14 Travel Highlights From 2014
I’ve got a lot of travel-specific highlights from this year, those brief moments of exhilaration that come and go swiftly and smoothly but stick around forever. Here are my top 14, in chronological order.
1. My first morning in India.
People were staring, I was terrified and nervous, but I was also exited, happy and knew I was exactly where I was meant to be.
2. Being a superstar downtown, Mumbai.
I’d heard over and over how Indians stop non-Indians for photos. I’d also read not to stop for every single request, or there will be a mob in no time. My first time downtown, lots of people asked for photos – some fathers were even shoving their babies at me (which was a bit weird!). This lady’s husband asked for a photo of me with his wife, so I said “sure!” I’m 5’4″ and have never felt like more of a giant.
3. Experiencing the safest Holi, ever.
Before I went to India this year, it dawned on me that I would be there during Holi. I became anxious and nervous that I not miss out. When I was strongly cautioned (basically forbidden) to go out on my own as a white foreigner during the festival, I was reassured I would still be able to participate in Holi through the school where I was volunteering, with the kids I was quickly falling in love with. Read all about that wonderful day here.
4. Watching the sunset over the Arabian sea.
The sunset felt alien and weird to me, and I soaked in every second. This was a surreal “I’m in India” moment. I sat by the water, surrounded by Indians milling about, and the sun, an alien orb, descended into the foggy horizon. It was magic.
5. Riding the train in India.
Because who goes to Mumbai (or any part of India) and doesn’t dream of taking the train?
6. Riding a scooter in Goa.
I had a ball in Goa with Miss Rachel of Hippie in Heels. During one night out, she demanded I hop on the back of her friend’s scooter, her reasoning being that everyone should ride a scooter once, of course. So off I scuttled. This is the only photo I took on that ride, and it’s a bit blurry, but it shows how much fun I was having. Sounds cheesy, but feeling the whip of wind through my hair was pretty great.
7. Visiting my kids at home.
While in India, I fell in love again and again and again. These kids have a way of crawling into a person’s heart cavities and staying there. I will NEVER forget them.
During my final week in Mumbai, I was invited to visit them in their homes. They all live in varying degrees of slum homes. Some are huts of plastic and cardboard, others are cement walls. What I learned is that these people are normal despite what I thought about slums before my visit, despite what overseas charity commercials would have us think (cue Sarah MacLachlan music) . They are happy and they carry on. Are they underprivileged? Sure, in many ways. But this is their normal, and it doesn’t impede them in their happiness and their own existence. Poverty ≠ unhappiness.
8. Sunrise at the Taj Mahal
I waited years and years to see the Taj in person, and I dressed those years with lots of daydreaming. My sunrise visit to the Taj did not disappoint. For a few brief seconds, I had the whole complex practically to myself. An unparalleled experience.
*Sidenote – Varanasi would have gone after this, but all of Varanasi was a trip. I couldn’t pick just one moment.
9. Playing with a baby elephant in Nepal!
Another experience I won’t soon forget. I’ve never known this kind of joy, the sheer thrill of playing!
10. Reuniting with best friends in Qatar.
I was so excited to see these two beauties that I chose them over Mount Everest!
11. More reunions!
I flew to England from Qatar, reunited with my friend Kathy and a long lost soulmate, someone I hadn’t seen in over 9 years. Instant reconnection and hilarities ensued.
*Sidenote – NYC would follow this, but when I think about it, that whole trip was too fun to single out just one moment – reuniting with beloved high school friends, going to a speakeasy, dancing the night(s) away, riding the ferry, eating all the great food, etc etc etc. How can a girl choose!
12. A trip to The Pas.
Summers of my childhood were spent in Northern Manitoba. Time was divided between a small town called The Pas and a cabin 20 minutes north on Clearwater Lake. I’ve never taken a boyfriend to visit that cabin until this year. Saj loved it and fit right in. He even went swimming in the frigid water twice! That water is frozen most of the year; I’ve been in May when shards of ice were still sticking up all over the place. I guess we both like cold water?
Anyway, this was a very special trip. That cabin smells of happy childhood memories, and I was really pleased to be able to share that with my guy.
13. Watching these birds scuttle around on the beach – Ocean Shores, Washington.
It might seem random for me to choose just this moment from my trip to Washington State. After all, I reunited with my friend Gisela and we had an epic week-long road trip through a cozy and special part of the world. We ate some incredible food, went hiking and even visited Forks. A lot of the moments were great, but nothing brings me more joy than being exposed to animals being animals. If I had some snacks and a lawn chair, I could have watched the antics of these birdies for hours. They would run into the water as it receded, and when the returning waves lapped at their wee toes, they would run away. Some would test the limits and lingered longer than others, but eventually, they all ran in and out of the water, mimicking the pattern of the ocean.
14. Having the most ridiculous weekend in Arizona.
This is a bit of a cheat. My other travel moments from this year were moments, whereas this is a whole weekend. But this weekend was such STUPID gobs of fun that I have to include it on its own. Looking back on my whole year, this is probably the best weekend I had. Even Lea said of the weekend that it was good I left when I did because she needed a break from all the fun. That amount of ridiculousness is not sustainable!
What are a few of your travel highlights from 2014?
Wherever you are, Happy New Year! Here’s to finding space in the margins.