And even then, I’ll probably want to compare notes about them…
Wales, United Kingdom
A Rugby Day in Cardiff
Mae hen wlad fy nhadau! (Land of my fathers)
Cardiff on a rugby day is an absolute must, especially if you’re in the area through February and March to catch the six nations and more specifically, the Wales v Ireland match!
While the England v Wales game is the most anticipated game of the season for the Welsh, there’s nothing that compares to the atmosphere out in the streets of Cardiff after Wales play Ireland. A sea of red and green take to the streets, chanting, praising a good game and enjoying each other’s quirky accents. There’s so much love in the air and everybody wants a cwtch (hug). Nobody cares who wins, because it doesn’t matter – as long as one of us beats the English!
We love our little green cousins.
Republic of Ireland
Live Music in Dublin
The next best thing to being an Irish rugby fan in Wales, is being a Welsh music lover in Ireland. The stunning beauty of the cobbled streets dotted with original Irish bars (not like the six consecutive Paddy and Murphy bars along the high street of every tourist town ever, actual Irish bars). Tuneful melodies emitting from every doorway invite you in to dance and fall in love with a total stranger playing the harmonica. Spellbinding acoustic solos that will make you feel like Hilary Swank in P.S. I Love You (guys, I know that gets all the feels with you too). A husky Irish man singing country songs straight at you, or a beautiful green-eyed, auburn-haired lady encouraging butterflies to perform their own Irish jig in the pit of your stomach.
Drink, dance and be merry in Dublin at least once in your life.
Learning to Ski or Snowboard
Maybe not the most popular or raved-about skiing destination in the world, or even in Europe, but every time I smell the authentic wood-burning scent of a pizza oven, I can’t help but be transported back to a rickety log cabin, with an open fire. Brandy hot chocolate in hand, at the side of a bustling ski slope, the sound of tiny bells jingling all around – bearded old men, trying to sell a ‘lucky charm’ to the tourists to keep them safe on the slopes and to make a few extra levs to feed their families. Or maybe just to buy a beer at the end of a long cold day to enjoy with their beardy friends.
The ski slopes in Bulgaria are considered by the rest of Europe as “beginner slopes”. This is an ideal first ski holiday and it won’t take much for you to fall in love with both the sport and the views here. After long tough days out on these cold mountains, you should sign up for any tourist events on offer, where you might be invited out to enjoy a traditional dinner, drinks and some Bulgarian dancing. If this is available to you, do it! So much fun to be had here, don’t miss out on it.
Sleeping with Baboons
In the vast desert wilderness of Namibia, there are orphans. Tiny orphans whose mothers have been torn away from them in the night, orphans who have been left to fend for themselves against the predators, poachers and an ever shrinking habitat. I am talking about the non-human orphans of Africa: baboons, meerkats, warthogs, birds, springbok, cheetahs, leopards, painted dogs… the list goes on.
Luckily for these lonely babies, there is a safe place called the Na’an Ku Se Wildlife Sanctuary in Namibia. Based on a 10,000 hectare nature reserve, about 40km outside of the Namibian capital of Windhoek, the charity opened in 2007 and apart from providing a safe retreat to take care of the sick, injured and orphaned animals found in the wild, they are also providing paid jobs and a local school for the San Bushmen and their children. Along with running a carnivore conservation research programme, the workers at Na’an ku se are taking care of a diverse range of wildlife and tending to their medical and emotional needs, with the best range of expertise you could imagine from a volunteer funded charity. Volunteers are invited to take part in every aspect of the work there, including spending time with the children in the school, carnivore and reptile tracking and research, general conservation and feeding and nurturing the wide array of incredible species on the land.
But the work doesn’t end at 5pm. The tiny baby baboons need warmth and comfort to be able to sleep soundly. To lose their mother so young, means they lose the constant contact that they require to be able to develop into young adults. You know what this means… Yup, you’re taking a furry baby to bed with you. Shower, nappy, bottle and cuddles are all part of this package. Don’t neglect your other duties though, you’ll need to feed the rest of the animals and walk the cheetah cubs daily.
Safari through the Serengeti
More specifically, a hot air balloon ride over the Serengeti at sunrise… Need I say more?
Hiking in Karijini
The colours, Oh the colours! I’m a coast lover, through and through, but this is the most incredibly beautiful series of crevices I’ve ever had the pleasure of climbing / wading / stumbling through.
If you’re familiar with the film 127 hours, there are parts of Karijini that give that “If I fall here, I die here” vibe, but as long as you go equipped and preferably with a knowledgeable guide you are unlikely to run into any dramas here. Tour them all. Each one is different.
Snorkelling with Whale Sharks in Exmouth
I love rays. I’ve always loved rays. They’re just so… Flat. Floaty. Weird. They’re awesome! So I was pretty damn excited about snorkelling with them in Coral Bay. But I actually found this experience a little bit dull. Obviously there’s no way to control sea life, they are wild and free and have no obligation to come out to play just because you paid to see them. But the issue isn’t really that I didn’t see them, it was just that the following day I went snorkelling with Whale Sharks in Exmouth and that was waaaaaaay more impressive and I got to see more rays that day hanging out with these giant sea-beasts than I did the previous day when I’d paid for it. This isn’t to say that you’ll always see a whale-shark on the day you pay for it either, but I’ve only done it once and I saw 11 that day. Do this in May, it was the PERFECT time of year because that’s when they’re just migrating up the coast to warmer waters. They are enormous, majestic, fascinating animals and I’ve never in all my life been so surprised by the size of something’s mouth. Can’t be imagined, must be experienced.
Living a healthy and relaxed lifestyle in Fremantle
I have NEVER been so healthy. There is something pretentious about the café culture in Fremantle and granted, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but if you look past that you will find something to love in this town. A salad feels like a treat because every café take such pride in everything they make. Everywhere you go is walking / cycling / running distance to a beach. The train line from Perth ends here and there are so many great suburbs along the track. Everybody is an artist of some description. The sun is always shining and when it isn’t the storms are phenomenal! Go here, buy a push bike, wear what you want and still fit in, wander the weekend markets, eat beautiful food, visit the beach every day, swim in the sea, watch the ships come and go at the port and fall in love with one of my favourite towns in the world. Above all, drink at The Left Bank, that’s where all the cool kids work and play.
Station life in the Kimberleys
There aren’t enough words to describe how much this experience changed me. So I’ll keep it fairly brief. You do not know Australia if you haven’t worked through your 88 days agricultural visa extension requirement. Even if you don’t plan to stay a second year, there’s no experience more real than living in a small community, away from the rest of the world, working the kind of job you never would at home. I worked for 3 months as a station hand in the Kimberleys and when I saw what I had to do I thought I’d be shipped home in a coffin by the end of week one… I stayed a month more than I needed to and went back for a further five months the following year, just for kicks. This life will change you. Could be for the better, could be for the worse, but you’ll definitely learn more about yourself somewhere like this than you will gazing out your bedroom window in the comfort of your parents’ place.
Queenstown, New Zealand
Adrenaline and partying in Queenstown
Holy crap on a cracker I love Queenstown. But I can’t live there. I’d have spent the last 6 months drunk in a gutter and jumping off any surface with a nearly stable edge and I certainly wouldn’t have any savings to show for it now! Go there, jump off everything in every style they offer you. Kayak, hike, bungee jump, skydive, ski or snowboard and drink yourself into a coma 7 nights a week if you want to. Queenstown is ideal for a non-sustainable, adrenaline fuelled lifestyle. Go there. Do this.
This list is unfinished, I said 10 so I stuck to 10, but I am nowhere near finished experiencing awesome things, there’s still so much more to see of the world! In fact I haven’t even moved on from New Zealand yet and I already have more to add. I’ll save them for the next list.