From Orangutans to Uluru: My Top 10 Travel Moments

Sometimes I become so obsessed with my Adventure List that I forget that I have already experienced some pretty amazing things. It can be hard to whittle down the moments that meant the most but I have selected 10 travel moments that I’ll never forget.

1 Seeing an elephant for the first time

I’m a huge animal lover but nothing could prepare me for seeing an elephant up close at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT). My first encounter was with June, a huge grey mass with kind brown eyes. I can remember the feel of her skin. The texture was rough and wrinkled and she was lined with hairs. Tall, majestic and elderly, June had been through a lot of abuse and mistreatment in her 60 odd years. As volunteers, we were responsible for feeding, cleaning and bathing the elephants (amongst other duties) and I’ll never forget the moment that June wandered over to me, rested her trunk ever so gently against my body and rocked back and forth.

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This is a picture I took of myself with June. This was not our first encounter but I wanted an image to capture the beautiful experience of being so close to her. Sadly, June is no longer with us, but I will never forget the warmth, wisdom and gentleness that emanated from her. You just do not get the same experience with such animals in a zoo.

2 The first flight

I remember this flight for all the wrong reasons but I think it’s important to give an honest portrayal of what the travel experience is like. I flew from London to Dubai and onwards to Bangkok. I was feeling a mix of sickeningly anxious, excited, deeply homesick and also guilty. Yes, it was an exhausting combination! I thought of my mum, dad and brother. I watched Brave on the flight and burst into tears. Truth be told, I felt this way for the first three days. Anxiety was a brute that had me in a headlock and Bangkok is a beast of a city to start off in. After those three days, I calmed down and managed to enjoy the chaos of the city. In hindsight, I’m so glad I stuck it out and didn’t flee home.

3 Arriving in Vegas

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I didn’t even know that Vegas was on my radar until I went there to see Godney, sorry Britney, so I wasn’t prepared for the feeling that came over me when I got to my hotel room at Harrah’s. A wave of ‘Oh my God, I’m in Vegas!’ hit me complete with the ol’ butterflies in the stomach feeling. Vegas is such an intimidating, overwhelming and fun city. To be there, all on my own, was immense.

Las Vegas is a heady mix of the worlds wonders; there’s Paris, Venice, New York and a giant Sphynx. It’s a true assault on the senses.

4 Getting head-butted by a camel

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It’s really important for me to defend animal rights and my blog is one vehicle through which I can do that. I must let you know that I would not ride a camel now, however I did in the past. This experience was so memorable because it was so odd. In Maya Riviera, Mexico, we took a family camel ride along the beach. I was at the back of the procession sitting atop a muzzled camel with an attitude problem. We took a break and descended from our steeds. As I got off, my camel nestled his head against my shoulder and I leaned my head against his (BIG MISTAKE!) The impending whack to my head left me seeing stars and flying birds. I got back on my camel but quickly had to come back down due to the fact that I felt dizzy and disorientated. Conclusion: I will not be riding a camel again. At least not a muzzled one that hates me.

5 Performing physiotherapy on a tiger

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Back at WFFT, there was a tiger named Miao (which translates to ‘tiger’ in Thai.) Miao had been kept in a cage at a petrol station for his whole life and because of this, needed lifelong physiotherapy administered like clockwork. Some of these sessions fell in the early hours of the morning. The dedicated vet, Louise, would be assisted by various volunteers who got to see this stunning animal up close and personal. With the sounds of crickets and gibbons singing in the background and a bright light enhancing the gorgeous golds and reds of this startling creature whilst getting the opportunity to touch his coat, this memory was unforgettable.

6 Drinking wine in Venice

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Venice is such an enthralling city to visit. Being under the influence of a large bottle of white wine only makes it more enchanting. Sitting beside the canals, watching the lights play across the water and gondolas spirit passengers whilst slightly intoxicated, was mesmerising.

7 Seeing Shinee in Paris

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This might be an appropriate time to tell you that I’m s KPOP geek as well as a Britney Spears fan. I think my coolness rating just dipped by about 500 points but there we are. Back when I was 19, I attended a Shinee concert in Paris with two friends. Paris is not my favourite city. I want to love Paris but it’s never gripped me the way that I wanted it to. Nonetheless, the Shinee concert cements Paris as a dream destination.

8 Seeing Orangutans in Borneo

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A lot of my travels revolve around animals and wildlife. My first solo trip involved volunteering with animals in Thailand. When I stopped off in Borneo, it was part of my solo year abroad and the draw for me was the opportunity of seeing these stunning animals in action. Driving through Borneo opened my eyes. There are palm oil plantations everywhere and the land is scorched, black and barren. Stumbling across Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre is a breath of fresh air. The gorgeous forest is home to many orangutans (as well as macaques…a trip to Ubud’s monkey forest confirms that macaques are not my favourite animal.) The people here do amazing work and volunteers truly prop this place up. It’s well worth a visit if you find yourself in Malaysia.

9 The night scene in South Korea

South Korea is a place where people work hard and party harder. It’s like Japan but with a grittier, rougher edge. Seoul was one place on my bucket list that I was so excited to see, and it didn’t disappoint! The night life in Seoul is far more multicultural than I imagined it would be. There’s a strong American military presence and endless travellers. The bars and clubs are fun and wild but the feel is still strongly and authentically Korean. If you like the nightlife in Tokyo (where you’ll find hardcore Japanese businessmen passed out in the crouching position after one too many shots of Sake…), then you’ll love Seoul.

10 Camping out under the stars in Uluru

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Uluru (otherwise known as Ayer’s Rock) is a place of huge cultural significance to the Aboriginal people of Australia. You take a long bus ride through arid land towards huge rock foundations in the middle of nowhere, basking in horrendous heat. As part of my trip exploring these ancient lands, we camped out under the stars. It gets so hot out here that you need to start early if you want to survive the walk. Sleeping around a campfire under the stars was absolute magic.

So, these are 10 of my favourite travel moments. There are many others, but I had to be strict with myself!

What are some of your favourite memories of travel? The experiences that you just can’t get out of your mind? I could do with some inspiration 😉

All my love,

K

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