When you work in the travel industry, it is easy to acquire the travel bug. I am often asked about my favorite travel memory by family and friends. I am thankful to have so many precious memories of the places I have been blessed to visit over the last 20 years, so honestly it is hard to choose.
What always comes to mind first when asked is Cambodia. I loved visiting Phnom Penh and Siem Reap and fell in love with the people and their laid-back lifestyle. Who wouldn’t be thrilled to cross a visit to the Angkor Wat Temple complex off their bucket list, made even more memorable accompanied by an insightful local guide? I think my favorite was Bayan Temple, but each site was unique and incredibly captivating. There is so much more to Cambodia than just the temples however! I would encourage everyone to pay homage to the millions of victims of the brutal Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime. A reflective visit to S-21/Tuol Svay Pray High School (turned processing center and prison for the victims) and the Killing Fields allows a chance to pay homage to the innocents who lost their lives.
Then I recall hiking up the Great Wall of China! Touristy? Sure, but you need to step outside the huge cities to truly see what the rest of the country has to offer. Some of my favorite memories of China include visiting rural towns like Guiyang. It was incredible to talk to local people who had never, at that time at least, seen a Western person in their life. Every region visited has something unique to offer, from the amazing Terra Cotta Warriors of Xi’an, to the dramatic landscapes along the Li River near Guilin, to the amazing restaurants, nightlife, culture and fascinating history of Beijing and Shanghai. I have been many times, but there is still so much left to explore.
How could I not mention exploring the Pyramid complex in Cairo, Egypt. What child of the 70’s didn’t grow up learning about King Tut with dreams of becoming an archaeologist? Perhaps that was just me, but one of my fondest memories of Egypt aside from seeing the pyramids and sphinx in person was meandering through the Egyptian Antiquities Museum off Tahrir Square. We were lucky to have a private viewing of their exhibits accompanied by our incredible Egyptologists. If you go don’t miss Tutankhamun’s Gallery on the upper floor and make a stop at both royal mummy rooms to see who is on display. You may see Tuthmosis III, Amenhotep III, or the last warrior pharaoh Ramses II.
Deciding on my favorite travel memory with so many to choose from is a bit more challenging than I expected. Over the last 20 years, I have to say that spending time with and getting to know the local people has been what I remember and value the most. It is hard not to fall in love with the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, culture and history of each city, town and country; but no visit would have been complete without the fabulous people I met along the way! So, I would recommend you get off the beaten path and talk to the locals. Visit a local pub or restaurant and eat the regional foods. Hire a local guide or driver to show you around. You will be glad you made the extra effort to experience the most each country has to offer rather than just crowded tourist attractions and Western restaurants catering to the tourist palate. Make your own travel memories!