When you travel regularly and for long durations of time, you inevitably change. What you witness on your journey, what you learn as you venture forward and how you digest that invaluable and often subconscious information, transforms you as a person. It provides you with life skills that can’t be taught, a level of deep understanding that can’t be explained and a soul forever transformed, never to be the same again. Here are five key places that changed me.
Tunisia was the first ‘non-western’ country that I visited. At the age of 21, my Nana took me here for 10 days. It was a place she had travelled to almost annually when I was younger and I was always desperate to see the places she spoke about, and desperately wanted to become part of her stories. Despite constant offers from warm friends of hers, I was always too ‘scared’ to venture there on my own. Now I was here. The culture fascinated me. The Arabic influenced architecture captivated me. The sounds of prayer echoing through the streets frightened me at first as I did not understand. The swirling combination of French, Italian, Spanish and Arabic made me feel uneducated and challenged me. Seeing hanging carcasses dripping with blood didn’t disturb me. It churned up a curiosity within me. The funny leather shoes in almost every market made me giggle. The unwanted attention of staring men made me become aware of my surroundings. And the mouth-watering aromas that floated on the air taught me to be more adventurous with what I ate. These 10 days laid down the foundations that morphed me into an adventurous traveller and embedded a yearning to see what other enthralling cultures and countries were out there.
I had my 9th birthday in Perth with my grandparents. My Pa had started to teach me Italian. I said to him as I departed to fly back to Sydney that he wasn’t to speak to me in English anymore. From now on he was only to speak to me in Italian. He passed away two months later. I made a promise to myself that I would learn to speak Italian for my Pa. When I was also 21, I had the amazing opportunity presented to me to study Italian in Florence. I was to stay with a local lady who spoke no English and go to college every day for 8 hours of intense language lessons. I was completely immersed into the Italian culture. My host spoke no English, my teacher spoke no English and between the students, we were not to speak English to each other. This was one of the most amazing, immersive experiences one could ask for. I am still not quite there with perfect Italian skills, but am well on my way. Pa would be proud.
When I was 23, I spent a month in India. Whilst others in my touring group struggled with culture shock and the harsh confrontation of such a caste riddled country, I found myself obsessed with the mythology and beliefs. My mind had been opened to a world I didn’t know existed. A world of inequality bound by a system that makes the rich richer and the poor poorer. Again finding myself riddled with curiosity, India made me truly appreciative – not of what I have, but of how little you actually need to survive and be happy.
4. Galapagos Islands
At the age of 30, I made it to the Galapagos Islands. Having now travelled to over 77 countries, it had gotten to a stage where I had seen such amazing things in this world that I was finding it hard to be impressed. The Galapagos Islands completely blew me away. Knocked the socks of my feet and on a daily basis, I found myself actually saying the words ‘wow!’ Words cannot describe the beauty of this place and lift it gave to my heart to know that a true untouched, unspoilt paradise such as these islands do still exist and that there is a large group of people in this world who still care about conservation half as much as I do.
5. South Africa
I had travelled previously to South Africa, this was my second visit to the Rainbow Nation. It was this return trip that changed my life entirely. I was travelling with a group of journalists, I at the time was still working full time in the travel industry as a National Sales and Marketing Manager. Travelling with a media group and watching them work, chatting with them, asking how they became the editor of ‘X’ magazine, questioning how they started out and hearing their stories was fascinating to me. There were quite a few people there that were younger than me (I was 29 at the time), who were amazingly successful bloggers. I had always written about my travels, but never done anything with my work. Travelling with this group and being surrounded by passionate, motivated and inspirational writers and photographers gave me the nudge I needed to create my own blog and get over the fear of ‘what if nobody reads what I write?’ It was on this trip that Crooked Compass was born and my life changed forever. From starting with what was meant to only ever be a personal blog to now having one of the world’s most successful unique travel apps and a range of unique touring products.
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This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.