It doesn’t seem to matter where I am or who I’m talking to these days —- the question “what is your favorite travel experience?” or a version of this question seems to always come up. It’s one of the hardest questions for me to answer, but also the most fun to discuss 🙂
In fact it was many of these conversations that inspired me to start Living Big. After hearing so many women express interest in traveling, seeing, doing, experien’ing — and for one reason or another not — I decided to start a company that would not only allow women to get to the traveling, seeing, doing and experienc’ing, but also allow me to recreate my favorite travel experiences.
So since you asked, here are my top 10 (at this moment) travel experiences! I hope you’ll consider joining me on a hosted adventure, or I could design your personal vacation to recreate one of these amazing experiences for you!
Oh and these are in no particular order….
- TEMPLE LODGING KOYASAN, JAPAN
There’s a small town way up in the mountains, hours from the hustle of big city life, where young Buddhist monks go to study. In this town, Koyasan, monks stay in traditional temples, and from time to time tourists are invited to stay in the same temples to learn about their practices and way of life, participate in their daily meals and rituals (i.e tatami mat-style beds) and are invited to join for morning chants.
- TOWERS OF PARMESAN CHEESE IN ITALY
Parma, Italy is home to parmesan cheese AND prosciutto di parma ham. Need I say more? Here you can visit local cheese factories and wander aisles of parmesan cheese wheels that are sitting tight as they age to perfection. It was fascinating to learn about the “DOP” certification, rigorous testing and to see/smell/taste my way through dozens (i.e. multiple dozens) of dishes that use parmesan in unique ways. Tasting required.
- PAINTING WITH CORAZONES VALIENTES IN COSTA RICA
In rural Costa Rica you can find a group of female folk artists that go by the name of Corazones Valientes (the Brave Hearts.) With advice and teaching from a Peace Corp volunteer in the early 1990’s, these women learned to paint as a way to express their emotions, and the struggles and realities of their life. A few years ago I brought a group of women on a Living Big Hosted Adventure to paint with the women of Corazones Valientes. We didn’t share a language, but the art and their actions said everything we needed to know.
- SIPPING COFFEE IN BOQUETE, PANAMA
Look close: the structure you see is Randy’s “ranchito” that sits on the edge of his property in Boquette, Panama. Here he invites you to start your day with a cup of his coffee while watching the sunrise over the lush green valley growing coffee beans below. Oh and you’re doing it from a hammock. Need I say more about this magical place?
- HIKING ON ICELAND’S GLACIERS
Make the long drive across Iceland’s south coast to Svinafellsjökull glacier tongue, put on your crampons and harness and grab your ice axe; the scene that comes next can only be described as other-worldy. (PS: while not pictured, there is a professional guide escorting us on this glacier hike!)
- EXPLORING THE SWISS ALPS
I’ve been captivated by Switzerland’s mountains since my first visit. I often find myself thinking about the scene in this photo. It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe, but when you’re hiking and surrounded by snow-capped mountains that feel larger than life, breathing in the fresh mountain air, hearing the sweet sound of cows adorned with large bells, and stopping along the way to enjoy waterfalls, locals selling beer from their front porch and the periodic stop + 360 degree turn to soak it all in —- I feel like the richest gal around.
- SEEING THE ROCK CHIMNEYS IN CAPPADOCIA, TURKEY
Cappadocia is a small town in central Turkey made up of natural-forming stone chimneys, that at one time housed people, businesses, churches and all facets of community and life. Today most of these services have moved outside the chimneys, but remnants of this early way of life still remain. During a hike through the chimney fields I came across a chimney ‘cathedral’ used in the 11th century (best estimate) with original paintings still intact.
- FORAGING FOR LUNCH IN THAILAND
Most people go to Thailand for the beaches, temples, street food —- and those are all fantastic, but few venture into the countries’ national parks. On my last trip there I decided to get out of the city for a hike through one of the national parks a few hours outside Chiang Mai. More than just a hike, we ended up foraging for lunch along the way collecting giant leaves for sautéing over an open fire, herbs and vegetables, carving bamboo for utensils and more. It was pretty fantastic (the tofu and chicken you see here was packed in on the hike 🙂 AND DELICIOUS!
- WATCHING THE SUN GO UP (OR DOWN) IN HAWAII
Hawaii really is paradise on earth. And few moments are as peaceful as a walk on the beach, coffee (or cocktail) in hand, while watching the sun come up or go down. It’s the signal that another day is on the horizon, and another opportunity to ‘live big’ awaits.
- SIPPING WINE AND DANCING IN DIOCLETIAN’S PLACE, IN SPLIT, CROATIA
Diocletian’s Palace still exists in modern-day Split, but today you can find remnants of the old palace in the walls of hotels, restaurants and the tourist shops that fill what was once a major center of government and royalty. Despite all this modern evolution, you can head to the palace ‘living room’ each evening to hear live music, see men and women dancing in the square, and sit on the steps sipping wine under the stars with the sea just a few steps away. It’s as magical as it sounds.
I’m instantly feeling the guilt of leaving out such favorites as biking through Stockholm, sipping rosé in Paris, hiking in Cinque Terre, Munich’s Oktoberfest, walking with (not on) elephants in Chiang Mai, enjoying a Guinness at small-town bars in Ireland, seeing the world through Gaudí’s eyes in Spain, enjoying yogurt, honey and warm peaches in Greece, strolling through fishing villages in the Scottish Highlands and more. The world is large, vast and meant to be explored. As I’ve said from the beginning, life’s just too short to not ‘live big.’ Will you join me?