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Landscape,  Lens-Artists,  People,  Wildlife and nature

My love of travel: some special moments

It feels as if I have always loved travelling, but where did that love come from? Not my childhood experiences, for sure, although the seeds may have been sown then. My first holidays were of the ‘bucket and spade’ variety, on the Kent coast within easy reach by train of our London home.

Black and white photo pf little girl making a sandcastle
On the beach at Westgate-on-Sea, 1961

Later, when my father learned to drive and bought his first (second-hand) car, we went further afield; but still almost always in Britain, usually a self-catering cottage in Cornwall or Wales. A holiday overseas was considered an unaffordable luxury, but there was one exception. My uncle was in the Royal Air Force and spent a couple of years stationed in Germany, so my first ever trip abroad was to visit him and my aunt in Brueggen, near Dusseldorf, when I was 10.

After that my next adventure was the school’s French Exchange when I was 14. This meant ten days in a small French village north of Paris: ten days speaking the language; sampling the food (including horse meat and my first black coffee, now the staple that gets me through the day); and several days out in the capital which made a huge impression on me. To this day I would name Paris as one of my favourite cities in the world.

Three teenage girls in a park
At Niagara on the Lake with school friends Helen and Barbara, 1973

When I was 17 I was lucky enough to be able to take part in a camping trip arranged by my school – to Canada! This meant scraping together every penny I could from my Saturday job, plus what I could beg from my parents. But the effort was worthwhile, and looking back I think it was this trip that shaped my love of travel. In those days (early seventies) for a teenager from my background to have the opportunity to see Niagara Falls and the wilds of the Algonquin Park and (on our way home) enjoy a day in New York City, was just incredible.

But it was only when I met, and later married, Chris that I found my ideal travel buddy and started to make foreign travel a regular part of my life. Our first holiday together was to Prague and Austria (where Chris had spent a year living and working), and this was followed in 1981 by our honeymoon in France (Paris and Besançon). The next year we chose a trip to New York above the need to install central heating in our new flat; and a pattern began to emerge – from then on holidays were to be high on our list of priorities.

Young woman in doorway
Outside our (budget) honeymoon hotel in Paris, 1981
Young woman in front of New York skyline
New York in 1982

At first our budgets kept us mainly confined to Europe, but gradually other destinations became feasible: Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Jordan. By the nineties we had discovered the delights of driving in the US: exploring the wonderful national parks and indulging our shared fascination with small town America. From 2000 onwards our horizons widened further; and we have now visited all seven continents, including a memorable trip to Antarctica in 2003.

White car and woman in front of rocky landscape
At Dead Horse Point, 1993

Special moments

Tina invites us in this week’s Lens Artist Challenge to share ‘moments that take your breath away’.

I have had such moments all over the world; indeed, I can’t think of any holiday that hasn’t included at least one. Here are just a few:

  • My first sight of the Grand Canyon from the terrace of its North Rim Lodge, in a snow storm.
Storm over a canyon
First sight of the Grand Canyon from the North Rim, 1993
  • And taking a flight over the canyon, the only way to really appreciate the scale of this place.
Deep canyon seen from the sky
Flight over the Grand Canyon,1993
Young penguin on a rock
  • Watching the icebergs of Antarctica drift past our cruise ship and encountering penguins on our shore landings.

I have a theory that no one can see a penguin without smiling!

Calm silvery sea and snowy cliffs
In the Lemaire Channel, Antarctica, 2003
  • Getting up close and personal with the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands, including a memorable encounter with an albatross chick and snorkelling with sea lions.
Face of a yellow iguana
Land iguana on North Seymour, 2012
  • Looking down on Yosemite from Glacier Point.
Woman sitting on a rock above a mountainous landscape
At Glacier Point, Yosemite NP, 1991
  • A Son et Lumiere performance at the Temple of Karnak.
Lady in black dress by an Egyptian statue
At Karnak Temple the day after the Son et Lumiere show
Huge crumbling statue
At the Colossi of Memnon, 1990

  • Whale watching anywhere, but especially Tofino, British Columbia – I have never been closer to a whale than we were there, drifting past grey whales in what seemed to be a very small Zodiac!
Back of a whale with barnacles
Grey whale off Vancouver Island, 2002
  • Soaking up the magnificence of the Registan and Shah-i-Zindah in Samarkand.
Three large tiled buildings facing a square
The Registan, Samarkand, 2007
  • Looking down on the valley of the Euphrates, recalling long ago history lessons about the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Fertile Crescent.
River view framed by ruins
View of the Euphrates from Doura Europos, 1996
  • Our first sight of Fujiyama.
Shadowy blue volcano
Mount Fuji from the Hakone Ropeway, 2013
  • The first morning of our trip to North Korea, standing in the massive Kim Il Sung Square and realising yes, I am actually here.
Large open square with brutalist buildings
Kim Il Sung Square and the Grand People’s Study House, 2019
  • Walking with lions at Fathala Lodge in Senegal (the lions were adopted as orphaned cubs so are habituated to people but still wild).
Two lions and two people standing nearby
With the lions at Fathala Lodge, 2016
  • And walking with elephants at MandaLao in Laos.
Two elephants in a dusty forest glade
Elephants at MandaLao near Luang Prabang, 2020

So much for past special moments. The wish-list grows nearly as quickly as we tick places off it, and there is still so much out there for us to discover once we can get back out into the world!

I’m retrospectively linking this to the Sunday Stills theme of Favourite Vacation Spots, as I don’t think I’ll be able to come up with any that are more favourite than these!

64 Comments

  • Dhirendra.S.Chauhan

    Toonsarah ,you are a great traveller in the true sense having travelled so much! I am also a travel enthusiast (from Rajasthan,India) and like to explore places!I can relate to some of your blogs pertaining to Rajasthan India.Iam following your blog and request you to please find time to comment on my blogs if you like them❤

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you very much Kirstin – yes, I’ve been so lucky to visit all these places 😀 And of course I’m itching to travel again, once it’s possible!

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    I’m glad you dusted this off and linked it to Sunday Stills, Sarah! Yep, still smiling at that penguin, and the lions, too! I believe you have stepped foot on every continent! You certainly gained the wanderlust at an early age and it stayed with you. Between your stunning images and details about the places, it is always a pleasure to read about the places you have visited! Have a wonderful week!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Terri – glad you agree it’s a good fit for the theme, and I really appreciate your nice comments 🙂 Plus, it saved me having to decide which is my favourite spot 😂 Have a great week too!

  • ponzoblogs

    Sadly because Covid I can’t Travel anymore for my blog that I just started. Feels really sad that I have to wait before planning a new travel journey 😦

  • leightontravels

    Just discovered your blog today. I love this charming collection of retro photos and looking forward to discovering more of your site. I subscribe to your penguin theory wholeheartedly!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you so much for this lovely comment Leighton 🙂 It’s always great to ‘meet’ a fellow penguin lover. A quick glance at your own site tells me we’ve travelled to many of the same places. I look forward to reading your impressions of them and also seeing where else you have been!

  • Marsha

    Sarah, I don’t think you’ve ever written a bad post, but this one did take my breath away. Walking with lions, unbelievable. They looked like big kitty cats. Wow!

      • Marsha

        You are welcome, Sarah. I look forward to your interview. I spent quite a bit of time exploring on your blog yesterday, and I came away inspired. 🙂

          • Marsha

            That’s awesome, Sarah. Sorry I’m so slow. I get my new computer tomorrow and have an appointment to set everything up on Friday. I can’t wait to get my computing life back to normal. 🙂 I’ll get back to you by email sometime today. 🙂 Thanks so much for joining in.

  • gaiainaction

    How lovely to take us travelling, at least to give us a taste of what it has been for you since your very first travels. It is very inspiring to read your post and your photos are lovely!

  • Wetravelhappy

    I’m in awe, literally my mouth opened and eyes so wide while reading your post. You have such wonderful travels (Antarctica!) and so lucky that you got to go abroad so early in your life, and with your classmates too! My kids are the same, on normal years, they also get to travel with school once a year.

    I’m glad I came across your blog today and I’m so looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    — amor

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi Amor, and thanks for your visit and lovely comment 🙂 I’m glad your kids are learning to love travelling while young – it’s one of the best gifts anyone can give a youngster!

  • Oh, the Places We See

    Oh, my! Your story sounds so familiar to you. We both were brought up in small towns raised by parents who couldn’t afford much travel. It wasn’t until we moved forward with our life together that we began living our dreams of seeing what we could together. You’ve been to many lovely, exciting, and unusual places, and I hope you can continue to see more. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s a good one!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 😀 Yes, I think it’s something a lot of us from our generation have in common. The world opened up to us in a way our parents could never have dreamed of!

  • Amy

    I enjoyed your travel journey! Beautiful and special places, memories, and photos, Thank you for sharing with us, Sarah.

  • JohnRH

    Superb photos and memories. You have covered some ground. The Grand Canyon and Yosemite are faves, but many fine captures herein.

  • rosalieann37

    I have been asked the question “what was your most memorable travel experience?” And I can’t pick just one. I have trouble picking just one from each trip. That’s what travel gives you.

  • Anna

    Love the big hair back in 1991!!! I love seeing old travel photos with friends in them. Most of my “older” friends were pretty funky back in the day! 😍

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Gosh yes, that perm was awful – but I must have thought it looked good at the time! Chris had more taste, he never liked it 😆 Hey, but not too much of the ‘older’ please!!

  • wetanddustyroads

    I wish I could like your post 10 times! What a nice article to read on a Monday ☺️.
    Yes, who would want central heating if you can travel – haha! We have a few similar examples 😄.
    You had some really wonderful moments over the years (and hope there are many more to come) … lovely pictures of you in your younger days!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Ah, thank you so much 😀 I really appreciate your nice comments. A friend of mine once said that when she’s old and reminiscing in a care home somewhere, she wouldn’t want to be talking about a new kitchen but about the adventures she’s had while travelling, and I quite agree!

  • Suzanne

    It is always lovely to reminisce about our travels about the only thing travel bloggers can do now. Sarah, I enjoyed how you incorporated your childhood travels within this post as those older photos are very special.

  • Tina Schell

    Fun whirlwind tour Sarah. Like you, we love to travel both to the big-name spots and to the backroads, as yet undiscovered places (although there are fewer of them every day!). Hadn’t heard of Fathala and don’t think I’d trust even people-familiar lions that close! You’re so right – there are so many special moments while traveling – oftentimes when something goes awry and we’re forced to innovate! Thanks for sharing your special memories.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Tina 🙂 We were well looked-after with the lions at Fathala with several rangers on the walk with us, but nevertheless we did have to sign a disclaimer beforehand and were warned not to wear floaty scarves or anything with animal prints!

  • thehungrytravellers.blog

    Hi there, enjoyed your post, some lovely photographic memories there. We live 2 miles from the Kent coast, where did you go on childhood holidays? Can I guess that beach is Broadstairs or Cliftonville? We have a love of Cornwall too, actually heading down there next month as soon as lockdown allows 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Hi, and thank you 🙂 I think you must have overlooked the caption on that seaside photo – it’s Westgate on Sea, so you’re very close with Cliftonville 🙂 In fact, we did sometimes go there for the day from Westgate!

      These days Chris and I love Whitstable for a coastal break. We were there last October and had a drive over to Broadstairs, our first time there. Which part of the coast are you on?

          • thehungrytravellers.blog

            We know it was a thriving seaside resort which sadly later fell into disrepair and neglect with the decline of English seaside resorts. We have lived here for 10 years now and it was fairly run down then. But every year it improves. Cared for gardens, looked after promenade, revived pier (whats left of it anyway) New restaurants, shops usually the reserve of the likes of Whitstable moving in. Its wonderful to see your town coming up in the world and a new destination for day trippers and holiday makers once more😊

  • margaret21

    You may be the best-travelled person I have ever ‘met’, and I admire your ability to stay off the beaten track and see the parts that most other travellers rarely see. The fact that you have such great photos as souvenirs is definitely a bonus.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Margaret – but if you think I’m well-travelled you should meet my friend Grete – or Claus – or Linda – or … 😆

      But we do like to find the less obvious places to visit, although we do the obvious sights too. So we went to Angkor Wat, of course, but also spent a day seeing something of rural life near Siem Reap (watch for a future post). And in Rajasthan we went to Jaipur, Udaipur etc., but also some smaller towns and villages 🙂 We like to mix it up a bit 🙂

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