Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the best travel experiences I’ve ever had. Then, with all the things being cancelled and everyone staying in, I began to wonder if my cancelled trips really mattered. However, that then raised a bigger question of does travel matter? And I’m here to tell you it does. It’s critical to my well-being personally but I also truly believe it’s critical to a well-balanced world.
So Why Does Travel Matter so Much?
During all the covid-19 mess, I kept seeing things on social media about how I shouldn’t complain about a cancelled trip because other people have lost their jobs, their homes, etc. And while I completely understand that there are those way worse off than me, I had to learn it’s okay to have my feelings too. So far this year, we’ve had to cancel many a trip, and it has definitely been a hard pill to swallow, and that’s okay.
Now please do not get me wrong, I don’t pretend to downplay other’s pain, but I don’t downplay the importance of travel either. When you really think about it, the whole reason why we know about other’s troubles is because someone somewhere traveled and told you about it. Either that, or you’ve been there yourself. Therefore, travel really does matter. It allows us to understand other cultures, other beliefs, and other humans in general. You can’t truly understand a place until you’ve been there.
That’s why I’ve decided to share my best travel experiences of all time. This is not to brag (okay maybe a little ;)) but to share the experiences that have shaped me. You can add them to your own bucket lists and hopefully be inspired to travel (once it’s really safe again). Every single one of these experiences is one that really stuck out to me and one that I do believe has shaped who I am.
Best Travel Experiences
Now for those of you who don’t me, here’s a bit of background. I’ve traveled pretty extensively in the US, Australia, and New Zealand. I’ve also traveled a bit of Europe, Asia, Africa, and a few “exotic Islands”. However, I haven’t made it to Canada, South America, or a lot of Asia yet, but I will. Here we go, here’s my absolutely favorite, life-changing, must dos.
First up is USA travel. Growing up, I traveled a lot as kid, my parents took us camping in Colorado every summer and usually one more summer trip, along with a spring break and Christmas trip. I was incredibly lucky to have parents that took me many places within the US, and it fueled my wanderlust.
1. Camping Colorado
First up, camping in Colorado each year was and still is, a truly lovely trip. I have so many great memories of going a week without a shower and it’s certainly made me able to handle all types of travel. Being able to camp, really camp, will allow anyone to adjust to different situations.
2. Disney World at Christmas
Next, Disney World is great at Christmas. Yes, it’s crowded but dealing with crowds is surely a good test of your travel abilities. I’ve actually got a whole post here about why I love Disney at Christmas and why it’s totally worth it.
3. Coastal Drive in California
Now, I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t love California. San Francisco is great but I really hate L.A. (sorry!). However, I did get engaged on the coast of California and that was definitely special. The coastline is beautiful and I’d love to do more of it.
4. Hot Air Balloon Festival in New Mexico
I’ve always loved hot air balloons and so I had this New Mexico festival on my bucket list for a long while. I had been to New Mexico a lot growing up (my dad worked there all the time) but had never done this. So my husband and I took a long weekend and enjoyed this festival. It’s so cool to be around all the balloons and I think it would be a great trip for kids. They can see how much hard work goes into the festival first hand.
5. Yellowstone National Park
If you’ve never been to the world’s oldest National park, then you are missing out. This is such a beautiful place with so much uniqueness. There’s hot springs, waterfalls, geysers, mud pools and more. The entire thing is a volcano so there’s a lot of weird things that go on. I also remember seeing a grizzly bear 100 yards from the road (yes, that was a bit scary), wolves, loads of buffalo, and more wildlife. We are planning to back this year, it will be the first time for my husband and I’m really hoping it doesn’t get cancelled.
6. Watching a Yankees game from the bleacher Seats
This next best travel experience was quite eye-opening. When I was in middle school, we took a trip to New York and the only Yankees tickets were in the bleacher seats. Since we had to go, we did it. Man, that was nuts! Little kids yelling at the players, flipping-off coaches, the Yankees are serious.
7. Driving Alaska
There’s a lot of emptiness in Alaska, and very few people. When I went as a teenager I definitely didn’t appreciate that which is why I can’t wait to get back one day.
8. New Orleans Bowl Game
Finally, for the USA, New Orleans is certainly unique and a fun trip no matter what. However, attending a college bowl game on New Year’s Day is probably my favorite activity I’ve done there. If only the Aggies had won.
9. Watching the Sunrise on Haleakala in Hawaii
There are a lot of things I could add to this list from Hawaii. The snorkelling is fantastic, the beaches lovely, and the food exceptional. The road to Hana is also a great thing to do. However, my favorite was watching the sunrise from the top of a volcano. Haleakala National Park is beautiful and, although you have to wake up super early, it’s worth it.
Next up is my favorite highlights of Europe. I can’t cover it all, but these stand out for me.
1. British Open in Scotland
This first one had been on my bucket list since High School. See, I played golf growing up and for a year in college and I always wanted to go to the British Open. It’s perfect, you get to travel and watch golf. I just had to see the sand traps first hand. What also made this great was watching Phil Mickelson win it!
2. Kayaking Greece
Greece is another one of those that was definitely on my bucket list, and it’s truly lovely. However, one of my favorite things we did was a kayaking trip. I almost always book some sort of kayaking when we travel as my husband loves it and this one was gorgeous.
3. Climbing the Arc de Triomph in Paris
This next one might seem a little odd. When I was preparing to go to Paris, I had pretty low expectations. Everyone always says it’s dirty and not that great, but I personally loved it. While there are several things about Paris I could put on here, I really enjoyed hiking up the arc de triomph and the spectacular view that’s there.
4. Wine Tasting in Florence and all of Tuscany
I love wine, so this is really a no-brainer.
5. Seeing the Last Super in Milan
I’ll be honest, I’m not a big art buff. Yeah, I know, as an “artist” I probably should be? But, that’s reality. I do like see the famous sites and the Last Super is pretty amazing.
6. Exploring the Roman Ruins in Italy
Rome has so much history and I’ve been twice and could go again. I know it’s not everyone cup of tea (it is dirty and crowded) but I can’t get enough.
7. Driving Ireland
For our first anniversary, my husband and I road tripped Ireland. This is the hardest place I’ve ever driven but it was worth it. Rent car, panic, see the beauty.
Australia & New Zealand
It’s time to move on to Australia and New Zealand now and this was really hard to narrow down. We lived in Australia for three years and I was determined to see as much as I could while there.
1. Flying over the Whitsunday Islands
The first experience that really sticks out is flying over the Whitsunday Islands and Great Barrier Reef. We landed in the water and spent time on Whitehaven beach. It was spectacular and well worth the money.
2. Road Tripping Around Australia
Before we left Australia, we spent 6 weeks traveling around the country and did a lot of road tripping. This was probably my favorite trip of all time. We saw so much of the country that you can’t see without driving. If you’re going to see Australia, hit the road! All the photos below are from places we drove to, some of which require 4-wheel drive.
3. Australia Open Tennis Tournament
I’ll be honest, I’m was not a tennis fan. My husband had to explain the rules to me (and I do love sports). Yet, getting to go each year to the Australian Open was fantastic. The weather is usually great, the atmosphere is lovely, and the tennis is more fun than I ever thought.
4. Driving the Great Ocean Road in Australia
Living near Melbourne, we did the Great Ocean Road about 6 times. A lot of other travelers that I talked to over there were so tired of doing this drive every time someone came to visit them. I was not one of these people. There is so much to see on this drive that I don’t know how you could get bored or tired of it. Every time I saw the 12 apostles, they took my breathe away.
5. Watching the Sunset from a Camel at Uluru
Uluru is the sacred rock in the “red center” of Australia, and it’s pretty special. The rock changes colors with the setting (or rising) sun and viewing it from a camel ride is a pretty unique experience.
6. Hot Air Ballooning Over Melbourne
In order to go on a hot air balloon ride you have to have pretty perfect conditions. I tried booking one in Australia once before and it was cancelled, then I tried for California, also cancelled. Finally, when we lived over there, my husband bought me a gift certificate for one in Melbourne. This way, we had options if it had to get cancelled. And guess what? The first try was, you guessed it, cancelled. We actually got up, drove out to several spots, and then we were told, “nope, the wind is too much”. Luckily, we did finally find a time when we got to do it, and it was so amazing. It’s not scary and you just float, it’s so peaceful.
7. Canyoning in the Blue Mountains of Australia
Another fun thing to do in Australia is canyoning. The blue mountains are lovely from above, but way better down in them. This canyoning trip had us floating right through it.
7. Hiking a Glacier in New Zealand
Hiking a glacier is another super tricky activity. I was worried the whole trip that it would be cancelled. We took a helicopter ride to the top of the glacier and clearly the weather needs to be good for this. Then, they also tell you, that there’s a chance you could get stuck there! They can’t fly back if the clouds roll in. However, we had a perfect day for this one and I’m so glad.
8. Rafting New Zealand
New Zealand really is the adventure-junkie’s paradise and I am an adventure junkie. You can raft the tallest commercially rafted waterfall in the world here and it’s pretty cool. The tour company told us it’s about 50-50 chance you will flip (we did not), and to just get in the boat and hold on. Now, as crazy as it was, it was actually one of the easier raft trips I’ve been on because there’s very little paddling. 🙂 You just hold on for dear life.
9. Bungy-Jumping New Zealand
Finally, I told you that New Zealand is all about adventure and no top list of activities there would be complete without bungy-jumping. It was invented here, and they are very cautious and careful. It’s the most terrifying thing I have ever done, but still cool.
Another place we were able to travel to while living in Australia was Southeast Asia. We headed to Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia and loved it. The food is great, the culture unique, and the landscape stunning.
1. Trekking in Sapa
One of my absolute favorites of Vietnam was trekking in Sapa. We had our own guide that took us through the rice fields and it was a breath-taking two days of hiking.
2. Visiting the Elephant Sanctuary in Thailand
When I think about the best travel experiences of my life, usually the first thing that comes to mind is the elephant sanctuary in Thailand. I absolutely loved this and you can read more about here, if you’re so inclined.
3. Angkor Wat Temples
It’s really hard to explain the Angkor Wat Temples. They are just special, and you should spend a few days exploring them, it’s well worth the trip.
4. Cruising Ha Long Bay in Vietnam
Cruising Ha Long Bay in Vietnam definitely tops my best travel experiences list, but I’m not sure it would top my husbands. Not because he didn’t enjoy it, but he got a bit sick on the boat (and no, not motion sick), I think from food or who knows what. It sort of shadows the time we spent in the Bay, but I still recommend it. Spend a night on a boat in the Bay surrounded by Islands.
Pretty recently I took a trip to Morocco with a friend and we took a drive out to the Sahara Desert. This is next up.
1. Camel Ride in the Sahara Desert
When we (finally) got to the Desert, yes, it takes a while, we road camels over the sand dunes and slept in tents made of carpets. It was so lovely. Just know, it’s quite the trip out there, so if you’re not used to that, try to prepare yourself.
2. Shopping in Marrakech
Now, I’m not one to put shopping on my list of best travel experiences but I’m not going to lie, when I travel I love to shop. I don’t want to miss out on seeing things in order to shop, but I’m a sucker for a good souvenir. What’s great about Marrakech is wandering the markets is part of seeing things! I may have bought all the things, and I don’t feel bad about it.
Lastly, for the best travel experiences I cannot leave out two stunning islands we’ve stayed.
1. Staying in an Overwater Bungalow in Tahiti
For my honeymoon, I wanted to go all out. I cared way more about the honeymoon than the wedding. Yep, it’s true. I was determined to have one of my best travel experiences and we did. Staying in an overwater bungalow was pretty special and I’d recommend it, for sure. Stay up late to see the sharks swimming under you! 😉
2. Rafting Fiji
Last, but certainly not least, Fiji is still one of my best travel experiences and it’s probably my favorite of all time. Now this is going to make me sound super spoiled but between Tahiti and Fiji, Fiji wins. The culture, the adventure, the easy in traveling around is fantastic. They’ve got one road, you can easily rent a car and drive the island. We took a beautiful full day raft trip, complete with a lunch break that I have not been able to beat.
Does Travel Matter to You?
I’m going to guess if you made it this far, then travel does matter to you. If that’s the case, be sure to download a couple of free digital photos on the Journey Junkies page. If you’re not a member, sign up here. And, if you’re drooling over the free travel photos, then shop travel prints in the shop!
Please let me know your best travel experiences in the comments. I’d love to add it to my bucket list.
Hi, I’m Jamie, and I have two great loves: creating and traveling. I’m a blogger, designer, photographer who would love to help you enjoy life’s special moments or, what I like to call life’s “journeys”. From parties to vacations, I’m here to make them beautiful and easy. I provide the tools you need to plan, celebrate, and remember, without all the hassle. Contact me for custom orders and collaborations. When I’m not creating or traveling, you’ll find me at a yoga studio or with my nose in a book and cat on my lap. Read more about me!