This year has been incredible for me travel-wise. In 2017, I have set foot on all continents – except for Antarctica. A personal record. I have visited 17 countries (six of which for the first time) and dipped my feet in four of the world’s five oceans. I feel truly blessed.
As this year draws to a close, I found myself thinking back at this intense and unforgettable 12 months and decided to highlight my nine favorite travel memories of 2017.
- Watching the sunset in Goa
I was in South Goa in February for a week-long yoga retreat. The best part of the day? Jumping into the warm waters of the Indian Ocean (well, the Arabian Sea technically) at sunset, right after the afternoon class. Cradled by the waves, I’d watch the sun go down as the light slowly abandoned palm-fringed Patnem Beach. On a particular clear day, with no clouds in the distance, it was magical to see the sun disappear into the straight line of the horizon.
- Meeting elephants in the Okavango Delta
Back in May, I visited Okavango Delta in Botswana – the country with the largest number of elephants on the African continent. The Delta is a part of the Kalahari Desert that floods every year, and there is nothing quite like seeing an elephant in the wild here. I had always imagined elephants roaming in the savannah, which made it kinda odd at first to see them graze undisturbed in water one meter deep.
- Trying izakaya in Nagoya
During a business trip in Japan, I visited an authentic izakaya – something of a Japanese gastropub where people go after work to eat and drink. I am not going to lie: I still have no idea what half of the things we were served are, but the nihonshu (sake) and the biiru (beer) helped wash it all down. One of the highlights was a plate of sashimi with seven different types of fish, to be eaten in a specific order – from the leanest to the fattiest. The izakaya was a unique, if slightly terrifying, eating experience.
- Photographing the Sydney Opera House
As a modern architecture lover and a first-time traveler to Australia, it was inevitable that I would snap way too many pictures of the Sydney Opera House. One of my favorite memories for this year was photographing the iconic building from across the stretch of water by Circular Quay on my last night in town. With no other visitors in sight, I felt lucky to have this spot just to myself. While laughing with a bunch of new friends at my attempts to get that perfect shot despite my limited knowledge of overture and ISO settings, I created a fantastic memory of my time in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
- Hiking in Muir Woods
I have been to Marin County, north of San Francisco, at least eight times (including a three-month stint 10 years ago), which makes the fact I waited until this year to visit Muir Woods all the more shameful. Hiking in this thick forest of redwood sequoias, which the sun rays struggle to penetrate, made me feel one with nature. It also made me feel like I was back in the Jurassic era, as a stegosaurus would not have been out of place in this primordial forest.
- Flying in a helicopter over Victoria Falls
Flying in a chopper is always a thrilling experience, but doing so over the legendary Victoria Falls is truly breathtaking. Approaching the falls, we witnessed the transformation the Zambezi River undertakes, as its waters quickly go from meandering placidly through the Zambian plains to rushing down swirling rapids before plunging into Zimbabwe in one of the most spectacular and show-offy displays nature ever put on.
- Partying the night away in Sant Joan in Barcelona
Few cities in Europe party as hard as Barcelona. Ever year on June 23, the city is almost literally set on fire for the Revetlla de Sant Joan, as Catalans take to the streets to party around bonfires. Armed with coca y cava (the first is a traditional brioche bread with pine nuts and candied fruit, the second Catalunya’s traditional sparkling wine), we started our night in Placa del Sol in the Gracia neighborhood, before heading down to the beaches – which resembled a war zone, with thousands of firecrackers and fireworks being set off by revelers. Not for the faint of heart.
- Houseboating in the Kerala Backwaters
Another incredible memory from my Indian adventure in February: sailing the Kerala Backwaters on board a houseboat. Following an early-morning flight from Mumbai to Kochi, my friend and I boarded the boat (we were thrilled to find out it was all for us) in Alleppey to enjoy an afternoon of sailing through canals and lakes, surrounded by palm trees and Chinese fishing nets. Indian music in the background, we dozed off in the heat in one of the greatest places I have seen in the sub-continent. Pure bliss.
- Diving in the Great Barrier Reef
Just last week, in Queensland, not only did I snorkel, I also went for a dive six meters below the surface. Not much, the scuba divers among you might say, but enough to experience the Great Barrier Reef in a different way. I found breathing into the mouthpiece surprisingly easy, and the overall experience quite exhilarating. And kind of funny, as they didn’t put enough weights on me and I kept going up. Being too light is not a problem I normally experience while on the ground, so the GBR is my new favorite place to be on the planet.