In celebration of the Olympic Spirit which continues to live vicariously inside of me for many reasons: I’ve decided to participate in the travel blogger relay. As many of you know, I had to skip on going to the Olympics to watch my boyfriend’s brother play for the Dutch National team, due to our current visa problems. Nonetheless, the travel blog relay has rejuvenated my Olympic spirit!
Travel moments couldn’t dare be judged; they are all special in their own way. But, if I had to, I’d have to pick my top 3 moments that define how amazing the travel experience is. The kind folks at Low Cost Holidays are organizing this relay and my good friend Roy at The Riding Dutchman nominated me to participate. Oh, and I was virtually tagged by Miss Melissa, otherwise known as Mellyboo! Let’s root for Team Purple, which is led by the awesome Neil of Backpacks and Bunkbeds– two of my favorite things actually.
There will be no running, swimming or biking- lucky for me, since I can’t do two of those things… sometimes even three. (Just kidding) Travel bloggers from all corners of the earth are joining together to share their personal travel memories as part of an “Olympic Competition” When all the stories are shared and done, the judges: Melvin from Travel Dudes, Becky & Gray from Global Grasshopper and Stephanie of The Travel Chica will have the grand task of choosing their favorite. Once this is done, the winner will recieve a new Nikon D5100 (SWANK!) and an iPad2 (Double SWANK!)
You guys know how I feel about Swank. Swanky 🙂
(Virtual) Drum Roll Please.
Bronze: Winning a free trip to Hawaii & Discovering More than a Good Tan
Quick! What comes to mind when you think of Hawaii? Flowery leis? Couples honeymooning? When I think of Hawaii, I think of solitude; quiet palm trees swaying in the wind, the slow waves crashing against the lava rocks and the silence of locals watching the sunset like they do every night.
In the midst of an upcoming 20-something manifesto, I won a free trip to Hawaii courtesy of YWAM: University of the Nations. I bonded with lovely individuals who sent me over to Hawaii to experience what true bliss was like. That no matter where you travel in the world, you can find that moment of solitude in yourself and be thankful for wherever you are. Even when you are a solo female traveler surrounded by couples in one of the most beautiful destinations in the planet.
It was more than just enjoying a free trip, it was being thankful for being alive, for being able to get up in the morning and bask in the glory of the sunrise, and to reflect on the day’s end to enjoy the sunset. Hawaii is absolutely stunning in providing the perfect backdrop to a vacation that I spent solo. It was my first solo trip and it couldn’t have been any more perfect.
The moment I’ll never forget was meeting a local and putting my New York City attitude away (I didn’t even have to, it felt so natural) and getting a personal grand tour of the island. Risky? Yes. Stupid? Possibly. Rewarding: Absolutely. Since I don’t drive, I was limited to wherever the shuttle bus took me and embarking on paid tours. I was able to meet a friendly local (Who I am still friends with today. Long time no see old pal!!) who took me all around the island and took lots of photographs of me. (You know, it’s hard to get those solo photographs!)
You can continue your snickering. You can drop your jaw in shock. You can even shake your head in disbelief and wonder how a 26- year old travel writer doesn’t know how to ride a bike. (And at this point in time STILL does not.) I grew up in New York City where bike riders dodged large MTA buses, speeding taxi cabs and obnoxious pedestrians. I never had a pink sparkly bike with training wheels, nor was there a need for it when you lived smack in the middle of busy Spanish Harlem.
So on a recent trip to Berlin, the itinerary included a 4-hour bike ride through Berlin. Yikes. Uh. Can you throw me on the back? Not so fast. Thanks to the invention of a Tandem bike, I got to enjoy the experience.
For the full dramatic story, feel free to check that post. But, in a nutshell, I must say that Berlin is a city meant to be enjoyed on a bike. It spans 344.4 sq. miles ((891.6 km²) is home to fascinating neighborhoods that reflect a complex past. There are so many fascinating historical points like the pieces of the Berlin Wall and Bradenburg Gate. I felt like I was traveling back in time observing the transition of Berlin via the city streets, infrastructures and vibe of the local people. You cannot visit Germany without heading to Berlin; in fact, I might have to go back again to experience the wicked nightlife I hear so much about!
You get that quintessential European experience when you bike a city as well; I was proud to have my first bicycle experience in Berlin.
Gold: Meeting the love of my life in Peru and climbing Huayna Picchu
It was the finale of The Netherlands vs. Germany Male Field Hockey game and the adrenaline sure was running. My Dutch man was at the game live, watching his brother defend their undefeated title at the 2012 London Olympics. Unfortunately, the team would lose against Germany, but would proudly win silver.
That night, as my guy and his family partied in London, he sent me this text message:
“We should have won gold, but I already have it with you.”
That is how I knew what moment would be my choice for Gold.
I met my guy almost 3 years ago now at one of the lowest points in my life. I traveled South America with someone who is now an ex-boyfriend, but found myself dazed and confused amiss a toxic breakup during our travels. I dove head first into my travels, going through the healing process as I continued to travel solo. The same day I declared myself single, I met my guy. We had no intention of liking each other, falling in love and pursuing this relationship, but we ended up doing exactly this.
But at the time, he was my travel companion and someone who I was growing very close to. I felt this feeling in my heart that I could do anything;’ that the sky was the limit and it wasn’t about the destination, but the journey. The journey of recovering from this previous toxic relationship to wake up and realize I was in Peru and that was all that truly mattered.
On our last travel day together, we went to Machu Picchu; something that had been on my travel bucket list for years. I’ll take snippits of my post to give you an idea of how rewarding the experience truly was.
Woke up at 4:30am to catch the 5:30am bus in Aguas Calientes to bring us to the MP entrance. We walked through MP a bit to the other side to wait on line for the 7am group going up Huayna Picchu. My nerves are eating me and I’m giggling like a delirious school girl, because this is what I do when I’m nervous. But, deep inside, I know I can do this and I am FREAKING EXCITED for this challenge. Bart doesn’t seem nervous at all, he is cool, calm and collective. You bastard lol.
The first part was simple, haha. It always starts off easy. There are really steep parts that you have to maintain your balance and really take small steps up. Every time I felt out of breath, the shot of oxygen really helped. Luckily, Bart was patient with me and didn’t seem to mind rest stops. Well, it seemed like everyone was huffing and puffing up. The hike was strenuous but not that impossible. It was a great workout and the views were really out of this world. The cloud forests slowly diminished and the sun was creeping up, which meant we were almost at the top.
I can almost see it!
The last leg of the hike was the worst! There were slippery wet parts where you had to hold this rope to get up. It was kinda scary haha but I had a good hand to help me up =) After wiggling through this cave thing (How cool was that lol) we saw the little ladder that meant we had reached the top. I was literally standing on top of a mountain. It was quite dizzying with so many people up there, but it hit me. I was on top of the world.
It had a lot of meaning to be on top: Feeling I accomplished so much; on this journey, on this mountain and in life. Nothing but smiles on top of this mountain! And oh yes! MP! Slowly, the cloud forest disappeared and revealed MP in all its glory. It was absolutely breathtaking… I couldn’t take enough pictures of the site. You just want to eat up the moment and soak up every last view of this Incan mystery. Seriously… how did they do this? Took lots of pictures at the top and rested enough to remember that we still had to make our way down. Oh boy.
And every time I doubt myself, he reminds me that I climbed a mountain and I can anything I set my mind to.
And that is why he is my Happily Ever After, my guy, and my precious Gold.
I could spend hours recalling wonderful travel memories, but these are my absolute favorite. It’s a joy to be a part of such a unique relay and reading all of the travel moments makes me want to book a flight right now! With the passionate fire for Team Purple, I (virtually) pass the baton to Ashley at Fun As We Go ! Vamonos! Let’s Go!