Updated May 31, 2020.
Today I’m remembering my favorite experiences. I’m often asked where is my favorite place I’ve ever been, but I believe that the destination is not quite as important as the experience. For instance, you can go to a zoo just about anywhere in the world, but there’s only one place where you can legally hold a koala bear. Here’s a list of my top 10 travel experiences (so far).
10. Fjord Cruise, Norway
Sure, you can go on any number of cruises in the world, but only a handful of places have the natural wonder of fjords. Norway is one of those places, and it was an absolutely magical experience! We took a fjord cruise on our Scandinavian honeymoon in 2014, and it stands out as one of my ultimate top 10 travel experiences.
9. Swimming at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Aquariums do not do justice to the beauty of natural coral reefs. They are not just colorful, they’re NEON! I never knew. For some reason I am terrified of swimming in the ocean, but thankfully for me, the reef isn’t far off shore! I could simply walk out a little ways from the shoreline and look down–it was beautiful!
8. Flying over the Na’Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii
My husband and I have been many places, but seeing the majestic Na’Pali coast at eye-level was one of the most beautiful moments of my life. It’s just so lush, so green, and so perfectly carved into the side of the aptly nicknamed Garden Island. It’s the first thing we did on Kauai in 2016, and it was beautiful enough to move me to tears.
7. Ice Climbing, Alaska
This one was really special. Between Christmas and New Years a few weeks after I graduated college, I treated myself to a trip to Alaska to visit some friends of friends–I’d never even met them before! We did all kinds of things, but the ice climbing was the most incredible one. Pictures can’t do justice to the brilliant blue glaciers. I got to wear spikey boots (cramp-ons) and use ice picks, too! It was certainly a thrill for me!
6. Hot Air Ballooning, Kapadokia, Turkey
I didn’t know much of anything about Turkey before I went on the suggestion of a friend. Much to my delight, Goreme, Kapadokia, has the best conditions for hot-air ballooning all year round, and they have the largest balloons–for up to 60 people! I’d always wanted to take a hot-air balloon ride, and I was not disappointed! It was absolutely worth the cost and the very early wake-up!
5. Holding a Koala Cairns, Australia
Seriously, how can I skip over holding a koala? She was beautiful, adorable, had huge claws, and I got my picture taken with her! We were told that Kuranda Koala Gardens is the only place in the world where you can legally hold a koala. It was unbelievably special. I will never forget that.
4. Walking with Giant Tortoises, Galapagos
The Galapagos Islands were truly unique–we swam with penguins, explored an island with a population of fewer than 200 people, and we got to see flamingoes flying in a flock! But the most memorable and mesmerizing experience was definitely walking with the giant tortoises on the islands. They are protected, so we couldn’t get too close, but just watching them was like seeing a glimpse of dinosaurs in real life!
3. Attending an Opera at the Sydney Opera House, Australia
My first trip to Australia was a very special one, and attending a real opera at the Sydney Opera House was absolutely a dream come true! It was a childhood fantasy fulfilled for me. It’s the ultimate iconic structure, and the thought of dressing up and going to an opera was just so classy. It is one of the most wonderful experiences of my life!
I’ll be honest, I didn’t know Ephesus was in Turkey before I started researching for the trip! Ephesus is a Biblical city, and to be able to walk those streets and explore the ruins was a very special spiritual experience for me. My friend Andrea and I sat in the amphitheater and read the passage in Acts 19 when Paul caused a riot in that very spot. It gave me chills knowing I was in that same place!
1. Living in Japan
OK, so this one is a series of experiences, not just one. But overall, this is the collective experience that shaped my life. Living and working in a country so completely different from Tennessee was a growing experience that I would never trade. I got to experience a special ceremony that only happens once every 20 years, attend the most elaborate and longest fireworks show I’ve ever seen, and go kimono and yukata shopping! I also had to deal with the language barrier, a bit of racism, and I truly had to find my own way in a place where I could not read. Most importantly, I grew in my faith in ways I never knew possible. It was the ultimate life experience.
What about you? What experiences have you had in your travels that were unique or life-changing? Comment below!