Heather’s Best Travel Moments of 2015

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I love the start of a new year. It’s such a natural time to reflect and remember. In addition to thinking about what I learned this past year and what advice I’d like to give myself for 2016, I wanted to take verbal snapshots of some of my most memorable travel moments in 2015. There are actually many more, but these are the 15 which stood out to me this morning as I was journaling.

The “we” statements all refer to different people or groups of people. You might recognize yourself in these moments.

Cambodia

1. Trundling down Bayon’s back roads in a vintage military Jeep while my mom Holly clutched her seat belt to her chest and insinuated I was trying to kill her. She even took a cryptic photo to send home to Dad, just in case.
Siem Reap Jeep Tour

2. Getting a glimpse of the terror of the Khmer Rouge through the beautiful and moving performance of the acrobats of Phare Cambodian Circus. Trembling while the performers donned their masks.

Vietnam – Spring

3. Dining by candlelight during a mother-son getaway to Phu Quoc Island, where Gabriel splashed in the waves while waiting for our freshly caught shrimp. We collected different types of coral on a deserted beach on the island’s north end after an hour long ride on an uneven dirt road. The “bumpy road” was Gabriel’s favorite part of the whole trip.
Phu Quoc splashing

4. Slipping and sliding through the mud tunnel complex at Phong Nha’s Dark Cave until we were neck deep in mud, buoyant on our backs in the pitch darkness. For a moment, the only sound was our breath and water dripping from stalactites above.

5. Arriving at the mouth of Hang En Cave, the third largest cave in the world, to a human chain of high fives as the sun set behind our straggler group in the jungle. Wading into the warm, shallow, stream-fed pool on one side of the cave, and then challenging the students to dive into the deep, freezing cold pool on the other side.
Hang En Cave1

The United States

6. Celebrating the 4th of July with an impromptu rendez-vous in Catskill, New York, where a cover band played from a typical white gazebo trimmed in red, white and blue. We sat on secluded bench under the shade of a tree, watching boats line up for the fireworks display on the Hudson River.

7. Waking up early in the morning to take Arianne in her stroller around Lake George Village. We explored cemeteries and steamboats as the mist rose in the Adironacks.

8. Meandering on the boardwalk as the sun set at Silver Sands State Park in Milford, CT. Singing along to the Jimmy Buffet cover songs at the marina, and being surprised by fireworks in the distance.
Silver Sands Beach

Australia

9. Feeling the energy of the streets of downtown Melbourne in spring. A lantern festival and multi-ethnic barbecues lined the pathways, and signs in various languages noted the fare on order. Escaping the throbbing bass of a posh club to sit on a quiet balcony overlooking the city streets.

Singapore

10. Watching the wind billow in the white canopies at the Fullerton Hotel’s rooftop bar, while looking out onto the skyline and Marina Bay Sands. We sipped on cocktails while braving the Singapore haze.

Vietnam – Fall

11. Posing with a random Vietnamese family to take pictures of the sun setting over Tuyen Lam Lake near Dalat. Riding a bicycle over the grounds while the sky turned brilliant shades of pink and purple behind the shadow of the evergreens.

12. Slipping into the hot springs at Thanh Thanh Resort; steam rose from the pool and the rocks were warmed by the sun. We shared a bottle of wine and indulged in girl talk by the lily pond, and we soared over the trees on the zip line.
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13. Exploring Ho Chi Minh City’s nightlife, from shaking it with a belly dancer at Beirut to dancing with the suspender-clad bartenders on a rooftop bar. I watched hip-hop dancers freestyle on Nguyen Hue, was hurled into a pile of rugby players in a sand pit, and grooved to the bass laid down at Saigon Ranger.

14. Sprinting through alleyways in Hue to find the ancient Tiger Arena. Rounding the corner at the same time as an opposing team, but hustling enough to beat them to our destination. Exploring Hoi An’s Old City in an epic scavenger hunt to finish the Sunbear Scramble, our school’s first Amazing Race through Central Vietnam.
Hoi An Bicycles

15. Lying on my back with my hair in the sand, counting shooting stars and hearing the melodic crash of the waves at Lang Co Beach. We shared this moment with many students, city kids, who had never seen the Milky Way.

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