I love Australia. I love it far more than I ever expected to. When I planned to come here, it was mainly because I knew I could work and save a lot of money on my way to New Zealand. Well, plans change and six months later I'm still here with no signs of leaving for another six months, I'm working on getting my regional work signed off for another year in the country and I've officially missed my flight to New Zealand. But I have to admit, even though I'm eager to spend another year here working and saving money, travelling to other parts I've yet to see, that although the country is stunning and vibrant, with incredible landscapes and people, there is something missing for me. It's culture, history and heritage. I know Australia has its own culture and history, but the country is just so new compared to so many other places. Growing up in England we're made aware from the very beginning of the immense history of the country; of years of kings and queens, of politics, of music, arts and literature. We grow up with castles and stately homes in our back gardens, we are raised loving Queen Liz, and Wills and Harry. When I went to Asia, that was one of the biggest draws for me - I loved the culture, the food, the music, the colour, the religion and the language that came with every country I visited.One of my favourite things upon visiting each country was embracing their history and traditions by meeting the locals and spending time with them. Whether that was being adopted by an amazing Thai woman who gave up a weekend to take me on a special tour of one of the country's greatest historical sites along with introducing me to her friends and a whole range of foods I had never tried before. Or the night I spent playing card games with a bunch of Vietnamese guys as we drank beers and talked about the history and politics of the country. In every single country I have been to, I have experienced the full depth of the country, the welcoming nature of the people and sometimes the less welcome side. There is light and dark to every country, as I found in Cambodia - but even there I managed to see the real side to the country and to find that there are some incredible people there whose kindness far outweighs many I have met at home. Watching a village ceremony take place just outside of Siem Reap was amazing - we had the chance to witness something you don't get to see in the towns. The humble and pure nature of the ceremony was so beautiful and being welcomed in to join them was even more amazing.All of these experiences have shaped my experience of travelling and it has really fuelled my desire to travel further to other countries that offer yet more of these experiences. More opportunities to learn how other cultures live and how the country's history has shaped what we see today, that is what keeps me so fascinated by the world around me. Perhaps it is the journalist in me that really wants to know peoples' stories, wants to know how they got there and how they live. I'm never that interested in the overall view we have of a country from the media, I love the stories of the individuals who live this life every day. I think that because of this, I have developed a list of places really want to go before it is too late to witness them in their raw, mostly untouched beauty. The world is constantly changing and so many places are on the cusp of becoming overdeveloped and taken over by tourism - bringing a McDonald's on every corner and selfie sticks at every turn - just the kind of places I hate. So where is left to try and experience the land before time? Here's my shortlist of places I would love to see in their full glory:
Right on the edge of becoming commercialised by the U.S., now is the time to visit and see Havana in its full Cuban glory. Ever since reading all about my blogger friend, Mrs Ayla Adventure's trip to Cuba and seeing her gorgeous pictures, I have been desperate to go and experience the culture first hand. I want to swim in the gorgeous sea and sunbathe on those beautiful beaches, I want to witness the incredible animals and landscapes, I want to show off my salsa dancing skills and eat all of the food, drink all of the rum while walking those historic colonial streets. If you fancy a trip to Cuba - check out the Cuba Holidays website for all you need to know.
Not somewhere that had ever been in my mind when I came travelling, but as I went further around Asia I met more and more people who had been there for were about to go. They told me it was a beautiful country that was relatively untouched by tourism but that now is the time to go, a few more years and it could easily end up like the rest of Asia. I loved the idea of a nation of people who weren't yet aware of the money they could make from visitors yet - I loved the idea of visiting and just being targeted by a natural curiosity and an innocence I could fall in love with.
Although I'm sure much like Mauritius the main country has become very touristy, there is still so much incredible landscape and so many amazing animals you can see right in their natural habitat. Thinking like this, it's the same principle for countries like Namibia or Belize.
This is a whole area I would love to visit - with a huge history that spans centuries there is so much to learn, so much to see and experience. With stunning castles set against beautiful landscapes, endless national parks and more, I would really love to explore this region and the bonus is that with so many countries in one area, you would easily be able to travel between them much like I did in Asia.
High priority on my list at the moment because I think it will be the one area I get to visit the soonest out of all of my choices. I'm hoping to spend a few months there in 2017 travelling around and visiting countries like Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile. What a way to experience full South American culture and how better than to learn a new language than by immersing myself in it?
Which untouched lands would you love to explore? Have you travelled off the beaten track - which was your favourite destination?