Been There. Done That. Ready to Go Again
Covering the upper third of the available wall-space above my desk is a large, vintage-style world map. Upon closer inspection, the map is liberally dotted with colorful pins indicating the places where I've traveled - a time-honored tradition among avid travelers since the advent of push pins. While I personally derive great joy in the ritual of pinning locations on my map when returning from a journey abroad, the deeper pleasure is derived from reflecting on the experiences had in a given pinned location, and the memories represented by each individual pin.
Even with an entire box of pins adorning my map, my eyes inevitably drift across those wide swaths of smooth, laminated paper that for the time being remain unpinned. Given the implied challenge those empty spaces represent (I'm not paranoid - you're paranoid!), I'm usually quite reluctant to dedicate my limited time and resources to return to places I've already been. I mean, it's not like I can double-pin the same spot, right?
Yet from personal experience I can wholeheartedly say that yes, there are some places that are most certainly more than worth returning to. Below I've assembled a list of my top six favorite travel experiences (in no particular order) and the worthy destinations where you too can sample - or resample - those same experiences for yourself.
Cheetah Encounter, Livingstone, Zambia
As an animal lover, it's understandable that some of my favorite travel experiences revolve around encountering animals in the wild. Of these encounters, the most thrilling and interactive by far was the Cheetah Encounter excursion my wife and I experienced in Livingstone, Zambia (For an amusing recounting of the details, see the blog post: When a Cheetah Licks Your Head, Try Not to Laugh). Having the thrill of being able to walk with, pet and be licked by these gorgeous over-sized felines still hasn't worn off. Situated near Natural Wonder of the World, Victoria Falls, engaging with these big, spotted kitties nearly caused me forget about that 'other' attraction just outside of town.
Hot Air Ballooning, Cappadocia, Turkey
Between entire cities carved out of soft volcanic rock and the grin-inducing forms of the politely-named "fairy chimneys" it's hard to believe you're not exploring a galaxy far, far away. For the most incredible way to take in this surreal landscape I recommend a trip in a hot air balloon. Adrift on the winds, such an excursion will allow you to alternate between soaring far above and skimming the surface of this amorphous wonderland. And If it weren't for parking issues and making three-point turns, I'd be willing to suggest riding in a hot air balloon as the nicest way to travel, period.
Zip-lining, Jodhpur, India
Generally speaking, I'm a fan of zip-lining, having had the occasion to do so numerous times; mostly in jungle settings. While always fun, the problem with these "canopy tours" is that often there's little to see other than branches and trees whizzing through your peripheral as you hum along to the next platform. But in the city of Jodhpur, India, one can have the same thrill of zip-lining with a much more evocative backdrop - in this case the imposing Mehrangarh Fort perched above the ethereal 'Blue City'. Beginning and ending from atop the fort's massive ramparts, guests will circumnavigate an artificial lake while staring out at the boxy houses of monochrome blue that look like something right out of an M.C. Escher drawing. So if you like your adventure with a heaping side of scenery, this is the place to do it.
Shark Diving, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Returning to the animal encounter theme, the only thing I enjoy more than seeing animals, is seeing them underwater. I've had the chance to experience a few shark feeding dives, and each time it was both thrilling and a tiny bit terrifying. What made my experience in Bora Bora's lagoon so memorable was the sudden appearance of three 8-10 foot Lemon Sharks, who casually snapped up a floating morsel mere inches above my head. Being in the open water with creatures longer and fatter than I am is a humbling and exhilarating experience; which brings me to my next entry.
Diving With Manta Rays, Nusa Penida, Indonesia
About a 45 minute boat ride off the east coast of Bali is a beautiful jewel of an island called Nusa Penida. There, near a large head of coral is what's called a "cleaning station" where larger animals gather to have their dead skin and parasites "cleaned" by a host of smaller fish. On my visit, there were about a dozen manta rays present - each about 12 feet long head to tail and wingtip to wingtip - gracefully soaring through the blue, at times mere inches from myself. Mesmerizing is not strong enough a word to describe what it's like to swim alongside them, and this animal encounter ranks extremely high on my list of all-time life experiences.
Hanging Out, Costa Verde, Brazil
Maybe hanging out doesn't sound all that exciting, but anyone who's been to Brazil's Costa Verde is sure to understand why I've included this lush, coastal region as part of my list. Ranging from a night out on the town in Rio de Janeiro, a stroll through the rain forest on pedestrian-only Ilha Grande, or exploring the quaint, cobblestone streets of super-charming Parati, whether doing something or nothing it was always an amazing experience. In a perfect world, this is where I'd want to live. I would also have less grays, six-pack abs and a pet cheetah, but that's a story for another time.
Insufficient Data...Sort of
According to the handy app Been (#beenapp) I've only managed to visit 30% of total world countries (33% of Europe, 33% of Asia, 55% of North America/Caribbean, 50% of South America, 10% of Oceania, 14% of Africa and 100% of Antarctica). This means that however many my travels have been, there's still the majority to go. Knowing that each future pin represents a potentially incredible experience, the aforementioned list is always subject to change. The fun part is getting out there and finding those experiences that will make their way onto this list. That, and of course, pinning it on my giant map.
Have You Been There and Done That?
If you can relate to the immense satisfaction of accumulating life-altering experience when traveling, show it off with our Been There Done That Tee from Custom Travel Art.