My last post was about 5 times travel wasn’t exactly glorious. So why do it? Because sometimes it really truly is the magical fairy tale we’ve always dreamed of. For me, the magic has always outweighed the mess. Despite the Instagram envy and pressure, and maybe even because of the hard times.
Here are 7 times that travel became everything I wanted and needed. Perhaps they will convince you to muddle through the mess to find the magic as well. I honestly believe everyone should. At least try it. At least once.
Starry Rooftop in Rome
This is the first time I really let the travel bug bite me hard and burrow in. I was 14, and had just spent three weeks in Spain, France, and Italy with the People to People Ambassador Programs. On our last night, we were staying in a hotel in Rome. My room just happened to have easy rooftop access via…our window. It was definitely not intended to have teenagers climbing out of it. Oh well. When in Rome…
My roommates and I climbed out and chatted, and well after they had gone back inside I sat on that roof. In Rome. Staring at a clear starry night. I vowed to myself it would not be the last time I felt that feeling.
This was the same day my pink digital camera had been pick-pocketed. Meaning I have zero pictures from this entire formative experience. And you know what? I remember the stars more than the theft.
Serendipitous Moulin Rouge
My favorite movie, for as long as I can remember claiming a favorite movie, has always been Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman. I cannot resist a good musical and unexpected endings. Every note of every number on the soundtrack is memorized. I made my brother duet with me in the car. It’s a whole thing.
When I was in Paris with a college class for my final spring break (I was graduating in May), the professor from the partnering university announced that he would take anyone who wanted to pay for it to a show at the Moulin Rouge. THE Moulin Rouge. In Paris. TAKE MY MONEY. It was exactly what any super-fan could want.
Irish Rugby with Irish Lads in an Irish Bar…in Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Through a series of events my travel buddy and I ended up Couchsurfing above an Irish bar in Phnom Penh. It was legitimately an Irish pub. The guy who owned and ran it was Irish. So was his barman. So were most of the patrons. They served beef stew on Thursdays.
One evening while we were there Ireland was set to play their big rival in rugby (I forget who the rival is now. Belgium? Help me in the comments if you know!). For my fellow Americans who may not know, rugby is a THING in many places in the world, Ireland being one of them. So me and my travel buddy spent the evening in a PACKED bar full of wonderfully happily drunk and screaming Irishmen learning about rugby. I loved it.
Friend’s Birthday Beach Picnic in Qingdao, China
It was nearing the end of my spring semester abroad in Qingdao, China and beach weather was finally starting to happen (Qingdao is on the coast, it has a beach). The bus situation from our university to the beach was not a short one though, so we didn’t go often. However, on this one day our beautiful, loud, silly Thai friend was having his birthday. So a large group of Thai, American, Korean, German, Indonesian, and Australian exchange students packed large baskets with beer and fried chicken and headed to the shore. We swam and ate and sang and engaged in the general tomfoolery that comes with being young together surrounded by sand and sea. The timelessness and the specialness of the international comradery truly made for a happy memory.
Sibling Sunrise in Utah, USA
My brother and I reunited for a road/camping trip after many months spent living different lives as adult siblings tend to do. We drove together from Denver, Colorado to Coyote Gulch in Utah. The sun set as we were driving into Utah, so we parked in the dark near where Google said the hike would start. We woke up to the photo below. I honestly have no words to describe how happy I was to be in that place with this particular person.
You can read about how this afternoon was not on purpose and also see lots of pictures in this post I wrote: How To Make the Best of a Bad Travel Situation. It still makes this list because it was SUCH a good afternoon with SUCH good people, and it was 100% unplanned. Not on the itinerary. The happiest of accidents.
Sunrise Volcano Eruption
This happened just days before I wrote this. Just days AFTER I posted 5 Times Traveling Was Not Pretty. We did a short (but steep, don’t let me fool you I was wheezin’) hike at about 4:30 in the morning so we could watch the sun rise over beautiful Lake Atitlan from Indian Nose point up high. The lake has several three volcanoes right on its shores, and several more visible in the distance. Right before sunrise Volcan Fuego (I think, because that’s what the guides said and it’s a consistently active one) nearer Antigua erupted. Full on, orange lave and black smoke. More than once. Pure. Magic. (from our distance, and because this eruption did not cause harm to people like previous ones have)
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