Come for a walk down memory lane with me, as I look back at 20 of my favourite travel memories from the past 30 years.
Firstly, I can’t believe I’m talking about what I’ve done in the last 30 years. 30 YEARS. Honestly, time does fly young ones 😉 I couldn’t have imagined the travels and adventures I would enjoy, particularly in the last 10 years. There’s been a lot of travel: some with family and friends, but the majority of it solo. So I thought it would be fun to look back on my favourite travel moments of the past 30 years. From my earliest childhood travel memories to more recent trips, these are the moments that I’ll never forget. I wanted to do 30, but then this post would have turned into an actual book. So 20 it is!
MY TOP TRAVEL MEMORIES
1. MOVING TO CANADA
What an adventure that was! Moving to Canada (twice) was the best decision I’ve ever made. I had so many wonderful experiences in Vancouver and met the best people. I can’t even narrow down all the best things I did in Vancouver. There were the multiple taco dates, the Aussie pub nights, the morning we spent brunching and tubing, the nights dancing at Junction, spending Canadian Thanksgiving with friends in the Okanagan, as well as Aussie Pie Guy adventures. If you have the opportunity to live abroad, DO IT.
2. MY COUCHSURFING EXPERIENCE IN ALABAMA
I couchsurfed four times during my solo trip across North America. But the most memorable experience was my overnight stay in Montgomery, Alabama. It acted as a stopover between Nashville and New Orleans. My host took me to the local college where she tutored in the evening and then I watched her play kickball. After that, we went to a local bar where I sat outside with her friends and enjoyed $3 beers. Finally, we got some food at the totally retro Sonic Drive-In. It was such an unexpected evening, which made it all the better.
3. SEEING LOVELY LAKE BLED
My day at Lake Bled was a highlight of 2017. It was a totally postcard perfect location, with blue skies and snow capped mountain surrounds. I had the best day wandering around the lake taking ALL the photos. It was pure magic.
READ MORE: Lake Bled day trip
4. CHRISTMAS IN LONDON
London during the holidays is absolutely magical and a total bucket list item. I loved visiting London at Christmas and seeing the decorations everywhere.
READ MORE: Christmas in London
5. VISITING VANG VIENG
I was going to just say tubing in Vang Vieng was memorable. But my entire time in the small town in Laos was an experience. I visited Vang Vieng in 2011, on my Southeast Asia Contiki trip. The adventure began at a nightclub where they poured a shot directly into my mouth as I entered. After consuming a bucket prior to this, I (naturally) danced the night away on a raised stage inside afterwards. Then there was the ridiculously rocky bike ride to the “Blue Lagoon” the morning after, which was more like the murky and gross lagoon. But in the afternoon, we went tubing and it was so much fun! We drank, we floated, we jumped into the water and we danced. The perfect afternoon.
6. MY RANDOM AFTERNOON IN MEXICO
When I visited San Diego, I knew I wanted to go to Mexico for the afternoon. I went on a half-day organised tour to Tijuana, which was an experience. We basically just spent a couple of hours in the city centre, where I ate real Mexican and bought souvenirs from the nicest guy. He gave me a $2 US note, which is said to be lucky. I have travelled with it since! But crossing back into the States later, I got grilled by the customs officer. He basically berated me like he was my dad; telling me I shouldn’t have come alone. I told him I was on a tour but that wasn’t enough for him 😳
7. CHRISTMAS DAY IN FRANCE
On my Contiki tour back in 2007, we spent Christmas Day travelling from Lucerne in Switzerland to Lyon, France. We stopped for champagne and chocolate beside Lake Geneva, before riding a ferris wheel and having dinner at a family-owned restaurant in Lyon. We had snails, frog legs and all kinds of delights. It wasn’t the most traditional Christmas meal, but it was very memorable.
8. MOVING TO MELBOURNE
When I returned to Townsville after my working holiday in 2014, I thought I would move back to Brisbane once I’d saved up some money. But then I decided that if I was going to start all over again, why not do it in a completely new city? I lucked out and secured a room in a city apartment prior to my move to Melbourne. It probably won’t be my forever home, but I give myself a pat on the back for moving here (twice). It will always be my favourite Australian capital.
9. VISITING MY FIRST COUNTRY: INDONESIA
Bali was the first place I visited outside of Australia. My parents took my brother and I when I was 16 and it was AMAZING. A total culture shock, but amazing. We ate delicious food, went on long drives, bought a lot of useless stuff, got clothes tailor made, and I of course got my hair braided. It was the best first overseas experience a kid could ask for really. I also think it was when I first got bitten by the travel bug. So really, my parents only have themselves to blame 😉
Since then, we have made a lot of travel memories in Bali. We’ve become friends with the locals on Legian Beach, gotten Bali Belly too many times and visited our sponsor children on several occasions. Bali will always be special to me.
10. TRYING TO LEARN TO SKI IN NEW ZEALAND
My second overseas trip was the following year, when my school organised a New Zealand ski trip. Now, I’ve never been coordinated. But I thought, “hey, skiing can’t be too hard, right?”. How wrong 17 year-old Hayley was. This is one of my favourite travel memories because it’s just so funny to look back on. We visited three different ski areas in five days, and it took me until day five to get off the ski lift without falling. I remember the sense of accomplishment and amazement that ran through my body when I slid off the chair and didn’t fall straight on my butt. On the trip I stuck to the beginner slopes and the fun kids’ area. I didn’t do too badly but I’m yet to strap on the skis again. I think I may still be traumatised 😂.
11. WHITE CHRISTMAS IN WHISTLER
When I was in high school, I remember having this pinboard in my room, where I’d pinned a snowy New York photo. Being a massive fan of Christmas, I’d dreamt of a traditional white Christmas for a long time. So when the opportunity to have a white Christmas in Whistler with two Aussie friends presented itself, I jumped. It was a great Christmas with a lot of eating, some drinking and the all-important white stuff falling from the sky. I then got a second semi-white Christmas in Vancouver in 2016. Although there was no snow falling, my neighbourhood still looked like a winter wonderland when I went for a Christmas Day walk.
12. TRAVERSING NORTH AMERICA SOLO
Although I’ll mention a couple of very memorable moments from this trip in this post, my North America trip as a whole has to be one of my top travel memories. It was a monster of a trip – beginning in Vancouver, I crossed the country, headed down the east coast, along the south and then up the west coast to Vancouver again. I took a lot of bus rides, stayed in a lot of hostels and realised that people really are nice in the south.
READ MORE: My entire North America itinerary
13. SPENDING NEW YEAR’S EVE AND DAY IN ROME
Following on from Christmas in France, on that same Contiki tour we spent New Year’s Eve and Day in Rome. New Year’s Eve was insane. We went to an MTV party next to the Colosseum and it was mayhem, with champagne going off in every direction. After it hit midnight, we literally walked around the Colosseum and hugged it before being picked up. The next day, we went to the Vatican City with thousands of locals to see the Pope’s speech. A once-in-a-lifetime experience I’ll never forget.
I also have to mention another memorable night on this trip. We were in Barcelona and found an “Aussie pub.” It was a bar where the drinks were very strong, the walls were covered in Australian posters and there were topless Spanish men dancing on the stage.
14. MY FAMILY’S AUSSIE ROAD TRIP
Now we’re throwing it back to when I was 8 and my dad got long-service leave. My parents decided to take my brother and I on a three-month caravan trip around Australia. We went from WA across to the NT and Queensland into New South Wales, and back again. We visited family, beautiful WA beaches, unique Outback towns and our future home. My brother and I learned our timetables by listening to a rap on cassette (yes, really). We also listened to a lot of country music.
Another top travel memory from when I was a kid was visiting Monkey Mia, which is known for its wild dolphin population. My mum likes to tell the story of how I used to get annoyed by the dolphins when I was trying to swim 😂. But seriously, the beaches in the Monkey Mia/Shark Bay area are something else.
15. FINALLY VISITING NEW YORK CITY
Remember how I said I had a photo of New York on my pinboard as a teenager? Well, you can imagine how excited I was to finally tick New York City off my bucket list. I spent a week in the city in 2014 with an Australian couple I met in Vancouver. We tackled a different area every day and we saw so much. I loved every second of walking through Central Park, seeing Stomp off-Broadway, taking the ferry to Staten Island and watching a Yankees game. The question is, when will I return to New York City? 🤔
16. ON THAT NOTE, GETTING TO KNOW PARIS AS WELL
My first time in Paris was on the aforementioned Contiki tour, where I did all the touristy things. Nearly 10 years later I returned and did all the things I missed out on the first time. There’s no doubt about it, Paris is a magical city. There’s just so much to see and do, I tried to spend each day in a different area here as well. My favourite things were seeing the Eiffel Tower twinkle with my friend Steve, doing a sunset cruise along the Seine, eating a pastry every morning and seeing sunrise from Sacre Coeur. This was one of those magical moments for me, where I was like, “I love that this is my life.”
READ MORE: My solo travel guide to Paris
17. AN UNFORGETTABLE WEEKEND IN SQUAMISH
This was hands down one of my favourite weekends EVER. When I lived in Canada in 2014, I was a Virgin Mobile customer. The company was sponsoring the Squamish Valley Music Festival and were giving away VIP weekend passes. Well, I was one of 50 winners, and we each brought a plus one. The VIP campground was located right next to the festival and our prize included all camping equipment, free breakfast and some free drinks. Inside the festival, we also got to hang in the VIP sections next to the two main stages. No waiting for a drink or having to push through crowds to see the set. It was INCREDIBLE. The lineup was even better, as we got to see Bruno Mars, Eminem, Arcade Fire, Foster the People, Arctic Monkeys, Chvrches and more. In the mornings, we also ventured into Squamish and to the Sea to Sky Gondola. Seriously, most fun weekend ever.
18. EXPLORING LA WITH FRIENDS
My biggest trips in my 20s have all been solo. But one of my favourite trips was with my two closest friends in Vancouver to LA. We did a lot with only five days in LA, like visiting Santa Monica and Venice, going to a Beauty and the Beast sing-along at El Capitan Theatre, seeing the sunset from Griffith Park Observatory and exploring downtown LA. We also ate A LOT of great food, like all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ and $1.25 tacos. It was the best.
19. TRAVELLING SOLO THROUGH THE UK AND EUROPE
Like THIS trip wasn’t going to make the list. My 2017 UK/Europe adventures were amazing. I visited 13 countries in 10 weeks. Just some of the highlights (not included the few featured above) were finally seeing Scotland, falling in love with Amsterdam, staying with family in England and France, and making fast friends in Brussels. One of the biggest differences between these trips is that I went slower this time and I seemed to meet a lot more people. Now I just want to go back and see more. Europe travel is addictive.
READ MORE: The big UK/Europe recap
20. TAKING ON TOKYO
We made it to number 20! My first time in Tokyo was extremely memorable to me. It began with my hostel accommodation, where my room was so small I had to get changed whilst lying on the single bed. Then there was the fact I couldn’t find food I enjoyed until the last day. I had some weird meals before that, including a cold noodle dish in a hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the road from my hostel. There was also the time on the subway where I accidentally grabbed a guy’s hand when the train jerked suddenly. Yeah, that happened. But other than, I did actually enjoy my time in Tokyo 😂.
READ MORE: Why you should visit Tokyo as a solo traveller.
If you made it to the end, thanks for hanging in there for this walk down memory lane. There were more travel memories I could have shared (my first time on the Great Barrier Reef included). But in the end, I just feel so fortunate that my life so far has included so many unforgettable and memorable moments. I will never regret this life of travel I’ve created.
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