People travel for any range of reasons but for us, it is often the unique and awe-inspiring experiences that each area offers that draws us in. We recently reached out to a bunch of our fellow travel bloggers to better understand the adventures they’ve enjoyed.
Does bucket list inspiration get any better?
Horseback Riding to the Tsaatan Reindeer Herders in Mongolia – Ze Wandering Frogs
Visiting the Tsaatan reindeer herders in Mongolia is a full-fledged adventure. It requires a 12-hour overnight bus from Ulaanbaatar to Murun, and another 12-hour Russian mini-van ride over bumpy dirt roads and fast rivers to reach Tsagaannuur by Lake Khovsgol. From there it takes anywhere from a one to three day horse ride to arrive at the nomads’ camp (depending on the season and where they camp).
Our Mongolian guide prepared our horses and the packhorses carrying our bags and food for our five-day trip. Mongolian horses are quite different than the horses one might ride in Western countries. Small, partially wild, with a mind of their own. The gear is handmade – a wooden or metal frame saddle with little cushioning, and tack made of thin torn ropes.
We got to know our horses as we rode through fantastic scenery painted with the fall colours of late September. We crossed wide open valleys and pine forests. Our horses struggled stuck knee-deep in the muddy taiga and slid on the steep and rocky trails with barely space for their hooves. I used to own my horse and am usually a confident rider, but I confess this was a challenging ride – not for the faint of heart.
The six-hour trip over these treacherous conditions left us sore all over and eager to arrive. Our guide would confess at the end of the voyage he was glad no one – human or horse – broke a limb…
A short pause as we reached a pass allowed us to stretch our legs and enjoy a panoramic view of the Khoridol Saridag mountains, with summits over 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) high. Luckily the camp was only a short distance away.
We were thrilled to finally see the reindeer and their herders, the famous Tsaatan nomads. They shared their yurts with us for five night, high in the forests. We picked blueberries, I got a hand at (unsuccessfully) milking a reindeer, and we followed them as they grazed on the Ulaan (red) taiga.
The Tsaatan family allowed us to glance into their millennia-old traditions and we loved every minute of our stay. Our horses were never far, and brought us from camp to camp. My mare did not like crossing rivers – an issue when you have so many in the mountains. My husband’s horse did not like rocks and struggled on the rocky trails.
The return over the steep slippery slopes was tricky, and we had to lead our horses by hand. Many times I thought my mare was going to overrun me, or at least step on my feet. We quickly reached the valleys around Tsagaannuur and with the horses eager to return to the barn, we let the horses finished our ride at full gallop – the too-soon end of our adventure to the Tsaatan.
Adventure travellers and lovers of the outdoors, Patricia & Bruno – Ze Wandering Frogs – enjoy hiking, diving and kiteboarding, but are up for any challenge. They have over 30+ and 5 continents under their belts and are currently on a round-the-world trip. Check out where they are now on their Facebook page.
Traversing India by Auto Rickshaw – No Back Home
One of the most difficult, adventurous and life changing things I have ever done was drive an auto rickshaw across India. Yep, 4000km zig-zagging our way from the far south of India to the far north east of the country, in a 3 wheeled vehicle most wouldn’t trust on a golf course, in less than 2 weeks.
Epic breakdowns, meltdowns, close calls and scary moments filled our 14 hour days, but as we approached the finish line, we would have done anything to keep going.
So what is this all about (and how can I do it too) you must be wondering? Several times a year, The Adventurists, a group out of the UK, organises (I use that term loosely) a run across India in the name of charity. You sign up, pay your entrance fee, design your rickshaw and raise money for charity before putting your life on the line for one of the most amazing adventures you can imagine. The Adventurists set the start and ending points, provide the rickshaws and then leave the rest up to you.This is not a guided tour of India. There is no life support team to help you out along the way. It is up to you, your partners, the kindness of strangers, which thankfully are plentiful in India, and your own creativity to get you from point A to point B.
Wanting to make our journey more adventurous, we choose a route through the centre of the country, driving through villages that had never seen a foreigner in person before, much less one driving an auto rickshaw! Our driving conditions were less than ideal.
Making our way through chaotic streets filled with people, bullock carts, cows and motorcycles, driving on dirt roads labeled national highways or lost in rice paddy fields being given directions by drunk locals gives you some idea of what our days looked like. But don’t get me wrong it wasn’t all bad. In between constant breakdowns, massive speed humps that appeared out of no where, fuel strikes and a partner who had never driven before, our faces hurt from smiling and laughing so much. Being out on the open road, in charge of our own vehicle, charting our own path through this intoxicating, exhilarating and often overwhelming country was transformative. The astounding diversity found on this vast continent is unparalleled. From the variations in food, language, religion and natural landscapes, we took it all in, savouring every moment.
So yes, it was arduous, both mentally and physically, but it was the greatest adventure of my life and one that should be on every adventurer’s bucket list!
Karilyn is a family travel writer exploring her way through her new home city of Los Angeles with her 6 year old in tow, always planning for their next adventure abroad! Join the fun on her Instagram account.
Exploring the Bornean Jungle by Boat – Bobo and Chichi
The one experience we will never forget would have to be our visit to Kalimantan, the Indonesian side of Borneo.
We got to enjoy floating through the river through Tanjung Puting National Park’s jungle while seeing the most beautiful and enchanting wildlife.
We saw everything from endangered wild orangutans, crocodiles, giant horn bill birds, tons of different species of monkeys including gibbons and the strange looking proboscis monkeys, and even a snake carrying a fish in it’s mouth to name a few.
Seeing wild animals is no guarantee, but the odds are in your favour that you will see many!
Not only did we get to see native wildlife of Borneo, but we got to witness more beautiful, semi-wild orangutans at all three feeding stations along the river including the famous Camp Leakey where the most important studies on orangutans to date have taken place.
Spending four days living on a boat and sleeping under the stars in the jungle has to be one of the greatest outdoor adventures to experience. It definitely was one of the most unique and memorable travel experiences we have had to date.
Together Scott and Megan are Bobo and Chichi, bloggers with a refreshing degree of honesty. They’ve traded in their corporate jobs and are travelling the world, with occasional stops to refuel their bank accounts. Check out their amazing hyper-lapse videos on Youtube too!
Overlanding Through Africa – The World Pursuit
I’ll never forget driving a truck across Africa with my partner Natasha. There is no doubt that it has been the most difficult journey of our travels thus far. The time, money, and effort we have placed into it have been immense. The hardships could be made into a novel whether it was border crossings, legal paperwork, or bone-rattling roads. However, it has been rewarding, to say the least.
We’ve traveled to areas far beyond the average visitor and certainly the average safari goer. We’ve hiked in wildernesses seldom traveled by anyone, and developed a much better understanding of the world we live in. Driving through a country gives you a totally new perspective. Sure, I’ve seen all of the big five safari animals, but what I’ll remember the most is climbing a muddy mountain road in Zimbabwe during the rainy season in our LandCruiser named Charlie.
It certainly has been an experience second-to-none.
Cameron and Natasha have been traveling the world together for the last three years and now document their travels on The World Pursuit. They share a love of coffee, movies, and above all else, exploring the world. Want to see more? Check out their Facebook page.
Visiting The Galapagos Islands – Nomadic Boys
An experience we’ll never forget is our cruise around the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.
The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean, around 1,000km (600 miles) from Ecuador’s coast. The variety of unique wildlife here not only inspired Darwin back in 1835 but it completely captivated us when we visited in October 2016.
This is one of the few places in the world where you get so close to the wildlife because they are blazé to humans. You’ll be so spoilt, no other safari will be the same again.
Most island hopping cruises in the Galapagos focus on either the West islands or the East. The main difference between the two is time – the Western islands are younger and larger because they have witnessed volcanic eruptions more recently. As such they have a more volatile environment, but with stunning instagrammable landscapes. The Eastern Islands are older, so have had more time to develop vegetation, making them greener, attracting more wildlife.
Each island has something different to offer, whether it’s bird watching, volcano landscapes, sea lions, flamingos or giant tortoises. Every day involved hours of treks through each island – intense but well worth it.
Our highlight was on Española Island, where we got to hang out with the sea lions and practice a few yoga moves with them!
Together Stefan and Sebastien are travelling the world and documenting their adventures on their blog, Nomadic Boys. This couple is currently in the middle of a trip across Latin America, which to date has included Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Ecuador and Peru. Check out where they currently are on Instagram!
Swimming with the World’s Smallest Dolphins – BackpackerGuide.NZ
When organising ‘New Zealand’s Biggest Gap Year’ where we challenged ourselves to tackle 365 activities in New Zealand in 365 days, we never thought that one of our most relaxing days would be our most memorable.
On a hot summer’s day in the Akaroa Harbour we hopped on a boat to explore the local marine reserve. After spotting a hangout of shags, a rookery of albatross, a ternery of terns, and even a seal colony, we spotted a pod of Hector’s dolphins. The world’s smallest dolphin species turned out to be one of the most playful. Curious about our boat and looking to play in its wake, the six dolphins started jumping and following us inviting us to join them in the water.
Not that we needed more incentive to jump into the inviting turquoise waters, we slid into our wetsuits and joined the dolphins.
The trick to play with dolphins in their natural habitat? Sing! The pod of dolphin responded almost instantly to the vibrations of our lungs in the water so we kept singing and they kept swimming by us closer and closer. We got to see them interact with each other and inspect interesting objects (ie. us). It was a truly unforgettable insight into the lives of marine life that we rarely see in the wild and let alone “hang out” with.
The Hector’s dolphins are critically endangered and our time spent in the marine reserve helped fund its protection so hopefully more adventurous travellers get to see those amazing creatures in the wild for years to come.
Robin and Laura are creating the most amazing memories as they spend a year travelling around New Zealand in an RV. They have the most gorgeous, uniquely-Kiwi photos on their Instagram account and are giving us a massive bout of home-sickness (is that even a word?)
Hiking Across Finland – The Crowded Planet
Ever since we hiked the Camino de Santiago my husband and I fell in love with long-distance hiking. There’s something special about travelling on foot, it makes us feel closer to nature and the people we meet along the way.
Last summer we decided to cross by foot the southern part of one of our favourite countries, Finland. We started in Porvoo, a lovely little town not far from Helsinki, and walked all the way to Turku and then across the Aland Islands. The only kind of transport we took were boats to move between islands in the Finnish Archipelago.
We spent 40 days walking in total, and we had so many wonderful experiences – sleeping in hanging tents in the forest, enjoying lots of relaxing saunas, eating berries and watching the sunset at 11.30 pm. If I were to choose my favourite experience from the trip, I would say it was sleeping in a lighthouse in Bengtskar, a tiny island. This was truly a dream come true!
Is there a better travel blogging combination than a writer and a photographer? Together, Margherita and Nick Writer, travel the world with adventure and nature in mind. Check their gorgeous landcape photos out on Instagram today.
Go Somewhere You Probably Shouldn’t – The Day I was Accused of Being an Islamic State Spy in Lebanon – Against the Compass
One day while traveling, I decided to go south and visit the wall that separates Lebanon from Israel. Both countries had been in a continuous war for several decades. Today, this is one of the most sensitive borders in the world.
When I reached the wall, I started walking along the border with my camera. After 500 meters, I saw myself surrounded by UN soldiers and the Lebanese army. This border is not only a sensitive one, but it’s within Hezbollah territory as well. I was carrying a big camera and that’s why I was detained.
Travel tip: Never ever take pictures in Hezbollah territory!
They took me to a military base where I was interrogated and questioned for hours. They accused me of being an ISIS or Israeli spy (both of them are Hezbollah enemies). After all this questioning, they called the general of the Spanish Army in Lebanon (I’m from Spain). Then, the general called someone from the Spanish government to check if I had a suspicious background. Since they didn’t find anything, I was finally released.
The best of all was that, since they knew I was just a harmless traveler, in the end, I was allowed to take pictures of the wall. There were only two conditions: I had to be accompanied by soldier andwas never ever to return to the area.
Joan Torres is a Spanish national with a taste for adventure. He loved to travel off-the-beaten-track, exploring spots you’ve probably only dreamed about. Stay up to date with Joan’s travels by following him on Twitter.
Getting Messy at La Tomatina – Foodie Flashpacker
I had read about La Tomatina years before and always thought it sounded cool. The world’s largest tomato fight taking place in a Spanish village so small it cannot accommodate the number of partiers. Drinking that begins at 7am. What’s not to like?
Catching a 6am train we arrived to the scene shortly thereafter. People were already drinking beer, wine and sangria and eating pizza when the sun was barely up!
We wandered around town, half exploring and half trying to find the best spot for when the alarm sounded, signaling the beginning of the festivities.
We watched as people took turns trying to climb a greased flagpole to reach a ham on the top. Party-goers climbed over one another before ultimately falling back down the pole. The party couldn’t start until someone reached the ham and knocked it down so we stood-by and sipped sangria, cheering the drunken athletes on.
As soon as the ham was knocked from the pole, water cannons signaled the beginning of the food fight. Only tomatoes can be thrown during this festival and they must be squished first. Other than that, it’s an all out war!
The battle goes for exactly one hour before the cannons signal the end. Locals that had been hiding indoors then emerge with water hoses and buckets of water to help clean tomato pulp from the hair, shoes and clothes of visitors.
Other locals quickly break out their BBQ grills and paella pans to begin preparing to sell food to everyone that is drunk, filthy and exhausted.
As much as I loved it and it’s always nice to cross something off my bucket list for me it’s a once-and-done kind of experience, albeit one I’ll never forget and would highly recommend.
Nathan is a long-term traveller with a passion for getting to know what makes a place tick – this normally means checking out the local culinary delights. Check out Nathan’s Instagram but be sure to do it with a full tummy – he’s got some seriously delicious-looking food snaps on there.
Checking out Ethiopia’s Lava Lake – Dante Harker
Seeing lava has been on my bucket-list (AKA my Epic Quest) for years, and I’ve tried many times to see it. Usually, when we arrive, some apologetic tour guide says ‘well it was there last week’. And then there was that one time where my partner fell down the side of a volcano, which again didn’t end up in us seeing lava, just him having a mild concussion.
Finally though, at the end of 2016 we stood 10ft away from a bubbling lava lake in a place the internet describes as the most inhospitable place on earth – it was pretty harsh if I’m honest. But amazing in all it’s glory.
The lava lake at Erta Ale in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia had bubbled over which meant to climb to the top we had to ease our way over partially hardened magma. A bit like walking on thin ice but with a lake of burning death underneath you rather than water.
Thankfully, we didn’t die and did get a huge tick for the Epic Quest!
Dante runs a fantastic travel blog but don’t call him a blogger! He’s a real jack of all trades and loves sharing his experiences in life with his readers – his travels and quest to tick off his bucket-list with his husband being a key focus on his corner of the internet. Follow his adventures on Instagram.
Keen for another intake of bucket-list inspiration? Stay tuned for our second instalment coming soon!
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