5 Years, 5 Favourite Trips

Sheikh Zayed Mosque, one of my favourite sites on one of my favourite trips

The end of the year is often a time of reflection, so I’ve been thinking back on my recent travels. All of my trips have been special in some way. These favourite over the last five years provided some of my most memorable experiences.

Jordan & Dubai

I was on a break between jobs and a friend had recently moved to Dubai: how could I not take a trip to the Middle East? Since I was flying all that way, I decided to add another country in the region.

The prospect of seeing shimmering desert scenery and the dramatic ruins of Petra made Jordan a top contender. And it was all I envisioned plus more. My day and night in the Wadi Rum desert included a jeep tour of the dunes, a night in a tented Bedouin camp and a sunrise camel ride. It was equal parts bone-shaking, mystical, exhilarating and jaw-dropping.

red rock sunset in Jordan's Wadi Rum desert

Dubai was an entirely different sort of magical mystery tour of its own.  Of course, I saw some of the glitzy monuments and outrageous feats of desert engineering that put the Emirate on the map. But having a local friend to lead the way meant seeing some lovely historical sites and experiencing cultural activities too. I came away with the beginnings of an understanding of some of the beautiful traditions that came before the business boom. They’re still there today – you just have to look a little harder.

India

India is by far the most intense place I have ever visited. There was the raw spirituality of Varanasi and the wild beauty of Ranthambore National Park. The stately palaces of Jaipur and Udaipur and the shimmering symmetry of the Taj Mahal. The intricately carved temples of Ranakpur and Khajuraho. The shy smiles, colourful saris  and regal welcomes showered upon me in rural Rajasthan. And the delectable dishes I sampled along the way, rich with fragrant spices. It was captivating, heartbreaking, intoxicating, difficult and a glorious assault to the senses all at the same time. Go. Just go.

Jaipur Palace, India

Cuba

Music everywhere, salsa dancing under the stars, vintage cars, grand old buildings, lovely beaches, refreshing rum cocktails, lush foliage and surprisingly striking karst scenery. Cuba has all of that and more. It’s absolutely dripping with history, character, style and sunshine. I’m glad I chose to tour around to Havana, Trinidad and the Vinales Valley rather than sticking to the beach the entire time. The country marches to the Afro-Cuban beat of its own drum, and you should march yourself over to see it before it changes too much.

vintage cars and colonial architecture in Havana Cuba

Cruise around the Baltic

Before this trip I was firmly anti-cruise, but I discovered there are certain situations where cruising is a brilliant way to travel. Seeing a bunch of expensive Scandinavian countries is one of them.

Our ship was based in Copenhagen, so we took some time before and after our sailing to explore the uber-cool Danish capital. Our ports of call included:

  • historic Warnemunde in Germany
  • Estonia’s quirky capital of Tallin
  • two days soaking up Imperial Russian sites in St. Petersberg
  • design-savvy Helsinki
  • stately Stockholm

Sailing through the Swedish capital’s archipelago was a highlight of the cruise. Our ship navigated between tiny green islands with the early morning sun touching down upon their shores, making for breathtaking views.

saling through stockholm archipelago

Italy

I can’t believe it took me so long to do Italy justice. Even two full weeks was barely enough to scratch the surface, but I finally saw Rome and Venice, the Amalfi Coast and Bologna. The vast quantity of classic architecture, world-renowned art, lively neighbourhoods, impeccably prepared food, fast cars and stunning landscapes is unbelievable. I came back with a contagious new zest for living life well. Isn’t that what it’s really all about anyway?

st mark's basilica in venice in the evening light

Here’s to many more favourite trips,

Mona signature

 

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