My 10 Favorite Travel Experiences

This was a very hard list to assemble. I’ll be honest, if I wrote this list on a different day, I might come up with a different order or maybe different experiences altogether. Identifying just ten experiences from the hundreds of countries I’ve visited is nearly impossible. This was harder than picking my favorite cuisines, beaches, and dive sites shared in my other round ups.

I ended up picking those travel experiences that I remember most vividly—those that had an impact on me at the time, even if they might not impact me the same way now.

There are a fair number of adventure travel activities, as well as some which really on mean something to me. All in all, it was fun to look back on a decade of travel and determine those the best travel experiences in the world, gleaned from my own world travels.

10. Getting a Tattoo in Rarotonga

I have to put this on the list because it is something I look at every day. Not only that, if you actually visit my website, you’ll notice my logo is a little guy. That little guy is called a tikitiki tangata, and it is the Cook Island maori symbol for a man. It also happens to be permanently inked on my arm.

The entire tattoo is the story of my travels: The man by himself represents me, the birds represent travel, the mountains with birds represent far away places, and the shark teeth represent a safe journey. Here is the video I took while getting my tattoo.

9. Being a Professional Underwater Photographer for a Day

In 2008, I was in Cairns, Australia when I ran into professional underwater photographer Peter Mooney. He runs an underwater photography store in Cairns and had a housing unit for my camera and lens and agreed to take me out on the Great Barrier Reef so I could experience doing real underwater photography for a day. It was much more difficult than I ever expected. I was glad I had the opportunity to try my hand at it and it is something I would love to do again—in fact, it’s experiences like this one that led me to found my own Travel Photography Academy.

Underwater Photography

8. Zip Lining in Puerto Rico

Prior to visiting Puerto Rico I had never been zip lining before and I had also never been rappelling before. I managed to do both in the same day. I also managed to ride the highest and second longest zip line in the world at the Toro Verde Adventure Park. Here is the video I took of the ride (I held my iPhone vertically and didn’t realize what I did until I was done)

7. Watching the Sunset in Hong Kong

This sounds like an innocent enough thing, but sitting in Kowloon, watching the sunset on Hong Kong and all the lights of the skyline turn on is a travel experience that has always stuck with me.

Hong Kong at night

6. Watching the Bat Exodus From Deer Cave

Deer Cave in Mulu National Park in Borneo is one of the largest single caverns in the world. It is also home to over 3,000,000 bats. It was raining most of the time I was there, so the bats couldn’t go into the rainforest to feed. When the rains finally ended, all three million of them decided to leave the batcave and head for the jungle at once. I spent over and hour with other travelers watching this endless river of bats in the sky heading out for the night to gorge on insects.

Bats in Deer Cave

5. Swimming With Whale Sharks

Unfortunately, I have no photos or video to show for this travel experience. I didn’t have an underwater camera with me to record what happened. Nonetheless, jumping in the water and staring at the world’s largest fish was something I will never forget. There are many places around the world where you can swim with whale sharks, but I did mine in Exmouth, Western Australia. Regardless if you are in the Philippines, Mexico, Belize, or Australia, if you get the chance to swim with whale sharks (they are filter feeders and totally harmless) do it.

4. Bungee Jumping in Queenstown, NZ

The day I went bungee jumping it was only me and two small girls from India who were doing it because of the weather. They had you go in order of weight, so I had to go after the two little girls. There is no way you can chicken out after two little girls did it moments before you.

3. Swimming with great White Sharks

In October 2010, I visited Grootbos, South Africa and got to get in the water with Great White Sharks. It is a very … unique … travel experience. You literally get in a cage while they chum some of the most shark infested water on the planet. The water is extremely cold, so you have to wear a thick wetsuit. In the video below, I am the person in the cage closest to the camera.

2. Photographing Political Protests in Bangkok

Protester in Bangkok

Most of the red shirt protests in Bangkok in 2010 took place pretty far away from where I was staying on Sukhumvit Soi 33. However, one day the protesters decided to pay a visit to the Prime Ministers house, which happened to be a block away from me on Soi 31. I picked up my camera headed out to see what I could do.

Being a white guy with a fancy camera, no one really questioned what I was doing. I spent several hours between thousands of angry protesters and several hundred Bangkok police in full riot gear. I have to confess, it was totally exhilarating experience. Not only was I right in the middle of a potential riot, but I was actually covering some real news.

1. Swimming With Jellyfish in Palau

I can’t describe what it is like to swim in the jellyfish lake. There is nothing like it in the world. It is ethereal and it is surreal. I spent so much time in the lake that the group I was with was yelling at me to get out of the water. I didn’t want to leave. If you want to have an idea of what it is like, check out the video I made.

Honorable Mentions

East Rennell UNESCO World Heritage Site

26 thoughts on “My 10 Favorite Travel Experiences”

  1. Absolutely loved this post. It’s so inspiring to read a top 10 list of amazing activities that you have participated in, rather than simply another bucket list! Thanks

  2. Diving with whale sharks (although I did it in Honduras, Costa Rica and the Galapagos) and snorkelling in Jellyfish Lake in Palau are two of my favorite travel experiences as well. Swimming with Great Whites is next on my list.

  3. you’ve had amazing experiences! ive tried swimming with the whale sharks in donsol and it was scary at first but i enjoyed it! it was such a surreal experience!

  4. nice share and great job :up: :). just for information , beside in palau , there is another lake just same like that in Indonesia , exactly in Derawan islands , east borneo , called lake kakaban, and those jellyfish are without sting too.

  5. Great pic of the protest! It’s amazing the things we can get away with as foreigners. Also the Jellyfish Lake has been on my list for quite some time. Your video is motivating me to check it off. :)

  6. Wow! The jellyfish experience does look as surreal as you say it is. The photograph of the Bangkok protest is stunning. Good job and cool list.

  7. Gary, It was lovely to meet you today and to see your tattoo in the flesh :) I just watched your jellyfish lake video…wow. It’s mesmerizing. I can see why you wouldn’t get out of the water. What an otherworldly experience that must have been. Thanks for sharing your journeys.

  8. I just saw you on Global TV! I’m a 49 yo single female born & raised here in Vancouver who is fun, outgoing, ndependent about everything except when it comes to travelling : ( I’m not working a whole lot at the moment and I’ve always wanted to travel for a few years. I’m really interested in revisiting parts of Asia that I didn’t see 20 yrs ago. I have the funds to this for awhile however i don’t have anyone to do this with. I guess I want to save money but being in a foreign place, not knowing where to stay scares me. I’m also not much of a backpacker coz of my weak back but I do love walking! Do you have any feedback to get me over this fear? It must be great to be doing what you enjoy so much Gary PS How long are you in Vancouver for? Maybe we could hook up for a coffee!

    • Unfortunately I leave on Monday for Whitehorse, and my time will be taken up with the conference I’m attending until I leave.

      Anywhere you want to go, people have been there before you. You can get the advice and suggestions of those who have gone before you to find out where to stay. Once you are on the ground somewhere, you’ll quickly become normalized to the location and what was once scary will become normal.

  9. I’m so jealous of your life! It would be my dream to be an underwater photographer I can’t even imagine how great of an experience that was and everything else on this list.

  10. I lived on Guam for 3 years and LOVED it! What did you think of it? What was your favorite beach there? Did you make it to Jeff’s Pirate Cove?

  11. Glad you brought up Hong Kong’s skyline. Another breathtaking view is to watch the lights come on from atop the Peak Tram tower on Victoria Peak. You can peer down into the skyline of Hong Kong island and across to Kowloon and also watch the sunset over the Pok Fu Lam valley and harbor to the west. The way the sun hits the water, the ships and island look like they’re floating on clouds.

  12. I could never do the zip line or bungie jump (fear of falling from heights) but I’d join you for a tattoo or bat watching any day! What a life!

  13. Your Honorable Mentions are the envy of most – except maybe for the “almost getting trampled” one. And watching 3 million bats fly out of a cave must have really been something! Have you been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Monterey, CA) ? That jellyfish video is exactly what I picture when I stand in front of the jellyfish tanks. Amazing!!

  14. Loved this post. Did you know an another great bat exodus can be witnessed at Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico?

  15. I was so sure that swimming with whale sharks would be pretty up there at the top, and then I saw the part about swimming with jelly fish. Ack. What wonderful experiences all of these are. Thanks for sharing.

  16. Most of your experiences are dreams of mine!!! I have gotten a tattoo in a foreign country, watched the sunset in HK, and swam with great whites though! :)

  17. You gotta love the bungy! I did the Kawarau bungy twice, but next time I’m in QT, I’m going to do the thrillogy. I really enjoyed your jellyfish video – fascinating!

  18. Wow, you are extremely brave! Tattoos, sharks, political protests, definetly not for me

  19. Wow, just wow! Swimming with the jelly fish is something I’d love to experience w M and J. Great share. :-)

Comments are closed.