we could climb up for when the wild animal charged.
Next thing we knew, the ground started rumbling – the animal was running! Thankfully (or else I wouldn’t be writing this) it ran in the opposite direction of us.
Once all of our heart rates slowed down we continued on our way. About twenty minutes later we came across another rhinoceros – this time it was even closer!
I was so ecstatic that I saw two wild rhino’s and lived to tell the tale.
10. Eating a Timbit on Canada Day in London
I had been out of Canada for two years and feeling pretty homesick by the time that I made it to England. While I was in England, it happened to be Canada Day and London was putting on a big birthday celebration for us. So with some of my good friends that I was visiting, I headed to the Canada Day Celebration. It was packed!
I couldn’t believe how many people met in Trafalger square to celebrate Canada. The square was a sea of red and white shirts lined up for beer and… could it be true?! Tim Hortons! Yes – they had brought Tim Hortons – Canada’s most beloved coffee chain – to London for the day to hand out free coffee and Timbits (donut holes) to patriotic Canadians. People were literally lined up for hours to get their hands on the Canadian donuts.
I really didn’t want to wait in line for that long and when I saw a girl with a box of donuts I whispered to my friend, “I wonder if she would give me one.” It turns out that I’m not a very quiet whispered because the girl heard me. It was awkward, but she gave me a Timbit!
The party didn’t stop there for it moved out onto the street. Literally a whole street in London was taken over by partying Canadians. It was amazing to feel the love from so far away and to show my English friends how Canadians party!
Stay tuned for the full story on some of these epic adventures!