I travel to collect memories. I want to look back at my life, many years from now, after my body has packed in and my mind is on its own visceral way out, and hope that snapshots of my travels will be one of the few, clear experiences that I cling onto like glue.
There are some places I’ve been that have stayed with me more than others, impossible to forget. They are all incredibly different but share a propensity for being close to nature, which is something that only dawned on me until I had written this list. I live in London, and I love cities, but clearly they are no match against what Mother Nature has to offer: She has a beauty I can do nothing but surrender to.
So without further ado, here are 5 places I would revisit in a heartbeat.
If you follow me on facebook you will know that I am completely infatuated with this place. It’s been nearly a year since I visited this glacier-coated island and there is not a day gone by that I haven’t thought about it. See! I even talk about it like I’m a love-sick teenager! But can you blame me? Just look at it.
However, this place isn’t all about looks. It’s about how it makes you feel. The exhilaration you get when you know there is not a single thing you’d rather be doing. That’s how Svalbard made me feel. It’s tormenting, so in a way, I hate it too.
Sabah, Malaysian Borneo
Half of my family live in Malaysia so I have an affinity with this country. It was the first country I visited outside of Europe when I was seven; I remember the mango trees, sticky humidity, stray dogs, marble floors and cockroaches: everything felt so exotic and it was at this point in my life that I was bitten by the travelbug, along with a million mosquitoes.
However, my family live on Penninsula Malaysia, I didn’t visit Sabah which is separated from Peninsula Malaysia by the South China Sea, and is geographically part of Borneo, until I was nineteen. I loved Kinabalu – its capital – small in size with a local feel mixed with a cosmopolitan buzz but without all the skyscrapers you’d find in Kuala Lumper. And not far from the city you can find floating villages, endless forest, mountainous landscapes, and extraordinary wildlife.
Yosemite National Park, US
If someone says Utopia, I say Yosemite. I love this place and dream about going back so I can throw shapes up in the air, spot another bear, and sing-a-long- to the Sound of Music a à la Julie Andrews style. As night falls I then retire inside a cosy log cabin and snuggle up inside a blanket and listen out for encroaching animals.
During my visit to Yosemite, I stayed in a tent cabin with my friend, Harriet. It was basic but all we needed. However, we made an unexpected friend in the middle of the night: a little mouse that had squeezed its way into our tent and became caught somewhere between the crevices in the material. We tried to let him out but he was a nifty, little thing so we accepted defeat and tried to go back to sleep. But he wouldn’t let us. He spent the night furiously trying to scratch his way back to freedom. But there were no winners, he didn’t escape and we didn’t sleep. In the morning we changed tents and that night we slept like dogs, however, next time I’m in Yosemite I want to stay in a log cabin – somewhere a little bit more mouse-proof!
This province in China is full of nature and local life. I lived here when I was 21 and I’d love to relive some of the memories I have of this place, and I’m very interested to see how it’s changed. Even in the short time I was there new buildings were constantly being erected and I could see marked urban differences from when I arrived to when I left.
Although I enjoyed finding a nice, quiet spot along the Yangtze River not far from where I lived in the city of Wuhu, and took pleasure in seeing how hoards of elderly people gathered together playing marjong in the parks, Anhui is best for its beautiful landscape away from the cities. Don’t miss Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) where Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was filmed, and whatever you do, don’t missed Mount JiuHua, one of the four great Buddhist Mountains of China. The views. Oh the views.
Stradbroke Island, Australia
One night on Stradbroke Island is not enough; it’s a haven of dramatic cliffs, white beaches and miles upon miles of oceanic views. To get here you need to take a boat from Brisbane and once you arrive you’ll feel like you’ve hit the jack pot. The biggest jack pot came for me when I climbed to a look-out point and spotted whales swimming not far away from the bottom of the cliff face. Even thinking about it now makes me sigh with a certain kind of fulfilment (mixed with a strange envy towards the 19-year old me in this photo).