Recently I’ve started listening The Travel Diaries podcast by Holly Rubenstein and I’ve really been enjoying it. Each episode is an interview with a different person and follows the same format, going through the different chapters of the ‘travel diaries’ of their lives so far. As well as providing tips and an interesting insight into lots of new places, I find it fascinating how differently people approach travel but also how many similarities there are. I think almost every episode I’ve listened to has recommended India and the vibrancy that the country has. There’s also been a fair share of people embarrassed about one of the places they’ve mentioned because it feels too ‘mainstream’ or won’t be a good enough answer. But even with a whole world to explore it’s natural that we’ll take some comfort in familiarity.
It’s made me think a lot about my own travel diaries to date and consider how they might change as I go through life. So this post follows the same format but shares my own chapters so far. There are a number of repeat places you’ll notice – blame it on my indecisiveness of the fact that the countries I like, I really really like.
Chapter 1: Earliest Childhood Travel Memory
Like many early memories, it’s difficult to know what I actually remember and what I’ve invented a memory for having seen the photographs. However, I think my earliest travel memory was a trip with my parents to Meiringen in Switzerland. I remember going and getting my first ever hiking boots which were an incredible bright pink with multi-coloured rainbow laces. I also remember going on a chair lift for the first time. To begin with I was terrified as mum, dad and their bags sat down on the chairs and started to move away from me. I was lifted up by the operator and placed on their knees just before the bar came down, which to me felt like right at the last minute, before we set off. Once I’d got rid of the worry that mum and dad were leaving me I remember just being able to see such a long way, hear the sound of the bells on the cows and looking for marmots. I still love chairlifts to this day.
Another early travel memory was when we went to France, at which point I was a couple of years older and my little brother had been born. I mainly remember it being incredibly hot. However I also remember going to the bakery at the campsite in the morning to pick up croissants and a baguette. We’d pack up a ‘trundle buggy’ and get ready to go to the beach, then my little brother would chew the top off the baguette on the way. It’s strange how it’s some of the more mundane memories like that baguette which stick with you, rather than the things we did and saw.
Chapter 2: First place I fell in love with
Now this is a really difficult one as I feel like I fall in love with almost everywhere I go and all for different reasons. Switzerland is the first place I fell in love with and it’s the one I’m mentioning here because it’s also the first place I remember, although I think I was probably a bit too young to fall in love with it as a country on that first trip. I was lucky to go to Switzerland multiple times on walking holidays as I grew up and each time I fell in love with it more and more. I still feel happiest somewhere where there are mountains.
The scenery was incredible and I loved being in the mountains and seeing the lakes. I loved how happy it made my parents to be there and I enjoyed the ice creams we’d have after completing a walk, usually accompanied by a fabulous view or the sound of tinkling cow bells. It was a magical place and somewhere I always remember fondly. It’s been a while since I was last there so I’d love to return and experience the country as an adult, as well as introducing it to James who has so far never been.
Chapter 3: Place I learned the most about myself
This is a surprisingly difficult one to answer as I feel that everywhere you go shapes you in some way and helps you to learn more about yourself. There are also a lot of experiences I had when I was younger that I learned a lot from, but in reality didn’t learn those lessons until much later when I reflected back on those experiences. That being said, I think the place I probably learned most about myself was possibly New Zealand, simply due to the amount of time that I spent there. The longer you spend somewhere, the more chance there is to learn about yourself.
Going to New Zealand made me realise just how much I love the outdoors and spending time walking. I developed more of an interest in sustainability and the environment. I realised that it was OK to take things at a slower pace and that life isn’t all about racing between things. I also learned that I could be adventurous, but that being adventurous isn’t all about skydiving or bungee jumping (neither of which I actually did but I saw plenty of others do that). It felt like the start of becoming more of a ‘proper adult’ and it helped me to consider the balance of different things in my life and how much time they take up.
Chapter 4: All time favourite destination
If you haven’t gathered so far… basically anywhere with mountains! I love walking and I love great views so anywhere I can get out in the mountains is a great place in my opinion. Switzerland, Austria and New Zealand are all among my favourite places with New Zealand probably getting the crown of all-time favourite.
What does New Zealand have over Austria and Switzerland? Well it’s not landlocked so you can enjoy lake and mountain scenery, but also enjoy beautiful coastlines. I’ve heard some people say that they are almost disappointed when they go to New Zealand and don’t find the whole country covered in dramatic mountain ranges, but if you’ve got the time to explore then you can appreciate a whole range of different landscapes instead.
A favourite destination doesn’t have to just be a country though. If I had to pick my favourite city I’d find that difficult too, mainly because there isn’t one thing I can pin down which makes me like a city. I say I’m not really a city person but actually I’ve been to a few I really like. Bath, York and Rome are among my favourites in Europe and I think that’s mainly because of the history. Further afield, I really liked Sydney, New York and Boston which are all much bigger and more bustling but there was something about each one which appealed.
Chapter 5: Hidden Gem
I was delighted when Peter Grunert (former group editor of Lonely Planet Travel Magazine) stated that his hidden gem was Bradford. So is mine! A lot of people laugh or act very confused when I mention Bradford as a good place to go for a weekend break in the UK but it’s very underrated. It possibly wouldn’t be top of my bucket list if I was travelling from abroad but if you’re based in the UK it’s definitely somewhere to consider. It’s cheap, has great food, the media museum is fantastic and there’s very easy access to some beautiful places like Haworth and Saltaire close by.
Slightly further afield (and perhaps not that hidden) I’d recommend the Eastern Algarve in Portugal. Lots of people holiday in the Algarve every year but most people after flying into Faro head west along the coast to golf courses, holiday resorts and the dramatic coastline. Head east and you’ll find it less full of English tourists, limited package holidays and a slightly more authentic experience. The beaches are stunning, the food is delicious and you might even see some wild flamingos.
Chapter 6: Place I’d never go back to
I don’t like the word never, it seems so final. I’m not sure there’s ever been anywhere I’ve gone that I’ve hated so much I would never go back, but there have been a number of places that I wouldn’t recommend. Top of that list is probably Hong Kong. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I went, I enjoyed my time there and I think I learned a lot from it. It’s unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been and I think it’s important to keep going to different places. However, it was definitely a culture shock and I was unprepared for the oppressive humidity whilst feeling jet-lagged. Whilst I can’t definitively say I’d never go back (and I know some of the things I’d do if I did), there are other places that I would rather have a stopover.
Chapter 7: Next Big Adventure
Currently, the next big adventure feels like anywhere that isn’t home. This summer the only trip we’ve made has been to see family so anywhere but here feels like quite an adventure.
However, the next big adventure will hopefully be our postponed honeymoon in 2021. In theory we’ll be doing my dream trip to Canada which had originally been planned for this summer. In reality, we’re still not convinced it’ll be able to happen next year but we’re keeping our fingers crossed. Regardless, I think the next long-haul trip we do will be to Canada.
Chapter 8: Top of my Bucket List
I’m constantly adding places to my bucket list whenever I learn about somewhere new. Canada is right at the top and has been for a while but as that’s somewhere we’re likely to go soon it feels a bit of a cheat to say.
Long-haul, other than Canada, Patagonia is pretty high in my list and I could also be tempted by Costa Rica, Peru or parts of the USA. Shorter haul, I’d love to go to Iceland or Croatia because the scenery in both places looks stunning (although I definitely wouldn’t want to go swimming in the sea in Iceland!). In the UK I’d really like to see the Pembrokeshire coast, and go up into the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. So that’s just a brief round-up of the very many places that actually are on my travel bucket list.
What do your travel diaries look like so far?