4 years on the road – My 25 best travel experiences
Today marks 4 years of full time travelling. Time flies when you’re having fun! In those 4 years I have had so many amazing experiences from sailing the Caribbean, swimming with dolphins, diving with whale sharks, diving in cenotes, living in different places, working as a dive master/ instructor, tubing rivers, driving motorbikes, skinny-dipping, sleeping on deserted islands, dancing on bars, crossing borders barefoot, hitchhiking, visiting ruins, climbing volcanoes, hiking mountains, witnessing amazing sunrises and -sets, learning how to surf, learning to speak span(gl)ish, visiting beautiful islands and beaches, crossing oceans, celebrating local holidays and festivals, driving across countries, air ballooning, skydiving, rafting, hang gliding, volcano boarding… Ok, too many! All those experiences have left an indelible mark on my life but here are my favourite ones! 4 years on the road – My 25 best travel experiences… Here they go!
25. VISITING SANTORINI, Greece
Santorini is the most popular island in Greece. It may be the most popular island in the world. There are only a few travel destinations that combine beautiful beaches, spectacular scenery, ancient cities, amazing restaurants, some of the world’s best wine, the world’s best sunsets and an active volcano. Combining it with going there with someone special made this trip an extra special experience!
24. DIVING DEEP IN THE CENOTES, Mexico
I’ve been diving in different cenotes in Tulum. These caves are all connected to each other what makes it the largest fresh water system in the world! No fish but the lights are just amazing! My most favourite dive was diving the Pit with my Divemaster friends. We all managed to meet in Mexico to dive together. The Pit is one of the deeper ones, and that we went. We also had a sneaky look into some of the narrow entrees of the big underwater system. A truly unique experience!
23. WATCHING THE WORLD CUP, Peru
Peru, Peru, Peru!! I was lucky that I was able to get tickets for the qualification match Peru- Ecuador in Peru. If you want the real local experience, go to a football game (soccer for the americans 😉 ). I was dressed up in the Peruvian colours and I was maybe the only women in the stadium. Definitely the only one with blond hair. But we sing along with the songs, drink beer and cheer for Peru! And we won! So after the match the party wasn’t over yet. They celebrated as if the already won the world cup! An amazing experiences what had to be on the list!
22. HIKING THROUGH PATAGONIA, Chile/Argentina
I’m not a real big hiker but OMG! Patagonia is just incredibly beautiful and the best way to see it or to experience it, is to hike and camp. My favourites were definitely Torres del Paine in Chile and El Chanten in Argentina. I have to go back out there with good hiking and camping gear and stay longer, also.. If I have more money. Because it is beautiful, but expensive.
21. SWIMMING WITH WILD DOLPHINS, Honduras
I once made the mistake to swim with trained dolphins. Dolphins are not made for that, I know now. And there is nothing to compare with seeing animals in the wild. Yes, you can see a Elephant in a Zoo but when you see them in the wild (so also not the ones you should not ride on in Thailand) its just so special, so rare, so beautiful. Dolphins are curious animals and they love to jump around in the waves of the boats. The first time I jumped of the boat to swim with them, I was crying from happiness, they naturally come and play with you! This is also one of my favourite pictures I ever took.
20. CAMPING AT THE DEAD SEA, Israel
When I visited my friends in Israel they took me out in the middle of the night to go to the dead sea. When we took the wrong turn we got stuck in the middle of the road. Only in Israel where all the cars stop and try to help us to lift up the car and put it back on the street. This was not the best experience but this made the wild camping on the dead sea even more special. The stars were amazing and we spent the whole night chatting and drinking wine in the natural hotsprings. It was an experience. Where else can you read a book IN the ocean without using an air mattress!?
19. VOLUNTEERING IN MEDELLIN, Colombia
After 3 months of backpacking through Colombia we decided to live for a month in Medellin. Medellin is the second biggest city of Colombia and has a rich history. My friend and I were living in Envigado, what is a local neighbourhood with a lot of markets and stuff around to be more local, to practice our Spanish and to have the real Colombian experience. We also volunteered up in the mountains, up in the favela’s of Medellin. A place where young children play and get English lessons. There is where I learned a lot about Colombia, the history, the drugs, the gangs and that kids actually can be cute. I had my favourite! <3
18. VISITING PETRA, Jordan
Visiting Petra in Jordan has been at the top of my bucket list for a long time. I’m not sure of when I learned about it for the first time, but as cliche as it sounds.. It was most likely from watching Indiana Jones. Aside from the iconic images of the Treasury that I had seen on TV I didn’t know much more about Petra or Jordan. Now I do. I walked around for 2 days and it was breathtaking. An amazing world wonder and a must see!
17. SAILING ADVENTURE, Belize
Sailing from Caye Caulker to Placencia. It is a thing to do in Caye Caulker, what is by the way one of my favourite islands. You sail down the coast of Belize for three days and sleep on deserted islands. We had an amazing group of people, amazing weather and an amazing 3 days of sailing.
16. VOLCANO BOARDING, Nicaragua
Racing down an active volcano at 54km per hour, on a little piece of wood is dangerous. But really fun! 🙂
15. GETTING WET AT IGUAZU FALLS, Brazil/ Argentina
Iguazu consists of 275 separate falls. For me, and I guess for almost everyone the most impressive one is “The Devil’s Throat,” which has 14 falls plunging more than 80 meter! This photo doesn’t do justice to the beauty and how impressive it is! You just have to go and experience it yourself…
14. AIR BALLOONING IN CAPPADOCIA, Turkey
I like to be underwater, but I also really like to be in the sky. After skydiving, hang gliding, flying in a helicopter, paragliding. It was time to get myself in an air balloon. And.. I could not have picked a better location… Cappadocia, Turkey! An amazing experience flying over these white cone-shaped rock formations during sunrise.
13. SUNRISE IN BAGAN, Myanmar
After spending 11 hours on a bicycle the day before, we thought let’s wake up at 4:30 in the morning to catch one of Asia’s most incredible sunrises. And that, it was. Hot air balloons & hundreds of 11th century temples dotted the horizon as we took it all in from a 900 year old pagoda. Magical times in Myanmar!
12. SAILING THE SAN BLAS, Panama – Colombia
The best way to get from Colombia to Panama, or the other way around is to sail. It’s a 5 day tour through the amazing San Blas islands and 2 days of open ocean. Get a nice crew together, pick a boat and enjoy! THE best!
11. COUCHSURFING IN HAWAII, USA
From Australia it was cheaper to fly over Honolulu to Central America, so I though why not stop for a couple of days in Hawaii?! The hostels are really expensive so I tried for the first time couch surfing. And… I won the jackpot again! A really nice condo, overlooking Waikiki beach and a rooftop swimming pool. In the evening I was hanging out with my host (who was a real nice guy too), and in the day I was just wandering around. I met someone in the bar who gave me his bus card so I could bus for free the whole week. And I met someone else on the beach who was a militair and he showed me around by car. We went to the famous North Shore and I had a tour through his base, and got to know much more about Pearl Harbour. An awesome and cheap week! 😉
10. JUNGLE TOUR MACHU PICCHU, Peru
Matchu Piccu was the highest on my list of to go places before I left. So I was extra excited to finally go. A lot of people do the famous Inka trail, but for me… I’m not a planner, and you have to reserve this at least 3 months before you want to go. Not for me. The second option is to do the Jungle tour. This is an 5 day, rafting, hiking, zip-lining, mountain-biking tour through the jungle to eventually end up at the ancient city of Macchu Picchu. Photo says enough.
9. CELEBRATING CARNIVAL IN RIO, Brazil
Carnival has always been my favourite celebration of the year. It doesn’t really matter where I am, but celebrating carnival in Rio was a whole different level. Brazilians know how to party! The blocos/ street parties are incredible awesome…each and every one of them. 24hours, from one to another! I also went to the biggest and most colourful show in the world – the Sambadrome Parade, where the different samba schools compete against each other. The schools are associations or social clubs, representing a particular neighborhood/ favela of Rio de Janeiro. They are not samba teaching institutions as their name might suggest, they’re at the epicenter of the Carnival culture in Brazil and much of the “samba world” revolves around them. They are kinda similar to huge football clubs. They have a flag, a color-scheme and devoted (usually life-long) supporters. We sing along, dance and cheer for everyone! Yewww! Sambaaaa! Gringos!
8. WORKING IN LOKI HOSTEL,Peru
I maybe lost years of my life working in Loki hostel in Mancora Peru, but it was so worth it. The best crew, the best parties, make for the best memories. An amazing hostel on the beach with swimming pool and a really good vibe, a place to get stuck. And so I did. This was the best picture I could find from me ‘working’…
7. ONE NIGHT STAND IN UTILA, Honduras
Utila is my second home. From the first week, or maybe the first couple of days, I knew I could live there. And so I did. Twice (depends when you read this, maybe more 😉 ). One day when my favourite bar Coco Loco was about to close, I couldn’t resist to try to reopen it. After a couple of business meetings with the owner and doing some calculations I figured that we would be working our asses off to break even, so no. But I really wanted it. When I was about to leave Utila the owner of one of the dive shop said “You should open it for one night and throw a goodbye party, I pay half of the rent!” So there I was. With my friend Choppy, we were (for one night) owners of a bar. We spent over a 1000 dollars to get the permits, booze, cups, straws, etc, etc.. Our friend Lyndsey who is graphic designer (and also designed my logo 🙂 ) made the flyers and everyone was helping spreading them around town. ‘One night stand’ was the party called with the special ’sex under the dock shots’ (god knows how we came up with that name). Anyway, we opened the doors at 9:30 and at 10:00PM it was packed. A party to remember.
6. THE MONGOL RALLY, England – Mongolia
A crappy little car, no tools, no backup, no support, 20.000 kilometers, 17 countries, 23 breakdowns, 2 seas and 9 river crossings. The MongolRally. An annual charity trip from England to Mongolia. It was an epic adventure and I’m still pretty proud we made it across mountains, deserts and the steppe of Europe and Asia in 33 days! To be honest, before and during the rally I also though sometimes, ooh my… Where did I got myself into?!? Especially the time we broke down in the middle of nowhere (Kazakhstan), where it was cold, it was raining, my tent was not waterproof and I was sleeping on a jogamat.. Yes.. Not fun! But when I’m thinking back on this awesome road trip.. And even that moment where I was shivering in my soaked sleeping bag, I think, Hell yeah! I did this! So especially a good experience. Good memories and good times!
5 CROSSING THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, Spain – Brazil
I went on a repositioning cruise from Las Palmas, Spain to Salvador, Brazil with 150 Digital Nomads (people who travel and work online). I crossed the Atlantic ocean in style in my own superior double room on a boat with swimming pools, jacuzzis, a running track, outdoor climbing wall, coffee shops, discos, casinos, etc, etc. for 250 euro, full board! A booze cruise! I expected it to be awesome but this was one of the best experiences in my life! I know, I know..That’s why it’s on this list! 😉 I can’t even describe it… 9 days on a cruise ship, 9 days in the middle of the ocean, 9 days without internet but being surrounded by all fun, inspiring, like minded and fantastic people.. Read more..
4. SCUBA SISTER REUNION, Philippines
A journey is best measured in friends, not miles. When I did my Divemaster in Utila it was the best time ever. Not only that I was diving every day but the friends I met during these months are still some of my bestest friends. The summer of 2012 in Utila was special and unique. After 5 months living together, working together and partying together the goodbyes were really sad. Everyone went separate ways, but we all promised to see each other again. And so we did. I had reunions all over the world but the Utila reunion in the Philippines, exactly 1 year later, was the most special one. 2 weeks of catching up, drinking rum, chasing watermelons, breaking bones and chilling on deserted islands, we really had a special time together.
3. LIVING THE LIFE IN THE GALAPAGOS, Ecuador
I flew from Colombia with a one way ticket to the Galapagos islands. I thought it would be expensive, full with rich old people and couples on there honeymoon. Anyway.. I wanted to go there. I arrived, checked in to my hostel and immediately looked around what kind of trips they were offering. At the third tour agency, I had a nice conversation with the guy working behind the desk. When I saw wetsuits hanging, I asked “Uhm… Are you guys maybe looking for Divemasters?” With other words, “Can I help out and dive for free?” He said “At the moment not really but we are looking for someone who can do what I am doing. Selling our trips” “I can do that!” He; “yeah?!” Me; “Yeah!” “But.. We are looking for someone who can stay for longer.” “Sure I can stay! I booked a oneway ticket!” “Okay but… When can you start?” “I can start right now!” And there I was, 1 day in the Galapagos and got myself a dream job! The tours were for free and I worked on commission. With an amazing backpacker scene surrounded by unbelievable nature and wildlife, I definitely won the jackpot here! I’ll write a blogpost about the Galapagos soon, because it is definitely not as expensive as everyone thinks!
2. BECOMING A DIVE PRO ON UTILA, Honduras
Have you ever been in a place where you are happy without a reason? A place that makes you feel instantly relaxed? A place where you can be completely yourself? A place that, as soon as you leave it, you miss it so much that you start to think when you’ll go back? I have! And this place is called Utila. The first time I got there I was planning to do my Divemaster and so I did. Doing your Divemaster takes around one month. I ended up staying for 5! Even that I was not ready to leave yet, I left because I figured I didn’t left the Netherlands to get stuck on a paradise Island. I thought there will be more places like Utila. And there are, but not really. Not this amazing. This island got something special. There is always a big family, a community, a home.. Finally after 2 years I came back home and started my Scuba dive Instructor. It’s amazing to learn something new and to teach people the most amazing thing there is and that is exploring the underwater world. So yeah, on the list on number 2!! If you are interested in becoming a scuba diver, on any level, I can teach you or help you getting in touch with diveshops or with an amazing Course Director. Just leave a comment.
1. CRUISING THE WHITE CONTINENT, Antarctica
Alright. Antarctica is expensive. But wow, wow, wow… I had a trip of a lifetime, my dream came true. It has been an unbelievable experience witnessing nature at its finest. It was amazing, inspiring, magical and spectacular. Just when you think that a day can’t be topped, the next day was even more extraordinary. I sailed on waters as smooth as glass, rolled around in the snow, witnessed impressive calving, visited seals playing around, interact with penguins and I’ve seen whales shown their flukes and blown their spouts right in front of the boat. To top it all up I plunged into the icy waters of the Antarctic Peninsula with nothing but my bikini and a smile on my face. Antarctica has exceeded everything beyond my imagination! And definitely deserves the first place on this list! (for more about this experience, click here)
That was it, I got so much more and hopefully so many more amazing experiences to come but for now I start writing my worst experiences. Just because I got them too.. 😉 Interested? Stay tuned! Or sign up!
Fill your life with experiences not things. Have stories to tell not stuff to show!
Hi! I’m Maartje, a Dutchie who left her home to explore the world slowly, thoroughly and never came back. I’m just a little obsessed with travelling, photography, scuba diving and enjoying life.
Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer..
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