Five Places that Changed Me

Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador
Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador

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.

Traditional houses in Matmata, Tunisia
Traditional houses in Matmata, Tunisia

1. Tunisia

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.

2. Florence

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.

Can't avoid those cows in India
Can’t avoid those cows in India

3. India

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.

Me and my mate in the Galapagos Islands
Me and my mate in the Galapagos Islands

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.

Mmm... local food - South Africa
Mmm… local food – South Africa

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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