There is something magical about traveling overseas. It starts with the excitement of packing; there are so many questions that come with each item you place into your suitcase. What will the weather be like? What kind of adventures will I get up to? Should I bring this pair of jeans, just in case? The excitement continues the minute you walk into the airport. It is chaotic - especially if you’re just starting to explore the world. No one knows you, and you don’t know your surroundings - it’s a temporary fresh start, a brand new adventure.
I started traveling when I was 9 years old. The first country I visited was Singapore. People weren’t kidding when they said it’s a fine country - you literally get fined for everything. There are a lot of rules that were difficult to wrap my head around, however now that I’m older, it is really common sense and all about respect for one another and the community in which people live. Singapore was great to explore and have some of the most amazing live plays close to the beach where you get to watch people perform a story about Singapore’s history. I have also visited Hong Kong. It was less exciting for me personally, but I was amazed at the night markets. Thailand was excellent for shopping. My family and I stayed in a hotel in Phuket. Days were spent lazing by the pool, exploring flea markets and getting familiar with local culture. Street food was such a wonderful treat - from fresh fruit to roasted insects, everything was on the menu.
The first countries I visited in Europe were France, Italy, Germany and Croatia. France was incredible, but not for the reasons why people spoke about it, ie the Eiffel Tower. The shopping centres, beautiful accents and delicious bakeries were my favourite part about visiting France. The Eiffel Tower was less enjoyable; I did not anticipate all of the long queues. Something that was incredibly special was how the Eiffel Tower lights up in the evenings. The Louvre museum is also a must see, if you have the time. It’s usually crowded so it is best to go in the morning.
Italy is stunning in Summer. It gets incredibly hot, but there’s lots to do and lots to take photographs of. It’s one of my favourite places to visit and not just for the pasta. There are water taxis, amazing art galleries, street artists outside of the colosseum, gladiators to take pictures with and market stalls where you can purchase cheap souvenirs. The leaning tower of Pisa is excellent to visit in Summer too. Be sure to bring a picnic blanket and a few snacks and enjoy the afternoon watching other tourists pretend to hold up the tower.
Belgium was fun to explore. I've visited it a few times and though it's not one of my favourite countries, it's one that I've made the most memories in. I enjoy visiting Germany during the holiday season. There’s usually lots of Christmas markets where it is incredibly festive. Munich is lovely to go to in the Springtime and explore places that the locals go. Croatia is lovely in the summertime too; there’s many stores to explore, ice cream shops with loads of different flavours and of course, the gorgeous beaches to laze on. The earlier you get there, the better. It becomes crowded in the afternoon, so be sure to lay your towel out in the sun to mark your territory!
Other European countries I have visited include Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Austria, similar to Germany, is wonderful in the winter. There are Christmas markets too but the atmosphere is very different. Germany is more lively, while Austria is more cosy. I stayed in Salzburg whilst I was there. The houses are faerie-like and the scenery is breathtaking.
Switzerland was crowded in the wintertime. My family and I visited Jungfroujoch, which is the highest point in Europe. Here people can take cable cars up the mountains, go on ski trips or snowboard. My sister and I went into the caves and explored, there’s a museum and even the Lindt chocolate factory where you can see so many varieties of chocolate! In 2012, I visited the Netherlands - little did I know I would move there a year later. At the time, my family and I stayed in the Novotel in Amsterdam, which I personally think is overrated. If you want to explore the Netherlands, I suggest going to cities like Rotterdam and Utrecht. Amsterdam is popular for, dare I say it, weed and sex but if you really want to have a good time, go away from the tourist attractions and explore the places locals go.
I have not travelled to many places in Africa. I’ve obviously been to South Africa (where I am from) and I highly recommend Cape Town in December, which is when it is Summer. There’s so much to do; swimming at the beautiful beaches, exploring table mountain, visiting the V&A Waterfront, dinner at Sea Point, high teas at the Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay. Another place I have visited in Africa is Namibia, which is beautiful if you want a more stereotypical African experience; desert with cold nights, warm mornings, stunning sunrises and you can even meet African tribes/clans while trekking through the country.
In Central America I have visited Costa Rica which is hands down my favourite travel experience. I really got familiar with the culture and that is something I’ll always treasure. The people were warm, friendly and so welcoming. Originally, it was a cultural exchange/volunteer programme that my school organised, in hopes of international students saving and raising awareness for the Leatherback Sea Turtles, but it became an experience of a lifetime. It was so exciting! I celebrated my 18th birthday there, in the middle of a rainforest, my group and I were evacuated from a beach because of high tide and I still stay in touch with some of the locals I met there. Meals consisted of rice and black beans, we mostly stayed in rainforests and cabins close to the beach, though we did spend a day in the city of our tour-guide.
Traveling has opened my eyes and mind to so many things. By traveling, you become connected to the earth, the people that inhabit it and the diversity of language and cultures that are created. You will truly get a fresh perspective of the world. It doesn’t even need to be a new country; simply exploring a new city or taking a road trip is enough to get you familiar with the world you stay in. Trust me, you’ll fall in love with the world. Yes, there’s a lot of negativity and yes, we face global issues that urgently need to be addressed - but these issues are shoved into our faces so often that we forget there is some good in the world. Contrary to popular belief, we don’t have to look too far to find it.