The travel contrasts we experience

This month’s linkup is focused around the contrasts in travel that we experience. For me, I’ve certainly had my fair share in the last few years, it’s hard to know where to begin?

From the quaint historical towns of Europe to the dusty red sand dunes of Namibia or the wilderness of Rwanda with Mountain Gorillas.


Gorillas grooming

Gorillas grooming in Rwanda

Then there’s the contrasts of New York City’s hustle and bustle to the vast white salt flats of Bolivia. The colourful vibrance of Bangkok to the pure green of Amazon rainforests. The contrasts are endless.

Buddas in a Bangkok Temple

Buddas in a Bangkok Temple, Thailand

Contrasts of happiness

Some people have such little, yet they are bursting with happiness. Children in Africa wearing one of their few outfits, laughing and playing, running along the roadside waving at the cars that pass. You can’t help but smile at such incredible joy they release and realise that it’s not our possessions, clothing or housing that makes us happy. It is what’s inside, the happiness of being alive and well and having lovely people around us.

Children waving at our truck

Children waving at our truck in Uganda

Whereas, in many western countries I’ve faced so many unhappy and grumpy people (I’ve even been one of them at times in London). These people may have a wardrobe fill of clothes, the latest gadgets, any medicine or vitamin they could need, yet they don’t seem happy.

This contrast made me really start to see what happiness really is. I travelled out of a backpack for almost 8 months, wearing the same clothes every few days. Now that I’m back in New Zealand, I’ve thrown away and donated a lot of clothing and items because I just don’t need them to be happy. I am travelling around with a decent suitcase and bag now as I find my feet in NZ, I have the luxury of more clothing, but now the focus is more on happiness rather than having.

Sheep in New Zealand

Sheep on the Papamoa Hills, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand

Contrasts of travel styles

I’m a typical hostel-goer. Cheap, cleanish bed, breakfast and I’m content. I’m out to seek cultural experiences, not to be pampered. Yet, I will admit to having splashed out once and also reached the other end of the spectrum in camping in Africa.

Camping in Africa

The first time I did this was on a group tour, I was nervous, but it was absolutely fine. I actually enjoyed it so much that I’ve done it a few times since. Bit of dirt never hurt anyone. Using a dirt hole for a toilet is good practice for your squatting muscles. Realising your best friend is a head torch is a lifeline (particularly when the power goes out of a campsite in Botswana during a thunder and lightning storm).

Being so close to nature is awe-inspiring to say the least.

Lake Nakuru National Park

Campsite at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

4 Star Resort in Egypt

I planned Egypt for Christmas after an upcoming camping trip in East Africa. I figured I’d treat myself because I thought camping would be really rough going. As I was alone, I’d been hoping to avoid Christmas celebrations in Egypt. I would plan some day tours and keep busy while having a treat. That was the plan.

First mistake was to think that all the resorts don’t cater for the Western world and wouldn’t celebrate Christmas. Next mistake was that very few solo travellers go resorts, particularly at Christmas time. I was stared at. I had luxury I felt I didn’t deserve. It was only me and I didn’t need the gigantic bed, towels and fancy room with a view. It was wasted on just me. The meals were the worst part. Breakfast I could get away with, but dinner was where the resort would have celebrations and vast families piling around tables.

Egypt, 2011

Egypt, 2011

Contrasts in travel purpose

Why do you travel? I can bet that it’s a slightly different reason to the 60 year old you meet in the hostel dorm or the 18 year old partying it up in the hostel bar.

Volunteering in Namibia

Volunteering in Namibia

I travel to experience another way of life, to see and understand other cultures and places. To discover the world and its history. To see amazing wildlife in their natural habitats, happy, healthy and free. To understand what others around the world have experienced themselves, how it has changed their lives and what I should learn from that.

Volunteering in Ecuador

Volunteering in Ecuador

That is vastly different from the 15 18 year-olds from Europe and the States that I volunteered with in a wildlife sanctuary in Ecuador. They were there to have fun and not to worry about others. Most were on parents money, so they didn’t understand the value in saving up and sacrificing for these life experiences to happen.

However, there are times when you meet people that have similar thoughts. This is when the discussions of travel and life lessons really blossom. Usually these people are a bit more mature in age, but still a lot of fun. From the Flight of the Conchords loving couple from Atlanta that I met in San Francisco, to the German couple that kept me company while I waited for a transfer in Costa Rica, or the pal that carried my backpack to the bus stop for me in Bariloche. There was the Dutch girl I met on a whale watching trip who was on my flight a few days later, both of us had injuries so we hiked at a good pace in Patagonia together.

All these people (and many more) I connected with really well because our travel purposes were somewhat similar somewhere along the way. I wish I could thank you all for sharing in my experiences.

Atlanta Couple, San Fran

Atlanta Couple, San Fran

My Dutch friend Eveline and I in Patagonia

My Dutch friend Eveline and I in Patagonia

Part of the fabulous group from the Galapagos

Part of the fabulous group from the Galapagos

4WD Group in Bolivia

4WD Group in Bolivia

So there are a few of my travel contrasts. I’m looking forward to many more in the years to come!