From the heights of the Himalayas to the heart of the Amazon, Daniel Bury is on a mission to experience reality from the point of view of diverse people around the world, sharing first-hand encounters with distinct cultures and communities in immersive 360-degree virtual reality.
Kelsey Johnson is a longtime friend of mine and has worked with me on award-winning travel television projects in the past (“Chasing the World” before it transformed into a cutting edge virtual reality series).
It was the Fourth of July 2011. I was sitting underneath a table in our backyard while my college roommates screamed at each other overhead. We were playing a game of beerpong. I’d lost the previous game which meant that I was now “trolling,” a cruel and unusual rule which banished me to stay under the table for the remainder of the game. Even though it was a holiday, the whole scene felt redundant. We did this everyday, and as I sipped my red cup of Coor’s Light I began to daydream about where else in the world I could be at that very moment.
I’d only been out of the country twice—both times to Rosarito, Mexico but that was back when you didn’t even need a passport to cross the border and I’d been there to do community service only, not sight-see. My friend Champion had recently talked about moving to Australia and although I only had pennies to my name on that day, I vowed that I would move to Australia (or somewhere) too.
I got some art supplies and began decorating a piggy bank which I labeled “GTFO”—my “Get the F*ck Out Fund.” My first deposit was of $7.86 and for several months after that my piggy still did not feed on much more than pocket-change.
Once I finished with my last semester of school, however, I was able to get a job. I signed up with an environmental organization where I would have the extremely difficult task of converting strangers in the street to monthly donors. I had a weekly quota for how much money I’d have to make—a dollar amount that was just bellow intangible. The pay, on the other hand, was a good deal higher than minimum wage and with these earnings I was able to save.
Alas after several months of moving back in with my mother and living like a monk—no social life and no frivolous spending—I almost had the $3,000 that I’d set out to earn. On one fateful Friday afternoon, though, I didn’t meet quota for the second week in a row and I suffered what I referred to as the “Noble Quota Death.” I had failed to meet the mark and I knew, standing in the cold outside of a Best Buy in Culver City, CA that I’d lost my job right then and there.
I could hustle to find another job and risk spending all my savings to support myself in the interim, or I could take a chance and move to Sydney with what I had. I’d heard it was easy to find a job in Sydney and that the wages were high. Wouldn’t that be better? I wasn’t sure of the answer to that question. All I knew was that it would definitely be a crazy risk, but that weekend I bought my ticket and knew that in less than a month I would be on my way to a world 8,000 miles away from anything I’d ever known before. The over-calculating “proceed with caution” Virgo in me was dying, but the adventurer inside of me was just beginning to breath for the first time.
Was this a good decision? The answer to that is one with mixed realities, including the downside periods of near-homelessness, credit card debt, and homesickness. But on the Fourth of July 2011 I’d only been to one foreign country in my life and by May 2013 I’d been to eleven. Plus, one of those expensive “vacations” resulted in my helping to make a travel TV show pilot which has connected me to people around the world.
By no means do I intend to say that this whole journey was easy. Success and failure are two sides of the same coin– different combinations of calculation and risk-taking with no set end. But, the way I look at it, no matter what side a coin lands on—the coin itself still has value. I will tell you what happened to me once I got to Sydney another time. In the interim though you can ask yourself: what would you give up to travel the world?
I went to high school with Katy in Phoenix, Arizona and we are lifelong close friends. She has a passion for altruism and has spent time living in remote Tanzania to spread medical knowledge.
SAFETY FIRST, THEN TEAMWORK!
Here’s the top 12 essential items that every adventure-seeker should carry with them at all times for their wanderlust companions.
As much as I would like to say I’m a trained professional, I am far from your Bear Grylls survival expert. Honestly, I am just an adrenaline junkie with some accident-prone friends, so I’ve listed below some of the items I recommend for a First Aid Kit.
1. Compression Dressings: What does jungle trekking in Indonesia, hiking in the Outback, and exploring ancient Buddhist temples in Burma all have in common? The potential for a bloody mess, given the group of flat-footed hooligans I travel with! Compression dressing is critical for any major blood loss trauma, cleaning sensitive lenses, passing love notes on an airplane and creating a MacGyver-rigged tampon in extreme cases. Literally, compression dressings could be used in a million different ways- each one as important as the next.
2. Sunscreen: A sunburn is a sure fire way to ruin your delightful beach nap after a hard day of drinking bottomless Mai Tai’s on a secluded beach in Thailand. Plus, sunscreen insures keeping that fresh face fit for a television show 😉
3. Water purifying tablets and water flavoring packets with sugar: I know this sounds extreme to carry around water purifying tablets but water is the key to survival. The tablets take up very little space, are easy to find, and reasonably cheap. The water flavoring packets are a refreshing way to change it up from the bland water taste. Carrying flavoring packets that contain sugar are for ‘just in case’ moments where someone you are traveling with needs a sugar lift. ‘Hangry’ is a real thing.
When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.
4. Motion sickness tablets: All amazing travel destinations are pretty much guaranteed to have some sort of unsightly mode of public transportation. In our first episode of Chasing the World the cast and I spend two and half hours in the back of an “open air off road vehicle” … an old pick-up truck equipped with a metal cage mostly there to transport animals (I’m assuming)… however, in our case budget-friendly travelers. The only thing worse than being motion sick is being stuck in a vehicle with someone who has just projectile vomited over you because they were motion sick. #gross #holdthevomit
5. Hydrocortisone cream: There are a million different bug repellents sprays, home remedies, and what-nots to try and prevent bug bites, but at the end of the day (unless you are willing to travel completely wrapped in saran wrap from head to toe) carry copious amounts of extra-strength itch cream. This is not an item I go generic on either… it’s well worth the extra couple of bucks to get the name brand.
6. Band-Aids and moleskin: Honestly, I only use Band-Aids on my feet to help against blisters. I’m a firm believer in the “let it breath” method of cuts and scrapes as long as they have been properly cleaned out. Moleskin is also an amazing way to help heal and prevent blisters and tends to hold better than Band-Aids.
7. Chapstick: I would take a broken arm over having chapped lips while traveling. I HATE chapped lips.
8. Scissors: Standard First Aid Kit and basic travel necessity. I will probably write my next blog post on twenty different ways a scissor will save your travel trip, scissors are that important! Just don’t accidentally bring them on a plane.
9.Zip-Ties: Odd for this to be in a First Aid Kit, but it’s guaranteed that this will be the number one most used item in your First Aid Kit. Zip-Ties can be used for almost everything, from locking the zippers shut on your bag to protect from thieves, or even having to use it as a tourniquet in the case of major blood loss.
10. Aspirin: Again standard First Aid Kit item, I get the extra-strength ones with caffeine mostly because when I’m hungover, it gives me that extra boost to continue on with the ridiculous travel itinerary Danny, Arielle and the crew have set out for the day.
11. Anti-bacterial wipes, sprays, and pills: Germ-free is the way to be. I am such a huge fan of any sort anti-bacterial no matter if it comes in liquid or pill form. Always use antibiotic hand wash before and after each meal and antibiotic spray to coat a hostel room. In extreme cases, I use an everyday body mist spray to de-germ myself. As a precautionary before each travel adventure, I visit my family practitioner and get a prescription for a wide spectrum antibiotics in case of emergencies. It could be days before you are able to receive proper medical attention and this precautionary insures a bit of comfort and will potentially save your life.
12. Latex Glove for the Love Finger (Condoms): Traveling the world finds you in the most romantic spots around the globe, so don’t miss out on an opportunity to get bit by the love bug! Best to be safe and prepared…cue sexy mood music: bow chicka wow wow!
Check out the link below to the page for the American Red Cross First Aid Kit suggestions:
Before I set off to create my own virtual reality series, Arielle was the co-creator of a separate travel series TV pilot of the same name Chasing the World. She is one of my closest friends and a very talented producer.
Last Christmas I really wanted to go on a trip while I had some time off, but all my friends already had plans to go home and visit their families. I had my eye on Tasmania, Australia, but what should I do? Go alone? Traveling solo seems scary, nerve-racking and a bit stressful, but I built up the courage and went anyways. My trip to Tasmania ended up being on of my favorite trips and I believe it was because I went solo. From my experience, these were the top 5 best and worst aspects of traveling solo.
# 1 – Flexibility
You can go wherever you want, when you want – on your own time! You can change your plan for the day in accordance with the weather, your mood or a glimpse of something interesting, without the sort of negotiation traveling with another entails. There is so much power in flexibility. Flexibility leads to spontaneity. And the best experiences usually come from random adventures.
#2 – Friendships/ Connections
When traveling alone you are forced to get out of your comfort zone and talk to people you might have dismissed or ignored if you travelled with a friend. These can be life long travel buddies that you can visit on future trips!
#3 – Long-lasting Memories
Something magical happens when experiencing a new place solo. You pay more attention to your surroundings, using all five senses. There is no one around to distract you from feeling the crisp wind on your face, the sample of gelato on the street or the crazy architecture throughout.
#4 – Trying New Things
You are already so far out of your comfort zone, why not step a bit further? None of your friends are there to see you fail, or tell embarrassing stories, so if you want to sing karaoke in front of the hostel or try a cultural dance with the locals – go for it!
#5 – Sometimes It’s Okay to be Selfish
When traveling solo it is all about catering to your own wants and needs. If spending 10 hours at the museum makes you happy, then go for it! If you want to eat ice cream for dinner after a long walk down the beach, you can! You do not have to worry about someone else’s feelings, which means you can concentrate more on your own.
#1 – Travel Photos
Yes, you are having a great time, and wow isn’t that temple so beautiful, but damn, how will anyone know I was actually here? It is hard to take photos of yourself in locations when traveling alone. Also, unlike your friends who will take 1000 until they get the jump just right, a passerby will take one – with your head chopped off.
#2 – Expenses
Sometimes traveling solo can be more expensive, such as when you have to rent a car alone or take taxis. All of these expenses are much cheaper when traveling with a friend. It is also easier to get ripped off when traveling solo, so it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and prepare yourself with the proper research.
#3 – Eating Alone
It can be a bit tough when you have had a fabulous day and all you want to do is sit across from a friend and share all the fun adventures you experienced over a big, warm dinner. Instead, you sit alone, probably with no cellphone, patiently waiting for your food as the waiter asks you one last time if someone will be joining you.
#4 – Boredom
Most of the time when traveling, boredom is not a huge issue, but when solo traveling, a long hike or road trip to the next location can feel like years with no one to talk to. For hostel boredom, it’s best to have a journal to write in or a book to read if no one is around for socializing.
#5 – Safety and Hassle of Belongings
Need to go to the bathroom in the train station? Have fun bringing all your bags in the tiny stall with you… It is difficult when traveling alone to always watch over all your belongings while in the airport, train station, bus, hostel etc. Also, you have to double, triple check that you do not leave belongings behind.
When it comes to solo traveling – best advise is have a good backpack that can carry all of your belongings so that you are not trying to carry to many separate bags. (Sydney Airport, Australia)
Before I filmed an entire season of Chasing the World in cutting-edge virtual reality, my closest friends and I set off to create a separate project of the same name. It was a television pilot that we made right after graduating University in the Sumatran jungle, and it even won the Independent Television Film Festival.
This is the story of how that project came to be, which subsequently led me to create the virtual reality travel series today.
Well, I wish I could tell you that we fell into a windfall of funding. That would have made everything so easy! But the real story is much crazier— a chaotic mix of irrational decisions, blind optimism, hard work, and maybe even a little bit of fate.
Let me begin with a question:
What did you do when you graduated from school? Many people dive straight into a career. Or sometimes, they apply to go back to do more school. To us, both of those options just don’t seem right. I mean, we’re young, and we’ll only be this young once. There must be a way to escape a life sentence of doing what everyone else is doing. But… how?
Our Answer: Australia.
“What?! You’re moving to Australia?!” was the consistent reaction among our family and friends. But the six of us made the decision together: me (Danny), Arielle, Patrick, Kelsey, Katy and Champion. That’s right, we were temporarily moving to Australia, and with the purchase of a one-year working holiday visa ($350) we were departing the “Land of the Free” and entering the land of higher wages and no worries. Champion was the first to depart, proving to all of us that it was possible. Then, after a few months of penny-pinching until each of us managed to scrape together $3,000, our adventure down under began.
But we knew we wouldn’t last long unless we found a job in Sydney immediately.
The gritty details of our time together in Sydney will be saved for another post, so I’ll summarize by saying this: we lived in shitty accommodation and worked ridiculous odd jobs. We applied to a myriad of temp agencies and bounced between the weirdest jobs imaginable— cereal factories, hospital offices, beach bars, bakeries… you name it! We were backpackers living a carefree adventure and each weird experience was a chance to step out of our comfort zone. Furthermore, we soon discovered that Australia pays all of its employees generously ($25 an hour to stand on a street corner and gather signatures?! I’ll take it!)
Suddenly, we found ourselves saving some money in a way we never could in America… too easy! We were on the other side of the world and we had each saved an extra $1,000 to do something crazy. But we wanted to create something in the process. Before long, the obvious conclusion came to us: a travel show.
I mean, think about it– what travel show out there actually captures what it’s really like to travel as a broke young backpacker? Most travel shows are scripted and revolve around a celebrity, or have massive film crews following them around. The stars had aligned for us to self-document and create something truly unique and real.
We soon discovered that round trip flights to Singapore were only $300 due to a lucky promotion. After scouring the depths of the internet in search of an exciting off-the-grid travel destination near Singapore, we stumbled across a message board where a lone faceless man recollected his remote adventure in the Sumatran jungle with a mysterious guide named Obi Wan.
Patrick Gooing has been a close friend of mine since freshman year of college and he is a very talented film, TV and documentary producer.
Upon graduating from film school, I had already interned at multiple production companies in both film and television in Los Angeles. I knew I wanted to produce and fully commit to my career in film, but I wasn’t ready to settle and plant my feet in LA until I had tried something a little daring and outside the box first.
So…I said f*ck it – I decided to move to Australia! Honestly, the way I looked at it, I had nothing to lose – I didn’t have a job, a girlfriend, or any other obligations, and the worst I could do is fail. I knew gaining international contacts and relationships in a foreign film industry would be invaluable and would help me stand out when/if I returned back to the states. Also, Champion was already living in Sydney and he assured me that Australia’s economy was Re-Donkulously better than ours. He said finding a regular job that pays better than most mid-level business jobs in the states would be easy to find. SERIOUSLY, I got a job working at a telemarketing agency making $27 after taxes with two days of looking – HA!
So I gathered as many contacts as I could from my colleagues in LA, and I prepared to make my move. It’s crazy when you realize what it takes to move to a foreign country when you have no idea if you’ll ever move back. I had to cancel my cell service, modify my credit cards, and I had to obtain Australia health insurance– which really paid off (I’ll get to that later).
Right before I was about to buy my ticket, my friend Mike Tacca asked me to produce a documentary in Calcutta, India about a non-profit organization called Operation Straight Spine while also focusing on differences between private and public healthcare in India. It’s an organization run by orthopedic spinal surgeons who perform life saving surgeries for families who cannot afford the treatment. After filming for two weeks, I flew straight from India to Sydney where I started taking meetings everyday with executives in both film and television– it became very clear they were a little resistant about hiring non-Australian employees because of visa restrictions. Within two weeks of being in Australia, I had to have my appendix removed, which was awesome because it was all free and I stayed in the hospital as long as I needed. PLUS if it had been two weeks earlier, I would have been in India. And if it was two weeks earlier, then I would have been in the U.S. where I had no health insurance whatsoever hahahaha for the win!
It took me a few months of searching to find a job working in film. I reached out to a friend of mine who knew a veteran Australian actor named Jack Thompson #Legend – HUGE FAN (if you haven’t seen it yet, go watch BREAKER MORANT…now!). I read an article the day before we left to start shooting our CHASING THE WORLD pilot. The article informed me that Jack was producing and starring in a film in Sydney and it started production in a week. As I was waiting to board our flight to Singapore, I made a call to my friend and asked him if there was anything he could do to help me work on the film. He came through big time, and he arranged for Jack Thompson to come and pick me up from my apartment the day I returned from Indonesia. He took me to the set, introduced me to the producers and director, and I was working as an Assistant Director for the rest of the film! From that moment on I had consistent work working in film production (commercials, short films, GREAT GATSBY, etc.).
My overall goal was to make industry contacts in Australia and everyone thought it was a pretty daring thing to do, so I was happy that I succeeded. I ultimately decided to move back to the states because I had been trying to find an assistant job working for a producer at a production company while I was down there– I had no luck because of visa sponsorship issues. One of my dream jobs was and STILL is working for Emile Sherman at See-Saw Films!
Look for my follow up article about transitioning back to life in the states.
Until then, safe travels and…try to break out of your comfort zone every once in a while – you’ll be thankful for it later.
This story is from 2012 when I was a beginner traveler. My lone adventure with Obiwan in search of a working ATM was definitely one of the craziest experience of this first trip to Sumatra.
To tell this story fully, I need to backtrack to when we first landed in North Sumatra at Medan airport. At the time, it was late at night, we were stressed and scared about our safety, so we did not take out too much money at the airport ATM. We could easily find an ATM later on our journey, right? Hahaha…. wrong.
When we ran out of money a couple days later, Obiwan offered to lend us money until he could take us to an ATM (best guide ever). However, by the fourth day it was time, and of course I volunteered to take everyones debit cards, then proceeded to hop on the back of Obiwan’s tiny motorbike.
I wish I could have filmed this, but I would have fallen off. It was the first time I had ever ridden on a motorbike, and we sped through the bumpy, twisted jungle roads for 30 minutes. We swerved around oncoming traffic where road rules just didn’t seem to exist until we finally arrived at a village with a single ATM in an enclosed booth.
Obiwan waved goodbye and entered some sort of shop/cafe, leaving me alone. Every single pair of eyes in the village lingered on me. Some people waved in curiosity… Others just stared. I was an anomaly in this place.
Cautiously, I entered the ATM booth and secured the door shut. Whoa, it was hot in here. The sweat from my forehead dripped on my wallet as I pulled out 6 debit cards. One by one, I entered the cards and pulled out wads of cash so large that I could barely shove them in my pockets.
A crowd began to form outside the ATM as people curiously peeked inside. I kept my foot at the base of the door to keep people from coming in.
I had one more card to go – Katy’s. I nervously laughed to myself at the massive American flag imprinted on the card. I was a walking target.
The crowd outside the ATM was growing by the second. I had to get out of there. Finally, the ATM spit out the last wad of Indonesian currency. I didn’t have any room left in my overflowing pockets, so I just held it against my chest and shoved my way through the crowd that had gathered around me.
After retrieving Obiwan, I felt more at ease, so I began to organize all the money and debit cards. And then, my worst nightmare happened. Katy’s debit card was missing. I had left it in the ATM!
Quickly, I rushed back to the ATM with a frantic look of worry on my face. The card was gone. I had to figure out a way to cancel Katy’s card. Immediately!
But then, I felt a small finger poke me on the shoulder. I turned around, and there stood a tiny old Indonesian man with missing teeth. In his hands, he held a debit card with an American flag image imprinted on the cover.
He smiled, handed me the card, and continued on with his day.
To this day, I can’t decide if I was a bigger idiot for leaving the debit card in the ATM… or for underestimating the kindness of the wonderful people of Indonesia.
I smiled and waved goodbye to the crowds of locals as Obiwan drove us back into the jungle. And, for some reason the drive home was not nearly as scary as I remembered.
Thanks to the explosion of the internet and social media, it has never been easier to experience adventures that were previously only discovered by word of mouth. The internet is flooded with accounts of personal discoveries made by travelers just waiting for you to follow in their footsteps. While researching where to go for the pilot episode of Chasing the World, we knew that we needed to find a real adventure. We had heard that all the jungle treks in Thailand highlighted in the Lonely Planet books were safe, comfortable and tourist friendly. LAME. So after digging deep into google, we stumbled on a message board where a lone man in the depths of the internet recounted his adventure in North Sumatra, Indonesia with a jungle guide named Obiwan. One month later, we found ourselves stumbling out of a sketchy van in the middle of the Sumatran jungle at midnight, and… well, by now you know the rest.
New, epic adventures that are truly off the beaten track have never been so accessible. You just have to know what type of experience you’re looking for— and a mysterious man on the dark side of the internet is waiting to help you along the way.
Disclaimer: Please don’t get kidnapped.
The world will never be the same as it is right now.
While the information available due to social media is great, it does have its downsides. One of the greatest joys of traveling is the freedom to spontaneously meet locals and discover secret destinations. The world is changing at an ever-increasing rate, and these secrets are becoming public knowledge.
Some countries such as Myanmar/Burma have just recently opened the door to travelers, and are in the process of going through a lot of changes as they transition to accommodate tourists. When I traveled to Bagan, we befriended a local who took us to a hidden pagoda with an underground system of tunnels. While descending into the depths of the ancient pyramid with no other tourists in sight, I was hit with the realization that this was one of the craziest moments I would ever experience in my life. In 2 years from now, I won’t be surprised if that same temple develops a $20 price tag and becomes packed to the brink with camera-crazed tourists who have just stumbled out of their tour bus.
The world is still full of plenty of secret adventures—you just have to discover them before everyone else does, and that might not be so easy in the future. After all, once a travel secret becomes public knowledge and the tourists arrive, it becomes less of an experience and more of an attraction.
Once you start traveling, the rest of your life will be an adventure.
Seriously, once you make the initial leap into a life of travel, it will free you in ways you never even knew were possible. When living in your home country, you are bound by a certain set of expectations and rules, and this is especially true for the millennial generation. In my case, my life had been relatively structured by society since birth, and now that I had graduated from college, the next logical step was to secure a job and begin my career like everyone else. But, instead I bought a one-way flight to Australia with $3,000 in my bank account, my friends and no plans.
When you embark on a flight to the other side of the world, all your preconceived ideas, biases and societal pressures go out the window. You are free to try new things, work odd jobs and do whatever your intuition wills. It’s liberating.
We worked a series of odd jobs in Australia such as Greenpeace canvassers, filling cereal boxes for Kelloggs, assistants in hospitals and temps in random technology companies. Each new job didn’t necessarily look good on our resumes, but we gained life experience that we would have never experienced back home. In my free time, I purchased and learned how to ride a motorcycle, became and advanced scuba diver, tried skydiving and consistently/spontaneously bought plane tickets to various destinations around Australia. Our experience culminated in our decision to purchase a whirlwind ticket to the North Sumatran jungle to film our travel-based reality show pilot.
For the rest of my life, I seriously doubt that I will ever lose the adventurous spirit that has been instilled in me since beginning this journey. Even when I do move home, I’ll continue to push the boundaries of my comfort zone.
I understand that traveling is not a realistic option for everyone. Commitments such as family, relationships and career often get in the way. However, if there is even a remote possibility that you can make it happen, go for it. Life is an adventure. Don’t let it be anything less.
One of my favorite things about my trip to Sumatra as a whole was discovering how much the locals and I had in common as far as music tastes. I was so surprised the first night when we walked into the bar and they were playing “Welcome to the Jungle.” I had my ukulele and quickly befriended the “musicians” of the village and would often sneak off to have little jam sessions. One night Katy and I were at one of the tiny restaurants after hours. One of the guys was playing guitar while I sang “Lighting Crashes” by Live. Suddenly it started raining this incredible downpour and the power went out; the only light was from the tiny red ends of lit cigarettes. We kept on singing and right as we got to the “lightning crashes” chorus part this huge zap of lightning hit down. The whole room was lit up and everyone was smiling. I had been debating staying back from the jungle hike but one of the guys told us “well now you gotta go- Mother Nature she’s calling you!”
What happened in the jungle was even more amazing. As I mentioned in a previous post, I am not the most athletic person and the trek was definitely turning out to be a bit of a challenge, complete with mud and bugs. We’d crossed our fingers that the jungle had gotten all of the rain out of its system in last night’s storm but the sudden rumbling of deep thunder told us we were wrong. The rain came quickly as ever. Everyone else put on their ponchos but I was overheated and welcomed the lukewarm water on my skin. I remembered, though, that my ukulele was exposed and I needed to cover it. Our second guide stayed back with me while Obi and the others continued ahead. I put my yellow poncho on over myself and my backpack and realized that this actually felt better. “I feel so warm and fuzzy!” I thought to myself, a bit delerious from the day’s rough terrain workout. But I realized something was off– I literally felt warm and fuzzy.
I looked down and saw in my hand… another hand. The hand was orange and hairy. This hand belonged to an orangutan! She held her baby in her other arm and I realized that her protective instincts could be triggered easily. I stayed calm and kept walking forward, the three of us hand in hand but it didn’t last for much longer as Champion had come back to check on me and screamed “monkey!” The orangutan let go of my hand and everything slid into chaos. Our guide quickly pulled out a long stick of bamboo which he tried to bait her with, but she took our backpack full of supplies and food instead. He screamed for us to run and I ran up this muddy, steep mountain faster than I’ve ever gone in my life. You would have thought a velociraptor was chasing after me.
At the top of the mountain, Obi, Danny, Arielle, and Katy were waiting for us. I told them all what had happened and they told me to sit down– thinking that I was literally out of my mind with exhaust! Our guide came up shortly after, with the backpack safely in tow, and he explained that everything that we told them was true. I know that Obi Wan has experienced a lot of crazy things on these treks but the look on his face told me he was truly shocked. I still laugh when I think back at this wondering exactly how long had we been walking like that. I realize how lucky I am that nothing worse happened. I know one thing: that 24 hours is something I will never forget!
Traveling in many ways is like the ultimate sport.
There are time changes to deal with, illnesses to avoid, languages to comprehend. Traveling presents you with a load of physical and mental challenges that you get better with over time. I am no travel pro, but there are a few things I would do differently the next time I travel, minor tweaks I’d make to improve my personal experience.
The 5 Things I Will Change the Next Time I Travel:
5) Be More Physically Adventurous
I’ve never been great at sports so doing athletic activities on holiday has always seemed daunting to me. Before our jungle trek in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia, my stomach was a volcano of roaring nerves. I almost considered staying back but after chatting with the locals I decided to go, and going was one of the best things I’ve ever done. Sure I may have been one of the slower members of our group, but that is actually the reason why I had a crazy chance encounter with a wild Orangutan (more on that later). Plus, you get the best travel pictures in the places that take the most work to get to. That being said…
4) Take More Pictures
I really can’t stand when someone has to pause a trip every few moments to take a photo. Like, “A trash can, wow, let me instagram this– just give me 20min to choose a filter.” My disdain for these people has led me to be someone who avoids taking pictures altogether. That, however, sucks when you get home and have nothing to show for your travels. The next time I travel I want to stop being so cool and embrace my inner tourist. Who cares if you slow down the group for a minute to grab moment. Remember the rule: Pics or it didn’t happen.
3) Pack Less
There’s a part of me that feels like Occam’s razor rules my life. You know the rule that says that if I don’t pack my dressy gown and motorcycle boots, Brad Pitt is going to show up at my hostel door and offer to take me to an evening gala on the back of his bike. Fortunately/unfortunately this has never been the case. Instead I’ve usually ended up lugging around a giant backpack full of unnecessary outfits and styling tools (oh my god, what if I want to crimp instead of flat iron?). I’ve begun practising the Parisian fashion mindset of bringing a few items that can be styled many ways. I know my back will thank me and I’ll have that extra space for anything new I do pick up along the way.
2) Take Myself Less Seriously
It was only towards the end of our trip to Indonesia that I finally decided to get my carefully posed hair wet and let the Afro out. I was so worried about what people would think or how I’d look in pictures, but swimming in a natural waterfall washed all those reservations away, along with the makeup off my face… Traveling is the perfect reason to let go of self consciousness, forget about how you appear, and try new things. Who cares if you don’t get the hang of using chopsticks right off the bat… you will feel like a king when you finally reach your mouth without losing a noodle.
1) Tell Myself Not to Sweat the Mistakes
Getting lost, running off schedule, and booking sub par accommodations are all a part of the travel experience. Things like this can be especially stressful when you’re traveling in a group or running on a tight budget (or are a plan-obsessed Virgo, like me), but mistakes are also inevitable. There are so many times where I’ve looked back at myself and thought “Man, why was I tripping over that?” Remember what Pumba said.
Breathe in: hakuna breathe out: matatta.
What’s your 20/20 hindsight on traveling? Share your wisdom in the comments!