Continuous Learning Through Travel – Lessons from 2022

Two blonde women standing leaning against a metal railing underneath the Sydney Opera House in Australia

Every year for me marks the next stage in my continuous learning through travel. Each year I learn or relearn new lessons and turning 53 has not been any different! Here I document what 2022 has brought: the good, the bad, the ugly, the scary and the delicious!”

Where?

St Lucia, Grenada, Portugal, Denmark, Greece, Vietnam, Singapore, Australia

Why?

At the end of each year, I enjoy creating a post documenting on where I’ve been & what lessons have been learned along the way. And there are always many! 2022 was the year I turned 53, the age my husband was when I lost him. It was also the year that I truly embraced the ability to travel freely again & made the most of the opportunity. It was the year I was robbed in my sleep, when I started a new direction in my business, and when I reunited with my family again after three long hard years apart. But this is all just the tip of the iceberg.

A blonde Woman sitting drinking a cocktail on the balcony of a tall building overlooking tall buildings of a city

Continuous Learning Through Travel – Lessons from 2022

“Being robbed hurts – not physically, but from what it does to your pride.” – John Boyega

If there’s one experience, I had this year that everyone wants to talk about, it’s when I got robbed in my sleep in St Lucia. Despite double locking the doors, I left my windows open for fresh air.

A sandy caribbean beach and a view of a large pointed mountain with small yacht on a tranquil blue sea

My assailant was able to reach through, unlock the door & walk straight in. Fitful sleep & waking with a strong sense that I was not alone meant I disturbed him. He got away with very little stuff but took something much more valuable.

My confidence.

And in his wake, he also left me a gift.

Vulnerability.

This is what I fight hard against every day.

A Golden coloured rock face behind a waterfall in a tropical settingIt could have been much worse. He could have taken more. He could have hurt me physically. I was lucky. It was a terrifying ordeal but one that reminded me of the importance of all those little safety tricks I’ve employed through the years. Learning through travel is an ongoing process. What I learned is that you can never stop being vigilant.

You can read all about what happened, along with my top tips for hotel safety here.

“Take only memories, leave only footprints” – Chief Seattle

This wasn’t my only experience of bad human behaviour. I also developed a dislike for the worst kind of tourists. Unfortunately, it left me with a very bad taste in my mouth about the impact of cruise ships.

Grand Anse is the shining star of beaches in Grenada, with a long sweeping expanse of pristine white sand. I used to walk the length of it every day, barely seeing another soul unless it was the weekend & the locals were all out making the most of their gorgeous natural wonders. Then one day I walked past a section littered with rubbish.

A wooden sign post on a tropical beach in the sunshineBottles, bottle tops, cans, plastic cups, cigarette butts.

A view of a beautiful golden beach and a tree in the foregroundI stared in anger & disbelief as a woman coming the other way matched my outrage.

“Cruise ships!” she said with authority. And as we looked toward St Georges, we saw the perpetrators leaving the port.

We decided that neither of us could walk past with a clear conscience. She grabbed a bin bag & we joined forces to clean up all the mess. I was beside myself with the selfishness & disrespect that I had just witnessed. How dare people treat anywhere with so much contempt? Obviously, this is not the case for every ship or every passenger but it left a huge amount of distaste in my mouth for the impact of this mass tourism on the gorgeous destinations they feature on the itinerary.

A ring of sculptures depicting stone people standing in a ring in an underwater scene in GrenadaWherever you come from, wherever you visit, please be kind to those who you leave behind. Leave no trace.

“There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” – William Butler Yeats

And I fell in love with Grenada which made me even angrier about how it was treated. The island is stunning, not just due to the beautiful beaches, but there’s also the wild rainforest and the spectacular waterfalls (more on them later). However, it was the people who really stole my heart.

Picture the scene: You are in a supermarket car park, in a panic as your rental car is refusing to start. Suddenly you sense a face in the window. When you look it’s a man holding his battery charger and offering to help. He has the same car and within a minute you are on your way again.

Next, you are alone at one of the best viewpoints in the north of the island. A family arrives who say cheerily that they have blocked your car so you can’t leave until they do.  You chat and take photos until everyone is ready to leave. As you negotiate your car out of a tight spot, with help from them, they tell you to stop at the bottom of the hill for a drink. You don’t know what or where they mean but you must stop anyway to work out the directions to your next adventure. They arrive in a flurry of car horns, open the boot, and offer you a cold A group of people standing leaning on some large rocks overlooking the seabeer. You all stand on the side of the road, sharing a drink before saying goodbye and heading on your way.

I have never met people before who show so much generosity to strangers. I was in awe and told a few people about my experiences. They shrugged, gave me a knowing look, and said that’s just what people are like in Grenada. And with that, I fell in love even more.

“As long as there is chocolate, there will be happiness.” – Wayne Gerard Trotman

Assorted glass bottles of ingredients grey stone pestle and white glass bottle with plastic spoon and a note written on a table with the words Hot! Please don't touch on itOn a more calorific note, another lesson I learned through travel this year is how much goes into making our favourite confectionery! It started for me in St Lucia, where I visited the Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Plantation. As well as gaining an education on cacao, the raw ingredient, I got to make my own sweet treat. After a lot of beating, grinding & sweating I produced a bitter, grainier version that I would have been reluctant to share with anyone.

A ruined stone building in a tropical island setting and large wooden cocoa bean drying traysI followed this up with a visit to the Belmont Estate in Grenada & my education took reached a whole other level. Here I learned all the nuances of how they maximise the flavour, the smoothness, and the sheer luxuriousness of the product they create here. The love & care that goes into making every mouthful a melting delight. I will certainly never think about chocolate in the same way again.

 

A blonde Woman smiling with her thumb up in front of a large bell hanging from a tree with a large red Youtube button

“You have to taste a culture to understand it” – Deborah Cater

A group of people drinking pints of beer on the street and a picture of beeves and dips arranged on slate place mats on a tableAfter returning from two months alone in the Caribbean, I embarked on one of the most long-awaited trips of my life. As a 50th birthday celebration, my “old” school friends & I had decided to take our first ever trip together. We had been saving a little every month to pay for it. Originally there were five of us. Originally, we were headed to San Sebastian in Spain. Originally, we were going in 2020. But of course, none of that happened. Instead, there 4 women standing next to a yellow tram car at the top of a hill in a narrow streetwere four of us, to Lisbon in Portugal, and it was 2022, by which time, I was fast approaching my 53rd birthday. Thanks, Covid!!

However, it was an amazing trip for many reasons, including getting my teeth, literally, into a new favourite travel activity. The food tour!

Our excellent guide proceeded to take us around some of the gems of Lisbon sampling food & drinks, modern & traditional. We all enjoyed ourselves so much that as the tour drew to a close, he offered to take us all to a different part of the city where they had just embarked on a month-long festival. We all finished the night drinking together until the early hours when we said our fond farewells.

The tour went down in the annals as the best night of the trip. My friends & I are already saving for our next adventure together. Food tours are now a regular feature of any trip I do moving forwards. Check out the one below for my experiences on a scooter in Saigon.

A blonde woman looking closely at a large piece of meat between two chops sticks

“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” – Lao Tzu

2 views of cascading waterfalls into green tropical pools one with a woman watching sitting with her arms raisedI‘ve always loved a waterfall. They bring an energy to me that feels invigorating & recharging. I know I am not alone in this. Previously I have been drawn to the big ones: Niagara Falls, Victoria Falls, Iguazu Falls & practically every stop I made in Iceland was to admire an epic water feature. But in Grenada & St Lucia, I found myself hunting them out at every turn. And it wasn’t that they were world beaters that drew me to them.

A small gold coloured rocky waterfall set in a small green clearingAt some, I met families there to enjoy the natural wonders & bond across the generations. At others, I found locals willing to leap from heights for my entertainment & tips (as in cash, not diving advice! ;). All of them welcomed the visitor with an opportunity of a refreshing dip as a reward for their efforts to get there.

Often it was where I found solitude. I was the only visitor for the day.

And to reach one I took on the hardest day hike ever. It was gold & flowed with hot & cold water…don’t believe me? Check out the video below:

A Woman sitting in a cap and blue trainers in front of a small gold coloured rocky waterfall with a large red Youtube button overlay

“Remember that happiness is a way of travel, not a destination.” – Ray Goodman

Multi coloured shop fronts overlooking a canal on a bright sunny say in CopenhagenHot on the heels of my Lisbon trip, I found myself on a short visit to Copenhagen, Denmark. It was a country that I had never visited before & it was a perfect introduction. I was originally going alone until a quick exchange one morning with a friend I hadn’t seen for years resulted in me having a travelling companion. I had last said goodbye to her after we had completed a week of housesitting in the Cayman Islands. Next, I said hello again in a hotel in Copenhagen. And that’s why I love the spontaneity of those friends you meet while travelling!

So, we went about exploring the city & I discovered the joys of seeing a place from all different angles. One day we explored on foot, getting into all the nooks & crannies. Next, we took advantage of the most cycle-friendly city in the world & hired a couple of bikes. I’ll admit to not being the most confident cyclist, but it allowed us to get further afield & see another side of the city. On our final day, we took to the water. So, during my time in Copenhagen, I travelled by plane, train, car, bike, boat & foot. Not bad for just three days!

A blue advertising banner with large red Click here button

“The traveller sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”— Gilbert K. Chesterton

A two women sat, smiling on in crash helmets on the back of a scooter and a man preparing Vietnamese street food with the word Bokhoganh written on a large blackboardI have long understood the power of travel. I have shared extensively how travel has transformed my life. I had just become a widow after losing my husband in 2014 when I started following my passion for exploring the world. I felt loss but also lost. I didn’t know who I was anymore. I changed my life completely, went in search of myself & at the end of every year since, I have felt stronger. I have faced my fears, overcome challenges almost daily & believe I shine brighter because of the experiences I have had & the people I have met along the way.

But on my recent trip to Vietnam, I saw a similar transformation in my friend. Before my very eyes.

Was it the madness of crossing the road in Saigon? The resilience of the people as we learned about the impact of war? The delicious food we sampled & learned to cook? Or maybe the final escape as we scrambled to get out before a cyclone?

A Woman in a Vietnamese straw hat and sunglasses sitting on a small boat on a brown river behind a person with black t-shirt with the word staff on the back of their t-shirtI’m not sure which of these elements it was which led her to do a lot of thinking. But by the time we returned she had made some huge, life changing decisions. She had changed her attitude to how she dealt with the things that were causing her stress. She had numerous people comment on how she seemed to have changed.

And that’s when I truly understood the power that travel can have. Visiting a resort & enjoying the facilities is one thing. Sometimes taking time out to relax & rejuvenate is all we want & exactly what we need.

But sometimes we want more. We need an intervention. We need to reset our brain, our thinking, our outlook, our attitude. That’s when real travelling comes in. When all your senses are assaulted by the unfamiliar. When every bite you eat is a new & unexpected taste sensation. When simple tasks take planning & concentration. When everywhere you turn is a shiny new object to explore & every sound requires investigation.

That is mindfulness at its extreme. That’s why I love travel. And that is why it has the power to rejuvenate even when you are constantly on the go. When it takes you outside yourself to find out what your true internal potential is. And that is what I learned through travel more about this year than ever before.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” —Howard Thurman

A Woman in a striped hat smiling in front of a backdrop of a tranquil glacier and rainbow with a large icon with the words certified onAnd while we discuss how transformative travel can be, I move on to my next chapter. Clearly, I have known what travel can offer us all for a while. I started this blog to try & inspire others in a similar position to mine to welcome adventure into their lives too. But now I am taking a more hands on approach as I start my next journey as a fully certified Travel Coach.

I plan to work with women in search of their next chapter. There are endless routes you can take to the point where you are at a crossroads in your life. Where you are unsure where you want your next path to be.

It’s not about how much time or money you have. It’s not about how young or old you are. It’s not about how strong or weak you perceive yourself to be, either physically, emotionally, or mentally.

A Woman in a purple fleece sitting on a deserted train track in the desertIf you need time to refocus on yourself before making decisions on what to do next. If you want a similar travel self-discovery experience but don’t know where to start. If you need space to rediscover who you are and what you want now.

Whatever has brought you to this point. I believe I can help you.

Contact me now to take your first step: suewherewhywhat@gmail.com

“You can have more than one home. You can carry your roots with you and decide where they grow.” – Henning Mankell

My final trip of the year has been back to my family. For the last two years, I have been a “Christmas orphan”. For as long as I can remember, we have always spent Christmas together. But the last few years have changed all that. As my family lives on the other side of the world, borders have been shut, quarantines have been in place & being together has been impossible. But finally, I am back in the bosom of my family.

So, I arrived in Sydney last week & it’s fair to say it’s been emotional. After three years without seeing each other, I was expecting the tears to be plentiful. And they were.

But it’s a weird thing about time. What felt like forever ago, already seems like yesterday. I am back in the familiar surroundings of my Australian home from home.

Pictures of two blonde women and a family group on a seteeBeing with my family brings that feeling of belonging that I have missed, having been isolated from them for so long. The in-jokes. The quotes of years gone by from those we have loved & lost. Many of them are from my husband that I haven’t heard for years. In some ways, I feel closer to him than ever too.

Basically, I am home.

A long way from where I live, but finally I am home again.

So, no matter what age you are, there is still so much to learn through travel. I can’t wait to see what 2023 brings! Happy new year!

Interested to read more?

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Continuous Learning Through Travel – Lessons from 2022

2 Comments

  1. Sue, I really enjoyed this post. I love how your solo travels have helped to transform your life and now you can help others with your new work as a travel coach.
    Heartwarming that you have ended the year reunited with your family. Have a wonderful Christmas. Wishing you many adventures in 2023 and much success with all your endeavours.

    1. Thank you so much Gilda for your lovely message! I hope you have a fantastic new year & best wishes for a successful 2023! Safe travels…wherever they take you. x

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