Hello readers! Big news! I was recently selected by Wherever Writer Amy Rigby to join Low Cost Holiday’s Blogger Relay contest. I feel so lucky to have been asked to join this team of talented travel writers. So far, each member of my team has listed their top three travel memories, so today I will be doing the same, in order from gold to bronze.
Picking just three travel moments, I have realized, is a fantastically difficult task. But, I believe I have been able to pick out the three that have shaped my love of travel most, from a young age up to today. And, as a side note: I’d recommend you visit all these places. They are too cool to miss.
Hiking in Culebra, Puerto Rico
Although I have loved every minute of every trip I have taken to Puerto Rico, one moment stands out in particular – because of its view. On this particular trip I had traveled to Culebra, off the east coast of Puerto Rico’s main island, with my family and another family with whom we were close. We spent most of our days exploring the island’s beaches, but this particular day we had remained at Flamenco Beach, the idyllic beach on which we were staying.
Having (somehow) made the decision to take a break from the crystal water and white sand beach, we went exploring. We discovered a path that led from Flamenco Beach up one of the palm-covered mountains to our east. Being up for an adventure, we decided to take it. Halfway up, we came across a sign warning us not to trespass. Assuming the rusty sign was out of date, we continued on.
Finally, we reached the top of the mountain. Surrounded by palms and other jungle foliage, we discovered a small abandoned home. Previously, we later learned, this building was used by the American military, while it still occupied several areas of the island. But what we discovered at that moment took priority over our possible trespassing offense: the most incredible view I have ever experienced.
Blue and green water stretched for miles in every direction, along with miles of white sand beaches. We could see few buildings to speak over, but instead acres and acres of rich green. The view took each of us by surprise, and then held us in awe. I believe I am still in awe.
Sanibel Island, Florida
As I mentioned in a previous blog post my first travel destination was Sanibel Island, Florida. My parents began taking me there when I was one year old; and we returned every year until I was 12. And while it has been a decade since we stopped regularly visiting the island, I still remember it like it was yesterday.
I remember staying in the same condo every year, eating breakfast while looking out at the white sand beach just a short boardwalk away. I remember combing the beaches with my grandpa, who would travel with us every year until he died. I remember making elaborate sand castles on the beach, exploring the two sand bars that would emerge at low tide, and poking any and all squishy sea creatures that washed up on the beach.
I also remember seeing the wildlife at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Preserve (and laughing at the name): ibises, egrets, herons, turtles, and the occasional alligator. I remember visiting the old lighthouse at the end of our beach, and eating blueberry pancakes and fresh orange juice at its namesake restaurant, the Lighthouse Café. I also remember the Bubble Room and its Tunnel of Love, and the Hungry Heron, where I was allowed to order ‘Manatee’ for dinner: a dish comprised entirely of fruit salad and ice cream.
My trips to Sanibel Island first made me aware of how wonderful places besides my home could be. I counted down the days until we would fly to the island, just a few weeks before Christmas every year. It was on these trips to Sanibel that I also started journaling about the trips I took. I still have my age-nine diaries, with all the entries repeating the same chain of events: breakfast, a beach walk, castle-building, lunch, another beach walk, the pool, dinner, and a night beach walk.
Not that I could ever forget.
The Empire State Building, New York City
The first time I visited the Big Apple, I was 17. I traveled to New York City with the art department at my high school. For a reasonable rate, we were able to stay in the city for about four days. But we packed so much into those four days: the MOMA, the Met, the ICP, the Brooklyn Bridge, Soho, Little Italy, Chinatown, and more.
I loved every second of the trip: the bustling traffic, the towering skyscrapers, the different cultures packed together, the street food, the shopping, and the general sense of life that flowed through the streets. But the stop that solidified my love for the city took place off the streets – way, way off the streets. That is, I was at the top of the Empire State Building.
It was late evening when I reached the top of the massive skyscraper, but my view was anything but dark. The city’s lights glowed, glistened, sparkled in the dark. The city lay stretched out for miles at my feet. Still car horns blew and chatter around me continued, but somehow the city seemed quiet and peaceful in its chaos. I realized at the top of the Empire State Building I wanted a piece of a great city like this one.
I do not live in New York City today, but I recently moved to Washington DC, the nation’s capital. Here, not only does bustling city life surround me everyday, I also have the ability to take the train and arrive in New York City in just a morning. Today, I am lucky enough to have a young professional’s version of the life I began craving as a 17-year-old.