Traveling is a big part of my life. As a family, we went on annual vacations until we were in our teenage years, after which my brother and I felt we would rather vacation with each other and friends. To my parents' credit, they never discouraged us. I was fortunate to have been educated in American schools abroad where a big part of the curriculum was encouraging students to explore and embrace international experiences. Our school trips consisted of international destinations, and they were always filled with hilarious memories.
Here are some of my travel highlights so far:
- Inner Mongolia - This was a middle school trip which required us to report to school at 4am so we could take an incredibly long train ride from Beijing to Inner Mongolia. We stayed in yurts for a week, participating in activities we weren't familiar with and trying food we've never eaten before. I'm pretty sure we complained the entire trip (our poor teachers), and kept trying to search for a cell signal but by the end of the week, we were devastated to leave. It's still one of the best trips I've taken, and the memories made with good friends were priceless.
- Angkor, Cambodia - A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this was the first trip Ben and I went on, and let's just say, if we could survive that trip, we could survive anything. There were plenty of first-time experiences on this trip; waking up at 4.30am to watch the incredible sunrise was well worth it. We also visited the S21 Prison and Choeung Ek Killing Fields, which I found extremely difficult to walk through. An important part of the country's past, it is worth visiting to understand the history of Cambodia.
- Morocco - Ben and I spent about three weeks touring Morocco during our honeymoon, with an itinerary exclusively curated by Experience It Tours per our requirements (I will upload separate posts on Morocco along with recommended accommodation as we requested specific hotels for our trip). It is hands down one of the best countries we've traveled to. The entire journey was magical to say the least. Two highlights from the trip were our time in Fez and Skoura. Being in Fez is like stepping back in time. We stayed within the Medina at Riad Fez, and chose to take part in a cooking lesson which gave us the opportunity to experience the vibrance of the old town and learn how to cook traditional Moroccan dishes. We then spent hours on the road getting to Dar Ahlam. I've raved about this destination multiple times and it's one we always recommend. Dar Ahlam arranged a night's stay in the desert, and despite being caught in a sandstorm, we woke up to the most beautiful sunrise and the most memorable breakfast venues, ever.
- The Great Wall of China - Not a specific trip but my dad and I used to go on our evening walks on the Great Wall. It wasn't until I left Beijing did I realize just how special those moments were. It's not everyday you get to claim the Great Wall as your weekly evening walking route!
- Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland - This really needs no introduction. We extended a business trip to Warsaw so we could visit the camp. We visited in the middle of winter and it was excruciatingly cold; we could hardly imagine just how brutal it was for the victims. If you're ever in Poland, you should visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. It serves as a stark reality of how cruel humans can be, and a reminder for us all not to repeat the brutal mistakes of history.
- Cambridge, England - During one of our annual family vacations, we spent two weeks in England, visiting all the tourist sites in London, then heading to Cambridge to visit my cousin. After days of touring museums and cathedrals, it was so refreshing to do something different - gliding! If you love flying and enjoy a bit of an adventure, give this a go when you have the chance. I don't remember much of the Cambridge U campus but I certainly remember the exhilaration of flying the glider on my own for 10 seconds!
- The Vatican City - I'm not Catholic or religious, but I feel that the Vatican City, like other important religious sites around the world are worth visiting. This was also the same time I suspected I was pregnant (and confirmed it two weeks later).
- Petra, Jordan - We visited while we were still living in Dubai. My parents weren't familiar with the region so we invited them along. We spent a couple nights in Petra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a couple by the Dead Sea and a night in the capital, Amman. Not only will it be an eye-opening experience, you will also meet some of the friendliest people here. Due to the negativity surrounding the region, there was a massive loss in tourism income that year. One resident we met, who owns a restaurant in Petra was so generous despite losing a substantial amount of business (95% cancelation). When we said our goodbyes, he asked for us to tell everyone at home that they are good people. Despite losing so much, all they wanted was for the world to know that they are good, kind, hardworking people. And they truly are.
- Tuscany, Italy - I'd previously spent a few weeks one summer in Tuscany with my best friend who was attended grad school in Florence. Last year, I toured Tuscany (and Milan) with my little family and it was such a different experience. My daughter was old enough to enjoy the holiday, and it definitely felt like she grew into a little lady on this particular trip. We survived hours of travel - 18 hours to be exact - with some hiccups along the way but it was one of the best trips Ben and I have had in years. This vacation made us realize traveling with a toddler isn't always disastrous and so much of their behavior is a reaction to ours. We weren't happy to be stuck in an airport hotel for a night after a canceled flight and further delays, which meant we were now traveling during the day instead of a red-eye flight so she could sleep through. Rather than freak out, we took it in stride, so she did too, and was an absolute trooper throughout.
I'd love to read about your travels too. What are some of your highlights?
PS. Remembering some of these trips will make you laugh out loud or cry a little!