By Lynn Strough
Just the words, “world travel” sound romantic. What’s it like to really chuck it all and travel around the world for a year? After visiting over a dozen countries on a shoestring-budget, I thought I’d do a little visual re-cap of some of the highlights.
First stop on my world travel adventure — Australia, including the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, where I took a leap of faith as well as a leap in the ocean, and later frolicked with rock wallabies, felt the spiritual draw of Uluru, soaked up the sun on Sydney’s beaches and toured the famous opera house. From the capitol, Canberra, to Melbourne to Tasmania, I not only explored all the scenic beauty Australia has to offer, but the beauty and hospitality of the people as well, couch surfing with wonderful souls who opened their homes to me (too many on this journey to name in one blog).
Sad to leave the land of Oz, I was at the same time excited to check out the natural beauty of New Zealand’s South Island, from fjords to waterfalls, helicopters and glaciers and swimming with dolphins — to tracks and tramping to wine. It was sensory-overload in every aspect.
After all that adventure, it was time to slow down with a 10-day silent meditation retreat in Thailand, focusing on breathing and letting thoughts float by (world travel isn’t all about constantly moving). Other treats lay in store in Thailand as well, like cooking class, night market shopping and even swimming with elephants.
From there, a swing through Cambodia to watch the sun rise over Angkor Wat, the largest temple complex in the world and with the help of a generous friend, to buy a tuk tuk for a young man struggling to start his own business.
Japan has long been on my list, and exceeded any dreams of what this locale would bring. From the bustle of Tokyo, to a ryokan in cherry blossom-filled mountains near snow monkeys soaking in hot springs — to historic, temple and shrine-filled Kyoto and out to the hush of Arashiyama’s bamboo-forest, Japan was a feast for the senses.
As hard as it was leaving Japan, Croatia was calling, with historic cities like Dubrovnik, Split, Zagreb, and Zadar — crystalline waters of National Parks Plitvice and Krka, and scenic islands to hop — Mljet, Korcula, Brac, Hvar, and hundreds more, all set like gems in the vast blue ocean, the colors of which are hard to describe. I even managed to slip in a day trip to Montenegro.
Farewell, Croatia meant hello, Slovenia and fairytale Bled, with its island and church and jade-colored lake — and of course, what fairytale would be complete without castle, knights and dancing ladies?
Only thoughts of Italy, Venice and gelato, could pry me away from Slovenia. Who can resist singing gondoliers, carnival masks, bridge-stitched canals and Italian wine? Italy also brought the Amalfi coast, Isle of Capri, historic Pompeii, Rome and the Cinque Terra.
France included not only couch surfing in Paris and tangoing in front of the Eiffel Tower, but a free private tour on the top of Notre Dame amidst a city full of art and architecture. Loire Valley is filled with castles and I managed to explore several, including Chenonceau, Villandry, Cheverny, and Chambord. Although I didn’t meet a prince, I did get rescued by a fairy godmother, but that’s another story.
In the South of France, amidst fields of sunflowers, I sat for a couple of weeks. My first housesit for two little poodles (and a lazy tortoise) gave me use of my own private pool. Spain also lay waiting on my world travels — beautiful Barcelona, infused with the influence of Gaudi, including Parc Guell and Sagrada Familia, and tapas and flamenco rounded out the experience.
After months of sun and following summer, it was time to head someplace cool, so I hopped a flight to the emerald isle of Ireland where for a few days in Dublin, I discovered the joys of craic (Irish fun, including music and liquid refreshment) and was even turned temporarily into a leprechaun. Renting a car was the only way to get around on the backroads, so I headed off on the Wild Atlantic Way, through fields of green in every shade, along coast, past grazing sheep, through rainbow villages and castles and Celtic ruins.
In time for my second housesit, I flew to Scotland, where first I sampled the magnificent city of Edinburgh, then headed to Fort William to care for a feisty border collie and hike the highlands, while housesitting in a Victorian manse on a hill overlooking a loch.
From one dog sit to another to another, I was dropped into Dickens, in a little village called Corsham, where I walked much more slowly with my 15-year-old charge and also fed a visiting peacock named Kevin. A day to cruise through Bath led to four days in lovely London, full of museums, parks and markets.
Rounding out my year of world travel was yet another dog sit in Hove in the south of England, for two lively little dachshunds and walks on Brighton’s promenade. All in all, it was an amazing journey — this just scratches the surface.
When my year was over, not ready to return to the States, I spent six months in Thailand writing about my adventures. I’m now wintering in Mexico!
Lynn is a 50+ wanderer whose incarnations in this life have included graphic designer, children’s book author and illustrator, public speaker, teacher, fine art painter, wine educator in the Napa Valley, and world traveler. Through current circumstances, she has found herself single, without a job or a home, and poised for a great adventure.
“You could consider me homeless and unemployed, but I prefer nomad and self-employed, as I pack up my skills and head off with my small backpack and even smaller savings to circumnavigate the globe (or at least go until the money runs out). Get ready to tag along for the ride…starting now!”
Reprinted with permission