My reverse bucket list

What’s on your travel bucket list? Volunteering in Africa, teaching English in Prague, eating pasta in Rome? We dream of the next adventure, the next achievement, the next thing… but what about reflecting on the life we have lived?

Here’s my reverse bucket list – my top 10 most unforgettable travel moments in Asia.

1. Watching sunrise over the Ganges in Varanasi, India’s oldest living city, with dolphins diving around our tiny boat and pilgrims descending on the water’s edge to begin their ritual morning dips.

2. Snuggling under a rug at dawn, surrounded by Tibetan monks chanting mantras to celebrate Buddha’s birthday, in Dharamsala.

3. Walking past an Indian slum during monsoon and seeing a mother and daughter leaving their poles-and-plastic home, with a puddle for carpet and mud for a bed, with grins on their faces, laughing together.

4. Sitting on a bus travelling to Ladakh, climbing the last peak to reach the Tibetan Plateau, and suddenly the Himalayan mountains are rising abruptly behind us and a vast desert is stretching out before us.

5. Lazing in the refreshing mint-green pool at Potato Head watching the sunset over Seminyak Beach in Bali.

6. Sitting in the open doorway of an Indian train, with the wind blowing in my face and camels galloping in the distance, crossing the deserts of Rajasthan.

7. Huddling in a sleeping bag around an open fire with a Nepalese family, drinking hot pepper chai, with a blizzard raging outside and Mount Everest in the distance.

8. Singing on a hill-top on Gili Trawangon, with Indonesian men playing guitar, admiring the view of Gili Air and Gili Meno forming stepping stones in an expanse of turquoise sea to the lush coastline of Lombok.

9. Meeting the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala and being awe-struck by the presence of this physically tiny man with a beaming smile and an immense glow, as if lit up from the inside.

10. Dancing in a sari at my future brother-in-law’s wedding, in the remote village of a Himalayan hill tribe, surrounded by the picturesque snow-covered mountains of Nepal, seemingly so close you could reach out and touch them.


Bon voyage

In three weeks I will board a plane to Germany. During my time in Europe I will stay in Amsterdam, lunch in Brussels, visit London and explore Paris. This trip is a dream come true for me. I hope to post a blog about each country – probably not while I’m travelling, but in the months ahead.

So, fasten your seat belt and prepare to travel vicariously. I haven’t been overseas in more than 10 years and I’m turning 40 this year, so I’m beyond excited to be traveling again.

I have many wonderful memories of traveling in Australia – sharing a lagoon with a large green turtle while diving on the Great Barrier Reef and swimming in crystal clear pools high on a ridge in Kakadu National Park, just to name two.

But to celebrate my next adventure, here’s my reverse bucket list – my top 10 unforgettable international travel moments to-date.

1. Watching sunrise over the Ganges in Varanasi, India’s oldest city, with dolphins diving around the boat and pilgrims descending on the water’s edge to begin their ritual morning dips.

2. Walking past an Indian slum during monsoon and seeing a mother and daughter coming out of their poles-and-plastic home, with a puddle for a carpet and mud for a couch, with grins on their faces, laughing together.

3. Snuggling up under a rug cross-legged at dawn in Dharamsala, surrounded by a sea of Tibetan monks chanting mantras to honour Buddha’s birthday.

4. Sitting in the open doorway of an Indian train, with the wind blowing in my face and camels galloping in the distance, crossing the deserts of Rajasthan.

5. Huddling in a sleeping bag around an open fire with a Nepalese family, drinking hot chai, with a blizzard raging outside and Mount Everest in the distance.

6. Stepping out of my lake-side cabin, in the early heat of the tropical morning, to dive into the cool, pristine waters of Lake Toba in Sumatra.

7. Being on a bus on the second highest motor-able road in the world and climbing a peak to reach the Tibetan Plateau, with the rugged mountains rising abruptly behind us and the vast desert stretching out before us.

8. Singing on a hill-top on Gili Trawangon, with young Indonesian men playing Bob Marley riffs on their guitars, with Gili Air and Gili Meno forming stepping stones in an expanse of turquoise sea to the lush coastline of Lombok.

9. Dancing in a sari at my future husband’s brother’s wedding, in the remote village of a Himalayan hill tribe, surrounded by the picturesque snow-covered mountains of Nepal, seemingly so close you could reach out and touch them.

10. Meeting the Dalai Lama at his home in Dharamsala and being awe-struck by the presence of this physically tiny man with a beaming smile and an immense glow, as if lit up from the inside.

What are your favourite travelling memories?


Epiphany from the edge

People often ask me how I got into writing. So, at the expense of my autobiography, I’m going to share the story with you.

In 1995, I undertook a one year journey to Nepal and India to ‘find myself.’ I was 22 years old. Oh, and I’d met a Nepalese boy in Sydney I’d decided was my future husband.

I arrived in Kathmandu in March, alone, to rising heat and haze. Nepal was like a fairytale – so exotic, so old, so colourful. I felt alive. I went trekking near Mount Everest for a week. Walked for miles through mountains stripped bare from deforestation. Navigated winding paths along cliff edges through thigh-deep snow. Slept huddled with Nepalese families around open fires. Came face-to-face with poverty.

Then I caught a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara. We stopped along the way and – against my better judgement – I ate some curry from a roadside stall. BIG MISTAKE. By the time we reached Pokhara I had a raging temperature. I found a backpackers and a toilet fast. The next five days were a blur of fever, pain, toilet and bed.

Prior to leaving New Zealand, my late grandmother had made me promise I wouldn’t visit Indian doctors. She was a nurse and was worried I’d be prescribed medications banned in the West. But there were no Western doctors in Pokhara. And after five days it dawned on me that people die from dysentery. I went to a local doctor who gave me a packet of huge pale blue tablets and told me to come again the next day. The effect of the tablets was like pouring concrete on my insides. I began to crawl out of the twilight zone.

Pokhara has a large picturesque lake, one you might expect to see in Switzerland. It is surrounded by huge snow capped mountains and, in April, the weather is very warm. I lay in a sunbed by the lake recovering, in that surreal state between awake and asleep. Or was it between life and death? It was hard to tell.

In my obscure state of the next few days, I watched a man sailing a yacht carrying tourists. There was only one yacht on the lake. I couldn’t tell how old the man was. He was wiry, sunbaked and only wore white shorts. And I started wondering about this man’s life. Who are his family? What are his hopes, his fears, his dreams? Where did he get his little yacht? How long has he been doing this? WHO IS HE? I really wanted to know. And I really wanted to tell his story.

So, by this lake on the roof of the world, I decided I wanted to inspire others by sharing the extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Like my Nepalese sailor. Although, sadly, I never did share his story. But I shared many others.

And that Nepalese boy I met in Sydney? He actually was my future husband. And the father of my child. But that’s another story.