Tell us about your most exotic and/or daring trip!
In summer 2016 I’d just been laid off from my previous job. On the upside, it came with a pretty generous severance package. So I had money, and I had time to travel without being limited by the number of vacation days I was allowed to take. So I booked a 24 day tour of East Africa, specifically Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania. The highlights were tracking gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, the amazing amount of wildlife in Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area – I kept having to remind myself that I wasn’t watching some nature documentary on TV; I was actually there witnessing this person. Oh, and there was whitewater rafting on the Nile in Uganda. I’d been whitewater rafting before but these were some of the biggest rapids I’ve done.
It also kind of made me realize the wildlife we have here in North America is really just as spectacular; we just take it for granted because it’s normal for us. But I imagine for a non-American, a trip to say Yellowstone and seeing bears and elk would probably seem just as amazing.
After a messy divorce, back in the 1980s, a single male friend of mine and I decided to try out a Club Med. We settled on Tahiti and Moorea and jumped on a plane out of San Francisco. After a 10-hour flight sitting in economy, the pilot tried to land during a thunderstorm, which was the scariest landing I’ve ever experienced. It was mostly downhill from there, and I never went to a Club Med again.
The high-point of the trip was when we broke out, rented a car, and drove around the island checking out the beaches, the girls, and the bars. Everyone spoke French, but neither of us did, so communicating was a real challenge, but I loved being literally in the middle of nowhere. We couldn’t talk with anyone back home, and nobody back home could talk with us. I couldn’t even read a newspaper. It was great.
The low point was a scuba diving trip in which my buddy got so sick he puked for hours. I couldn’t stop laughing. To this day when I bring up the scuba trip, he gets nauseous just thinking about it. If only I could use my powers for good.
After recovering from cancer treatment, I walked 500 miles across Spain on the Camino de Santiago by myself for 42 days. A friend joined me for a few days late in the walk. There were multiple heat waves during during the time I walked.
Dunedin, the South Island of New Zealand, middle of winter. I was 16 I and feeling restless one night. I had $1000 sitting in the bank and decided I should go and do something interesting with it. I snuck out of the house and walked to a friend’s house at the other end of town and stayed the night, sleeping on the floor.
The next day I hitchhiked towards the ski towns in the mountainous centre of the island. I stopped at a small town a few hours in and caught up with another friend. Called my mum, let her know I was ok. Then booked a room for that night at a backpacker’s.
Next day I continued hitchhiking inland to Wanaka where I spent the next few days skiing.
Once the money ran out I hitchhiked home and went back to school. In hindsight, my mother was very understanding.
I did the same trip the following year but with my mother’s knowledge.
May 1993: I had just finished my junior year of college, and decided to take a week off from my restaurant job and go somewhere by myself. I packed a bag and headed northeast, and as I looked at my road atlas at a cheap motel in the Appleton area, realized I was just 6 hours from the Canadian border, and decided to go for it. I spent a day in Sault Ste. Marie, which except for being a border city is really nothing to write home about, and came home rather promptly afterwards, but those were 4 days I will never forget and still refer to it as “the odyssey.”
At one point, while driving through the UP, I thought, “This area’s gorgeous - I could live here!” and then drove by a ski resort that had a billboard that looked like a thermometer, with the previous season’s total snowfall on it. 17 feet? That’s right, FEET, and no thank you.
Wife and I spent a week at Likoma Island, Malawi in 1975. We met a fisherman there, who needed to report his catch in Mozambique waters, so he took a few Malwian marketers along to remain on shore in Cobue to sell a few onions and squash in war-torn Mozambique. I asked if we could ride along, he said Sure,why not. Frelimo revolutionary soldiers explained why not, at gunpoint. After a half hour on interview through several languages and back, a deal was struck. While the boatman fished, we could visit the town, then go back in the afternoon. We were free to do as we liked, but accompanied by an armed soldeer, who had our passports. He disappeared into the first bar and amazingly remembered us 8 hours later to see us off at the dock. Then came the scariest part of the day – the lake gets very windy in the afternoon, and loaded to the gunwales with fish and returning market ladies, the boat was shipping a LOT of water when we got back to Likoma. I was more fearful of drowning that day, than being shot.
Later on, I heard of other foreigners who had wandered into Mozambique, treated much less hospitably.
About twenty years ago, when I was pretty new to motorcycling, my girlfriend and I took a 3-week motorcycle road trip from Michigan to California. Camped mostly, even cooking some food at our campsites, but some hotel stays and a few nights with a relative along the way. Saw the Great Plains, the desert southwest, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, several national parks, the Bonneville Salt Flats, and everything in between. Every kind of weather along the way. Fond memories now.
Unguided 26 days trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, including a trip up to the Sanctuary. Followed by a week alone on an island in the Gulf of Thailand where I ended up with pneumonia and spent time in a remote hospital where no one back home had a clue where I was. This was before cell phones and easy communication.
I’ve traveled a lot over the years, to some very interesting destinations. But my biggest adventure, in the sense of being an adrenaline rush, happened almost thirty years ago, and involved very little distance being covered during the course of the event.
Basically: I went on a hike and got terribly lost.
This was in Arizona. I was there to see some baseball games during spring training with friends. One day, there was nothing scheduled, so I took myself out to Sedona for a walk in the outdoors. I had a bottle of water and a light jacket, and was planning to be out there for maybe three or four hours.
And before anyone jumps in, I know this story shows me making major mistakes. There are more to come.
Anyway, after an hour and a half or so, around what I judged to be the middle of the marked trail, I saw a canyon opening along a bluff. I left the trail to take a look. Turned out to be a whole canyon system, with lots to see: water-carved formations, pockets of snow in the deep shade, and more.
An hour or so later, I emerged at the other side to an amazing vista. Then I turned around and backtracked to where I’d entered.
I couldn’t find it. The canyon system had branches and forks, and somehow I’d lost track of my turns. I had no idea where I was. And because the day was heavily overcast, I had only a vague perception of the position of the sun and was largely guessing at the cardinal directions.
I climbed to the top of the closest rise and looked back across the canyons, trying to intuit where the original bluff face might be, and set out toward my best estimate. It didn’t help, so I backtracked again to the same rise (at this point I was paying much closer attention to the terrain and the landmarks on the horizon) and tried again.
By this time it was starting to get dark, which significantly changed the appearance of the surrounding geography and made me uncertain whether I would even recognize the original trail if I happened onto it again. And I knew I was in a pickle.
I got back to the same rise and thought about my situation. I knew, if I were truly lost, I would need to stay where I was, someplace where searchers wouldn’t need to work hard to find me. The hilltop seemed like a good spot, but it was pretty exposed and I didn’t know how cold it would get overnight. I was thinking, maybe it would be better to get back to the canyon entrance, find somewhere more enclosed to shelter, and then return to the rise in the morning.
As I sat there pondering, in the gathering dusk, I suddenly saw something: In the darkness, I could see the lights of the nearby town. Not directly, but creating a glow and a silhouette against the intervening terrain. That gave me a concrete direction. I had probably an hour of useful light.
I took my shot, walking briskly but carefully, not wanting to twist my ankle or pitch over a cliff.
And an hour later, I found my car.
Yes, there are many stupidities throughout this story. It came out okay because a couple of my choices were pretty good and a couple more were extremely lucky, mixed in with a whole pile of very bad choices. I look back and shake my head at the recklessness of my youth. I’m not saying that any part of this was fun or smart.
But it was still an adventure.
My wife and I visited Borneo on our honeymoon. We spent most of our time on the Malaysian side, but while at a diving resort, we met a Norwegian couple that we befriended, and decided together to try to get to some islands off the coast of Indonesia. It would have been fairly easy if we could get a flight, but we were having trouble for reasons we didn’t really understand (foreshadowing).
Anyway, three visits to the Indonesian consulate, two ferries and five hours in a series of taxies later, we found ourselves dropped off at a dock where two guys with a motorboat set out across the ocean. Night had just fallen, and we watched a beautiful fireworks display. Ramadan had just ended, and what we didn’t know is that Eid al-Fitr is one of the larger travel holidays in the Muslim world. Which is why we couldn’t get a flight. And which also made it hard to find a place to stay. I don’t think we stayed in one place more than one night in a row for the next week as we bumped around from rented room to dive shop. At one point the dive boat dropped us off on a new island after our dives with the assurance from one of the guys that his cousin could probably find us a place to stay. And he did! It all worked out and we got to see a very beautiful and remote part of the world and snorkel with stingless jellyfish.
In the late 1980s I had just finished school and was about to go with a couple friends to do the European backpacking thing, when I got a job offer, and took it. My friends had a blast on their trip (they were there chiseling chunks out of the Berlin Wall), and my job lasted about 6 months before I quit. I regretted that decision mightily (not quitting the job, missing the trip), and vowed never again to let a job or work get in the way of a good adventure.
I ended up doing a solo tour of Europe for 6 weeks a few years later after having worked at another job (and having more money!). Best trip of my life. Being solo meant everywhere I went I met new people and was open to conversation. I got plenty of solitude as well as time with new friends. So many experiences: London, Paris, Madrid, Barcelona, Nice, Pisa, Rome, Florence, the mountains of Sud Tirol, Munich, Brussels, Brugge, Kent - man, I need to go find those old pictures and my diary now!
I also did a solo bicycle tour from Astoria, OR to San Francisco over a couple of weeks between (other) jobs. And more recently, did a group trip to Peru, which was awesome and I had hoped would be the start of more travels (but the pandemic shut down those plans for now). The solo trip to Europe in my mid-20s was my greatest adventure (so far!).
I think it was 2008, me and a bunch of my martial arts friends went to Japan for two weeks of tourism and martial arts. We were in Tokyo for “Golden Week”, which is a pretty big national holiday.
That Wednesday, everyone but me was scheduled to spend the whole day doing Jodo, a short-staff martial art. It’s related the the main art we all practiced, but I didn’t do it at the time. Rather than just spend the day watching them, or just hanging out near our hotel, I sat down with my one friend who grew up in Tokyo, and planned a whole day trip that included several parts of Tokyo that no one else would see.
So after they left in the morning for practice, I went out and toured Tokyo all on my own.
Took several trains between the various places my friend recommended. Visited Ueno Park, which, it being a holiday, was filled with families and buskers. Walked from there through Ameyoko, to Akihabara. Had a bit of trouble figuring out a map at the exit of the park that showed how to get to Ameyoko, but just happened to meet The Most Helpful Panhandler In The World. He came up to me as I was reading the map to ask for 500 yen. I said sure, gave him the coin, and then asked if he could help me. He didn’t just point me the right way, he actually walked me down to the entrance. We had a great chat, turned out he’d spent some time in Montreal, just down the road from where I live in Ottawa.
Walked around Akihabara, visited some of the eclectic electronic stores it’s famous for, and ran across a store front concert with a local rock band. Sat and listened to them for a while, then found lunch.
After that, I took the train down to Kanda Station where I was supposed to meet my friends. Got there a couple of hours early, with the intent that I’d find a place to have a beer and some food, and relax.
Well, it turns out that, due to the holiday, all the bars and restaurants were closed until the evening. But, in wandering about the neighborhood, I chanced upon a little hole-in-the-wall bar under the train tracks, that was open. One bartender, and two guys at the bar, who all welcomed me in when I poked my head in. Turned out, the bartender and one of the other guys spoke English, so I ended drinking with and talking to them for about two hours. Turns out, the two guys had called the bartender at home to beg them to open the bar, since they had the day off and nothing to do.
After that, I met my friends, and we all, along with the people they had spent the day training with, went and had a big party in one of the fancier restaurants in the area.
All in all a good day.
The greatest adventure is what lies ahead
Today and tomorrow are yet to be said
The chances the changes are all yours to make
The mold of your life is in your hands to break.
Oooh - takes me back to the late '70s. My father was a teacher, my mother a housewife (as was common in those days), which meant we could go on loooong vacations in the summer. One year, they got it into their heads that we could hire a caravan and drive to Yugoslavia (from NW England - google says home to Dubrovnik was just over 1700 miles) - it still amazes me that they did that.
We picked up the caravan in either Kent or Normandy, I can’t remember; whichever it was, London lies in the way - and in those days it was so difficult to drive round London, it was actually less bother to drive straight through the middle (with me in charge of maps). Not very far at all into London, we country folk had a trivially minor accident (really, slightly bent fender) - but my father completely freaked out over it. So, aged 18, I took over the wheel, drove through central London, and basically just kept going - I towed a caravan to Yugoslavia and back.
My parents spoke no languages; my (younger) brother had a few words of French; I had basic school French and German. In those days nobody in Yugoslavia spoke English or French - many spoke German but, as we quickly learned, they hated the Germans. (Whether this was the aftermath of the war or because the country was flooded by East Germans in their Trabants, we never did find out.) So, this is how I communicated: ask in English - twice; scratch your head and mime a bit; ask in French - twice; mime some more; finally, ask hesitantly in German. Then they understood; and just as important, they understood we weren’t German.
Yeah, it was a communist country and part of the soviet bloc (albeit a fairly loose part) in those days. There were very few people from western Europe - I remember the relief of having a conversation with a French man (in French) - the first conversation outside of the family for a week. Petrol/gas was rationed; tourists had to pre-purchase (months before the trip) a book of coupons to be able to buy it. Not all gas stations (of which there were very few anyway) were part of the rationing system, which added to the excitement.
Yeah, at 18 it was quite the adventure.
Missed the edit - I should point out that google’s distance estimate is the shortest possible route - which of course we didn’t do, as we were vacationing. I remember we came back through the south of France, so I probably towed a caravan 3000 - 3500 miles, all told.
Back in the mid 80’s, Cecil and I woke up after a long night in Nice, France and found ourselves on a train headed north.
We had been backstage after seeing Depeche Mode and ran into a couple that Cecil had lived with for a few months in Italy back in 1982. All I remember was having more drinks with this couple that Cecil knew at about 2:00 am, and then waking up on the train around 11:00 am the next morning. The couple was not there, but Cecil was wearing someone else’s shoes.
The train stopped in Beaune, we had no luggage, and at my urging we got off the train. We walked about a mile from the station, when we came upon a guy struggling with a flat tire on his truck. Cecil didn’t want to stop, but I offered to help the guy change his flat. I don’t speak a lick of French, so I made Cecil translate. Turns out, this guy works for a winery, and it was in September which is key harvesting time, and they were short on help. He offered us lodging and food if we would help them finish bringing the harvest in over the next few days. Neither Cecil or I needed to be anywhere for a few weeks, so we decided “what the hell!”
We spent the next 4 days harvesting grapes in the day, and drinking some really, really great wine at night. I met this young Turkish woman that was also working on the harvest. Cecil spent most of the time discussing the most mundane things with the winery owner every night after dinner. At the end of the week, we took a train to Paris, and I flew back home to Texas, and Cecil back to Chicago.
Every year Cecil and I each receive a case of wine from the winery, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti. It is still the best wine I’ve had.
Omar, that is an awesome story.
Several years ago I decided to take a six-week solo hiking trip through some of the National Parks of the U.S. southwest, mostly in Utah and Colorado. Now bear in mind that I was middle-aged, out of shape and diabetic.
One of the places I wanted to see was the “Great Gallery” of Horseshoe Canyon. It’s in a fairly remote location, getting far fewer visitors than other parks. I got started very early in the morning, before daybreak. Took lots of diluted Gatorade with me, my medications and snacks. I thought I had all bases covered.
I also had my trusty flip phone and classic iPod.
I parked the car at the rim of the canyon and followed the trail past the dinosaur tracks, way down to the canyon floor. It was early morning, but getting very hot. As I followed the trail through the canyon, the heat was starting to really get to me. There was very little shade and no water. At least I was wearing a hat.
After a few hours I reached the Great Gallery. I spent some time admiring the spectacular ancient art on the 80-ft. wide wall, then started back. The day was getting much hotter, and I had to stop periodically to drink water, eat snacks and take my meds.
I was also starting to lose the feeling in my legs. Rather than walking, I began staggering. I started to lose orientation. I began to worry that I wouldn’t be able to hike up the more strenuous trail out of the canyon. As my energy waned, I wondered how I could possibly get help if I really needed it. In all the hours I’d been in the canyon, I hadn’t seen one other person. I tried my cell phone a few times, but there was no signal.
I had developed a full-blown migraine, with both pounding pain and visual auras. I also had severe lower back spasms, mainly from the weight of my backpack. And oh god, the heat! I wondered whether it would be safe to find a place to sleep through the night, then when rested, hike out of the canyon in the morning. But I had no idea what kind of wildlife would come out at night. And I didn’t want to get too far from the trail. If I died, I wanted someone to find my body. I decided to keep going, at least to the foot of the trail out of the canyon, then see how high I could climb out.
By then I was hallucinating groups of people hiking alongside me. They were dark and silent.
It was starting to get dark when I began the strenuous climb up. I had to stop and rest about every 10-20 feet, whenever there was a rock to sit on. Suddenly I reallized that it was too dark to see the trail, and I was lost. That’s when my trusty iPod came in. It provided just enough light to locate the trail.
After a few hours I looked up and saw something metallic high up the canyon wall. It was my car in the parking lot. About an hour later I was in it.
Throughout that day I had drunk six gallons of diluted Gatorade, but never urinated once. Just drink and sweat, drink and sweat.
The following day I told a Ranger about my experience, and she told me I was lucky to be alive, that they had to rescue people all the time, and some didn’t make it. She admonished me for not having told anyone I was going there, and when to expect me back. She also told me the temperature in the canyon had been a record-breaking 123 degrees that day.
She also told me that I was not very far from the location where Aron Ralston had to sever his own arm, when it was trapped by a boulder.
All in all, this was the most memorable day of my six-week trip.
My junior year in college a buddy and I decided to do a motorcycle trip. We started in Burlington VT. Short story–north to Quebec city, south through Toronto and Niagara and then really south to Mobile. West to LA. North to Jasper AB. South through Glacier, MT, WY and CO to his parents’ home in Boulder. +/-12,000 miles in 3 months. We had helmet communicators–highlights included yelling at each other across a median about which way we supposed to go in Dallas. Wearing out a set of tires on one side in Texas because of the side winds. Screaming arguments over a woman. Stuffing his (used) socks in his mouth to stop the snoring in the tent. Dragging pegs over Beartooth Pass. Being told to “go ahead” on highway 1 over the intercom, then realizing he missed a car coming my way… He died at 36, cancer. Good times.