When I turned 27 three years ago, I realised there was one area of my life I was massively uneducated in, and that was travel. When I say uneducated, I mean in terms of the lifestyles across the wider world, like how they live ‘down under’ in Australia, the culture in Far East Asia, and the many different languages, nationalities and tongues across South America.
I could write a book about the UK, Spain and Greece. I could possible write a fair few pages on Florida and Las Vegas too, and a few other holiday destinations. But to me, they were more traditional type holidays, and what I lacked was the knowledge around those countries further afield, which much different opinions and life experiences than myself.
So in November 2013, I set off on a 12 month stint to explore Australia, travelling around the East Coast and settling in Sydney for 9 months. Seeing the Sydney side of life was by far the most amazing experience I have ever encountered, with the lifestyle being so relaxed and laid-back, with a culture so fitness and health focused it actually made me turn to kale leaves and acai berry smoothies every morning.
In terms of work-life balance, it was incredibly accommodating, with encouraged coffee breaks and Friday socials, making work genuinely become much more sociable than what I’d experienced before. I had countless lunch hours sat on the grass, basking in the sun with my work girls, eating sushi rolls and sipping super strong espressos.
In terms of socialising and friendships, there was just always so much more to do. Living in Bondi, we’d regularly gather at the beach and bring some drinks down with us, utilising the already set-up BBQ stands. Or you’d visit a beach club which overlooks the harbour, or go for walks around the countless parks and greenery spread out randomly across the city. Life over there is just so ‘outdoorsy’, and with the UK’s focus to start being much more health focused and stress-free, I predict Australia will be on many peoples to-visit lists for 2017.
One of the highlights for me was visiting the Whitsundays, and heading up as far North East as you can (the trip from Sydney to Cairns especially, which I did on the cheap via the Greyhound coach – worth checking out). In those parts, you’ll see the clearest waters and the bluest skies you never thought possible, and the softest, talcum powder like sand lining the beaches.
I also made plans to visit Indonesia, and see how they live in Bali. It’s an extremely poor country, where you’ll see Balinese children working from a super young age, and 5 star villas can cost us as little as £30 per night due to their currency.
However, a place I had longed to visit for such a long time was Singapore, and during my journey home to the UK, I made sure I had time for a 4 day stop off. It’s literally a crazy place, with its sky-scraper skyline and intense humidity hitting you upon first arrival. There’s an area called Little India, but also a China Town, within real close proximity. There are also the enormous botanical gardens which sit in the backdrop of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel, the most extravagant hotel with an infinity pool literally in the clouds.
And not forgetting the biggest and best shopping centers, Sentosa Island (which incorporates a small taste of Orlando – with a beach!), Gardens by the Bay, and various mosques and chapels which showcase a range of cultures.
As much as I feel Australia will be a huge interest point for many travellers this year, for 2017 there seems to be a slight shift in travel trends. For 2017, when I’ve looked into the upcoming desired places to visit, it looks like Thailand and many Asian countries are less in demand, with uplift in South America.
South America offers a multitude of travel opportunities, and a whole new world to explore. Also, it’s one of the best places to visit for volunteering, which is becoming increasingly popular across not just graduates and those in their twenties, but those in their thirties and forties too.
I read up more about this at Maximo Nivel, a volunteer programme which covers Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru. These locations offer the complete Latin American experience, but at the same time giving back to the global community.
For those of you out there who have already done the traditional travelling routes, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, and North America, volunteering in these destinations is an interesting next step. Not only does it let you travel to a developing country and see how the locals life, it allows once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to immerse in a new culture, and make a real difference and impact on countries not as fortunate as the UK.
For the travellers out there who wish to really do something different and rewarding this year, the Maximo Nivel’s volunteer abroad program may be a good one to look into. They take place in Antigua, Guatemala; Cusco, Peru; Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica; and San Jose, Costa Rica. They also have off-site programs on the beaches of El Salvador, the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica, and in the Amazon Jungle and Sacred Valley of Peru.
Volunteer programs include:
– Working with Children
– Teaching English
– Conservation & Environment
– Animal Care
– Indigenous Communities
Will 2017 be the year you take the plunge and explore the world in a different way?