Top 10 Travel Take Aways

And no I don’t mean fish n’ chips on the beach… though that could be a pretty tasty takeaway about now… (forgive me if food takeaways are just a Kiwi thing).

This month’s travel blog linkup is all about the travel take aways we have, from souvenirs to life lessons, friendships to illness and injuries. It’s a goodie with a few unusual take aways that you may not expect!

Mortar shell vase

Mortar shell vase

1. Strange and unusual souvenirs

Mortar shell vase from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Engraved from something horrible to something beautiful. I purchased this mortar shell vase from the streets of Sarajevo in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It’s a kind reminder of someone who is trying to make a life for himself amongst the war-torn past that Sarajevo experienced. It’s a work of art and a stark reminder of the good and the bad.

2. Souvenirs that cost more to post than they were worth

Metal elephant from Cape Town, South Africa

This beauty was a cheap buy from a local market during my last days in Cape Town, before I flew to Brazil on my epic backpacking adventure home. I figured I’d ship that back with a sleeping bag in an effort to lighten my load…

Items from travels

Items from travels

However, there was a postal strike and my only option was to courier the parcel back to New Zealand. It was my last day and I had no other option because it wouldn’t fit in my bag… less be said, it was the most expensive parcel I’ve ever sent.

3. Souvenirs that never see the light of day

Postcards and shot glasses

I made a habit to buy a shot glass from every country and try to buy a postcard from every city I travelled to. I still don’t have a shot glass from Russia (anyone travelling there please let me know) and for the first time forgot to send my nephews a postcard from Borneo, but my collection still exists and sits away in boxes in my cupboards waiting for inspiration to do something with them.

4. Friendships and travel buddies

International students that I’ve known for a decade now

Friends in Venice

Friends in Venice

Friends from studying in Austria

Friends from studying in Austria

I’ve stayed good friends with a few students I studied with in Austria and have seen some several times since I left Austria.

My good friend from Lithuania/Sweden and I would end up traveling and meeting somewhere in Europe every year while I lived on that side of the world. It’s safe to say that she is one of my closest friends and it all started as international students that travelled Europe together.

Backpackers that I’ve met up with multiple times

There were the times, particularly in South America, where I’d be travelling somewhere and get to know someone and then a few days or weeks later I’d bump into them again. I’d have dinners with couples after meeting them at a hostel breakfast a few weeks prior. I’d get to know the odd person on a group or day tour and keep in touch, in some cases travel again with them!

It’s an important thing to get out of your comfort zone when you’re travelling alone to talk to other people, because things like this can happen and make your travels so much more interesting!

5. Illnesses and injuries to bring home

Sea urchin spike in my foot

Yep, that piece of work, travelled from the Galapagos, through Colombia, across the San Blas islands to Panama, Costa Rica and to San Fransisco and Yosemite before I returned home and finally got it removed by the doctor (no thanks to travel insurance in this instance that refused to remove it abroad).

Me in the Galapagos

Me in the Galapagos

Blue Boobie, Eden, Galapagos

Blue Boobie, Eden, Galapagos

Marine Iguanas on Islote Tinoreras

Marine Iguanas on Islote Tinoreras

Illness that winds you up in hospital and somehow you manage to get well enough to travel/return home.

Then there were times where I ended up in hospital due to viruses or parasites. Each time I somehow got through it safely enough to start eating again just in time to take a long haul flight.

Read more: Travel challenges »

6. Lesson to be a responsible traveller

Seeing/meeting animals and volunteering

There a big take away that I’m sure I’ve mentioned before of trying to be an informed traveller where possible. Once upon a time I would have thought riding elephants in the jungle was fun (not that I ever did that) now I’m horrified that I could have ever thought that.

Pygmy Monkeys feeding time

Pygmy Monkeys feeding time

The list of animals that are tortured for human entertainment goes on and on. I was disgusted on a tour is Russia when the group was encouraged to go to the Moscow Circus. The next day people returned telling me that bears and tigers were chained up and they wish they’d never seen it. I’m glad I didn’t go.

Toucan Feeding time

Toucan feeding time, volunteering in Ecuador

Volunteering is another hard one to consider, you want to do good, but are you really?
Is the money you’re spending going to the animals or children that you’re trying to help?
Or is it going to an extensive ‘administration’?
Will those wild animals ever get released?
Is there enough open space for the animals if they are too tame to be returned to the wild?

Read more: Lessons learned while travelling »

7. This could be your one chance in life to see/do something

Whenever I stop to consider budget or if I want to do something that may seem a bit excessive, I ask myself ‘will I ever get the chance to do this again, or could this be the only time I’m here?’ Yes this has resulted in things like bungee jumping over the Nile in Uganda and seeing both sides of Iguazu Falls and going on a expensive boat tour of the Galapagos.

I don’t regret a single moment.

Bungee Jumping

Bungee Jumping, Jinja, Uganda. Definitely outside of my comfort zone.

8. Take time to learn and understand the horrible things that have occurred in the past

Srebrenica and Auschwitz

Srebrenica, Bosnia

Srebrenica, Bosnia – day trip never to forget

I travel to learn and experience things that I wouldn’t at home. Visiting war torn and genocide regions is part of this. I feel I owe it to the people that have had their lives taken away and destroyed to understand what happened. To share what I learn. To help prevent anything as horrible as that ever happening again.

Auschwitz, Poland

Auschwitz, Poland

Read more: Making a difference while travelling »

9. Take the photo and then appreciate where you are

A good friend stopped me for a moment when I was taking photos and told me just to look. Appreciate where we are. Isn’t this amazing.

As much as I love photography, I don’t travel just to take photos. I make sure I take them when appropriate to share and keep as memories, but ever since that moment, so many years ago, I take time to appreciate the place I’m visiting, the scenery, the smells, the freedom, the culture, life.

Me with my camera in Russia

Me with my camera in Russia

Read more: Hidden gems of travelling »

Ngaire and Gorillas

Me with the Amahoro Group of Gorillas in Rwanda’s Mountains.

10. Make the most of your time

The biggest travel take away for me is to make the most of your time. We never know when our life will be taken from us and while we can plan for the future and grow ourselves, I believe it’s important to make every moment count.

It won’t hurt to take a bit of extra time to visit something along the way that you wanted to.
It could push your boundaries to do that adventure sport that scares you to death, imagine how proud you’ll feel of yourself afterwards?
Don’t be scared or ashamed to eat at that fancy place alone, it could be the best meal of your life.
Don’t avoid going to a place that you’ve dreamed of just because everyone else is too busy to come, it could change your life forever.

Read more: Pinch me moments to last a lifetime »

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain

Sunrise on the last day

Sunrise on the last day, San Blas Islands