Who am I kidding, there have been heaps of those moments over the years, but here are just a few…
1. My First Trip to Bali When I was Twelve
It seems fitting to start here, as this was the first time I ventured out of Australia. My love of air travel was already firmly in place, having already traveled pretty extensively within Australia to visit family in South Australia, or to compete in dancing competitions in Melbourne, Canberra and Darwin.
I have distinct, mostly sensory memories of what would be the first of many visits to this Indonesian Island neighbour (it’s a three-hour flight to Bali from my hometown, Perth, in Western Australia).
Firstly, it was hot. It was probably late December, in the off-season, when you could pick up cheap deal. My resourceful Mum, a single parent raising two girls, was able to get a great deal on a holiday package to Bali, and we stayed at the four star (!!!) Bali Dynasty Resort.
It was paradise. We had breakfast at the pool bar every morning, and I vividly remember my order: a full American-style breakfast aptly named The Surfer. It came with a tiny, almost thimble sized glass of fresh orange juice, perfectly fried eggs, and triangles of white toast with the crusts cut off. Heaven.
Each day after spending the morning haggling over useless wooden cat ornaments, and loudly coloured T-shirts emblazoned with the word BALI (in case I forgot I’d been), the three of us girls would return to the pool and feast on freshly stir-fried noodles, which to this day, are the best noodles I have ever tasted.
Maybe it was my young, western palate, or maybe that pool-side cook at The Bali Dynasty Hotel had some sort of magic wok that he used to toss those noodles , but I can almost still taste them.
Lastly, the smells of Bali had a huge impact on my twelve-year-old self. I come from one of the cleanest cities in the world. The mixture of sewerage, exhaust fumes and local foods from the road-side stalls were the biggest reminder that I was somewhere else.
And I honestly don’t remember being repulsed by any of it. Though the intense humidity combined with those sometimes-unpleasant smells may have been a little confronting, I hold the memory of that first foray into overseas travel very dear to my heart.
2. Wearing A Sari in Kerala, India.
They fascinated me, especially the exposed mid-drift. In my country a bulging belly laden with rolls of well-fed flesh are covered up. In India, they seem to be celebrated – the more rolls the better.
I also wondered how the hell they stayed up, and whether or not there was duct tape involved.
I had been in the touristy beach-side town of Varkala for about five days, and had bought a couple of things from a lady also named Sarah. She was sweet, and I enjoyed our interactions.
I especially enjoyed bargaining with her. We would haggle back and forth in a mock-serious way, before easily settling on a price. Then she would order us sweet chai, and we would sit and chat for a while.
On my last day there, I went to pick up a few last-minute purchases from Sarah.
My eyes lit up when she brought out a hot-pink sari.
“Just try it on,” she said, and I couldn’t resist.
I will always remember standing in the back of her humid little shop, on the dusty linoleum floor, while she dressed me in the Sari.
I’m pretty sure I was grinning the whole time. What is such normal practice for Indian women was such a novelty for me. Sarah seemed to enjoy the spectacle of a foreigner in a Sari, and anointed my forehead with a gold bindi.
She knew I wasn’t going to buy it, there was no way I would get it into my back-pack, but she let me walk back to the hotel where my boyfriend was retreating from the midday heat.
I walked past another young shop owner I had bought a few things from. He was a fourteen year old boy named Lucky, with a huge smile. He wasn’t doing too well with his make-shift store down an alleyway. There wasn’t much foot-traffic down there, but he persisted.
“Whoa! Beautiful Indian woman!” Lucky cried, after doing a double take. He took my photo on his mobile phone, bewildered. Then I continued on to the hotel to show Tyrhone.
Later that evening, I returned the Sari to Sarah. I couldn’t buy it, even if I had wanted to, but I felt really grateful to have worn it, even for half an hour or so, and surprisingly, there was no duct tape required.
3. Riding A Moped In Cappadocia, Turkey
We arrived in the town of Goreme with a few new friends we had met on a 3 day boat cruise.
Someone suggested we hire mopeds to explore the area, and though I was hesitant (I had never driven one before), I was also suffering from an extreme case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), so I went along with it.
I am also a control freak and a chronic back-seat driver, so I decided to get my own bike, instead of riding with Tyrhone.
We assured the guy at the rental place that we had all driven mopeds before, though only one of our party, a girl from New York, actually had.
I’ll never forget the terror that gripped me when I first took off during our practice laps of the car park. One girl in our group pulled out when she almost rolled the bike going 10km/hr.
I got my confidence up a little bit, then we took to the open road. Yikes! (Though I was muttering some far less child-friendly words).
It was tricky getting out-of-town, with a bit of traffic around, but once we got going into the country-side, I acquired a cheesy grin from ear-to-ear that said, I’m riding a moped in fricking TURKEY baby!!!!!
It was one of the best days of my life.
We flew down a wide, flat road, flanked on either side by potato fields. Farmers waved from the fields, and we waved back. A man perched high on a tractor flashed a toothless grin, amused by the funny tourists in the large, round helmets.
I felt so free in that moment, and felt like I could just keep going……….forever…………….
We stopped in a small town called Mustafapasa, and a local restaurant broke the Ramadan fast to feed us.
We discovered an excavation of ancient remains being conducted, and stopped to walk around the site.
We passed through small farming towns, where cattle had right of way.
We returned to Goreme at night fall, exhausted, but on a high. We had ridden most of the day, and it felt weird not to have wind whipping our faces.
So there you have it, a few of my most memorable travel moments, and here’s to many, many more! I’d love to hear some of yours……………