My Five Favorite Places Around the World

I think my friends can attest to the fact that I can never shut up about all the beautiful places that I have been to and how they’ve made an impact on me. Indeed, it’s true. The world just has that much to offer that my amazement is boundless.

However, I’ve decided to pick five that are my favourite places in the world.

Number 5. Los Roques, Venezuela

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Years before when I was in Caracas I was told about Los Roques, a small archipelago off the northern coast of Venezuela that at the time I was told was a popular destination. I knew nothing about it, of course. Nevertheless, I boarded the small plane, that flew me to a small island, where I got on a small boat, that took me to a much smaller island. There were very few people on this beautiful island. Just myself, my companion, another couple, and a handful of people who prepared the food, served as snorkelling guides and set up the hammocks. The island was very small, so small that there were only a few palm trees. There was nothing else around, no other land in view of the naked eye. It was one of the most tranquil and solitary moments of my entire life. I highly recommend that you should try to find yourself on a tiny island at least once.

Number 4. Camiguin Island, Philippines

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Last year, at the very start of our island hopping adventure in the Philippines, our first stop was the island of Camiguin. From the port of Baligoan, the island was in clear view. It was an incredibly amazing spectacle. The small island had a volcano in the middle and therefore managed to give a very picturesque, very island look. The island is only about 9 kilometers in diameter, though it is quite full; full of people, of life, of culture and of wonder. There were several waterfalls, numerous choices for snorkelling, giant clam farms and scuba diving, hot springs and cold springs, plenty of beautiful beaches and even a sunken cemetery. This is one of my favorite places in the world because it feels very much as if, Mother Earth has so much to show us, even in just a very small space.

Number 3. Angkor Wat, Siam Reap, Cambodia

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I will forever be fascinated by the ruins that that been left behind and sometimes forgotten. I feel that these majestic temples are a testament of the wonder of humanity. Empires are built and empires fall but we persist. We’ll build magnificent empires and enormous symbols of our ingenuity and prowess but we are human so we will err, we will be conquered, destroyed, forgotten at times, but we persist. We are still here. We move, we fight we run away and we take back. This is what these ancient beauties say to me when I walk through their halls.  Just a few kilometres from the town of Siam Reap in Cambodia, Angkor Wat is a magnificent complex of many different but equally majestic temples. I spent a couple of days going from one to another, exploring every dark corner and dusty corridor while my mind begins to imagine what they walls could have said if they could talk.

Number 2. Machu Picchu, Peru

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Nothing can ever equal to the feeling of being at Machu Picchu. At some 8000 feet on top of a mountain surrounded by mysterious peaks, sits Machu Picchu. A marvelous human achievement, Machu Picchu is a stone city designed with precision and offers only a hint of the might of the ad    ncient Incas. At the end of my tour, the guide told us that the Incas considered the mountains to be very sacred and powerful. And perhaps we should take some time and talk to the mountains. I wandered away from the crowd and gratefully found myself in a quiet and deserted area. I sat on the ledge, stared at the beautiful mountains that surrounded me and possibly for the first time in my life, I felt truly connected to the Pacha Mama, the people in my life, and I felt somehow that I was precisely meant to be exactly where I was, at that exact moment; sitting at Machu Picchu talking to the apus.

Number 1. Cabo Polonio

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Sitting at the table with the friends of my friend in Montevideo our talk turned to travel and where might I, the yanqui spend my time in Uruguay. It was, I remember clearly, unanimously decided that I must simply go to Cabo Polonio. So, I did. I discovered that Cabo Polonio is a very small beach town on the coast of Uruguay and part of what is known as the Uruguayan Riviera. It is isolated and separated from everything else by 7 miles of sand dunes and accessible only by dune buggies. It is beautiful. The sun was always bright and with the absence of artificial light we are bathed in moonlight in the evenings. The air tastes fresh, the water enticing, and in the distance a colony of sea lions play. This is my most favorite place in the entire world. I hope it is more or less the same the next time I go back.

Click here, to read more about Cabo Polonio. 

*It seems I really like places that are far and isolated from everything

The Proverbial Reset Button

Every year, on January first, whether it bears any truth or not, there is a general consensus that everyone is allowed to dream big once more, allowed to imagine the best of themselves, allowed to “restart.”

Last year, around this time, I was on week four of my travels in South East Asia. This time around, I am on my 5th month of a one-year lease on an apartment. I can’t pretend that I’m not itching to step-out the door and just go. So, now that a full year has passed since I was last wandering, it is sometimes hard to find that full-of-life-feeling that envelops me when I am out there. The excitement of being back in Boston has gone, the madness of drinking the summer away is well over, and I have more than fallen in to the routine of monotony. Everything is still. With snow banks on very corner, bare trees standing stiff, and frigid air filling my lungs, everything is frozen. Even my wanderlust.

It’s been about half a year since I put a pause on my travel, and I have about half a year before I go off again. I cannot help but feel unmotivated. I feel too far away from the high I felt after returning from a journey and too far away from the anticipation of the next trip. But if there is one thing that travel has taught me it is to embrace every minute and devour each day with fervent thirst. And so, while the first of the year doesn’t necessarily start anything new in my life, I’m going to take its figurative meaning literally. I’m deleting the feeling of stagnancy. I’m raising my excitement bar. I’m refreshing.

While I might not be crossing borders there is still so much to do. I’m dreaming of a winter filled with ski-trips, ice-skating, hot cocoas, and warm liquors. I’m picking up my pencil and work on those projects that I have put aside. I’m going to concentrate on those resolutions I made up. I’m going to pretend I’m trying to go to the gym. I will join friends and have good times. I will live my life as if I was on traveling, because life is only as good as you make it.

Solo She-Travelers

I rarely think about the fact that I am a woman and that at times I travel alone. It has, for me, become the way things are. Years before, they were two things that did not go together. I recall my hesitation at venturing out to Latin America on my own, fearing my own femininity. But I dared to anyway, and I discovered the only thing to be afraid of out in the big, bad world are my own fears.

There is such a thing as “women solo travel,’ I would imagine there are websites catering to such inquiries. Providing women with advice and cautionary tales about what to do, how to behave and what precautions to take. I don’t know what they are, I had never bothered to find out. So, I’m afraid I might be giving the idea that solo travel for a woman is as piece of cake. Because, it really is.

When I was 20 years old I was living in Spain and more than eager to go on a solo adventure. Embracing the open road, taking myself wherever my heart desired and embarking on a journey as carefree as I could make it. I was so eager to go solo that although the trip was planned for me to meet with my best friend, I decided to fly to Paris earlier to have a few days alone.

For days I explored the city of Paris, getting lost often that I gave in to the concrete reality that I had no idea where I was going. With that at hand, things became much easier. There were times that I had to double-check my decisions. Was it really wise to still be walking around past 10 in the evening alone? Should I sit in the area or move somewhere with more people? I have been so conditioned to believe that in every corner lurks someone ready and willing to harm me that while I feel my natural inclination is to feel unafraid, my mind automatically assumes the danger.

No harm came to me then, and whether it was luck or the facts of statistics on my side that it is more common for women to travel alone than men, I’ll never truly know.

What I do know is that when I took up the opportunity to travel alone to go to Montevideo, Uruguay and begin what would turn out to be a 4 country trip, I only began to hesitate because many of my friends had voiced their concerns about a 25 year old traveling alone in South America. I heeded their warnings and became slightly worried but I must have been too excited to care and a combination of enough naivete and confidence that I didn’t put much thought into it.

Throughout all my travels however, I haven’t had anything awful happen, though by luck or chance, I have experienced mostly the goodness from strangers. Whether it’s from a strange man who shares their blanket on a cold bus in Bolivia or discovering other fellow travelers who become friends. It’s not to say that I don’t recognize the possibilities of danger, and I’m sure it all varies on the destination and many other factors but I’m grateful that I have, through experience, been freed from fear of traveling alone as a woman. 

Perhaps I only have a false sense of safety because I happened to go to the right places, or have just had extremely good luck but for the moment, I believe that women don’t have much to be afraid of. I hope it stays that way for a long time. 

The Grand Palace

A golden city in the middle of an urban jungle

IMG_0905Guarded by demons of gold

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And of all color

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And sizes

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It’s a place of worship

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Of offerings

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And incense, and a carabao(?) bull(?) statue

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It’s the home of the Emerald Buddha (who you’re not allowed to take a picture of)

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No, wait, it was this one:

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The point is, it’s awesome. Go there.

But don’t sneak in pretending to be Thai.

(And this is an example of hurried blogging because I am going to be late to work.)