2013 Travel Highlights: Top 10 Locations

It’s that time of year again!  Newspapers reflect on the “year that was”, magazines publish their “best of” lists and TV stations screen their annual “countdown” programs.  So I’m joining in with my Top 10 Locations of the year!

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As individuals, we inevitably reflect on the year gone by, celebrating our achievements and lamenting our failures.  Those treated harshly by the year look forward to a fresh start in 2014.  Those lucky to have experienced a happy and healthy year hope it continues into the next.

We start making New Year resolutions most of us won’t keep.  We overindulge in food and drink whilst promising to join the gym in January.  And we justify our excess partying with the detox we will undergo in a few weeks.

Yes – it’s that time of year again!

My 2013

My year started at one of the most unique New Year’s Eve parties I’ve ever attended, on a ship sailing towards South Georgia and Antarctica.  I was in a magical bubble where time felt as frozen as the environment I was heading towards.  I was swaying to music with new friends, unsure if my movement was created by my dance moves, alcohol or the swell of the sea.  I felt free, I felt alive and I felt determined to discover a work/life balance in 2013 that would allow me to always feel free and alive.

Does starting the year on the world’s most remote and spectacular continent create energy, motivation and excitement that carries you through the rest of the year?  Or is it an unsurmountable peak shrouded with the sombre realisation that no other experience in the year can possibly compete?

The reality is a bit of both, but fortunately for me the Antarctica high has outweighed the Antarctica low.

This year I’ve enjoyed a six month career break that allowed me to explore some incredible locations and focus on my love of photography.  I’ve reignited my love affair with London after breaking up earlier in the year when our twelve year relationship turned sour.  I’ve spent time with fantastic family and friends and met some great new people from all walks of life.  And best of all, I’ve finally achieved the healthy work/life balance I’ve been craving for so many years.  I’ve finally learned how to enjoy a career that can facilitate a love of travel instead of preventing it.

2013 Travel Highlights: Top 10 Locations

It’s been a rewarding year for travel and photography and these were my favourite locations:

1. Antarctica

Neko Harbour, Antarctica

Choosing my favourite location of the year is the easiest decision I’ve ever had to make and describing Antarctica in mere words does not do it justice.  It is, quite simply, the most incredible, most overwhelming, most magical and most humbling location I have ever been.  I visited Antarctica as part of a Falkland Islands-South Georgia-Antarctica itinerary with Quark Expeditions and am determined to return one day soon, dispelling the myth that it is a “once in a lifetime experience”.

2. South Georgia

Salisbury Plain, South Georgia

Visiting South Georgia feels like starring in your own wildlife documentary, such is the wealth of wildlife that has earned it the nickname Galapagos of the South.   Even during sea days, it felt like our ship was being lead towards the island with albatross and shags flying above the ocean that is home to whales, seals and penguins.  It also has an overwhelming landscape that has staged both tragic and courageous battles between man and the nature, creating a fascinating history.

3. The Arctic

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The polar addiction I discovered in Antarctica grew stronger during a two week excursion through the Svalbard Arctic, again with Quark Expeditions.  My concern at being underwhelmed after Antarctica was extinguished within minutes of leaving Longyearbyen.  I soaked up the feeling of excitement at being back in a remote and icy environment, whilst embracing the unique differences of the Arctic region, including of course the presence of the majestic polar bear.

4. South Africa

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After a three month travel adventure in the east and south regions of a thought-provoking and beautiful continent in 2009, I was determined to return to Africa one day.  This opportunity presented itself in 2013 and I spent a fantastic month on the Thanda Game Reserve in South Africa.  As a volunteer on a photography and conservation project with African Impact, I enjoyed some incredible wildlife sightings, met some great people from all walks of life and attempted my first star trail photograph.  Good times!

5. Tasmania

Sunrise - Picnic Rocks, Deep Creek

It took me 38 years, 51 countries and 7 continents before I set foot on Australia’s southern-most state, Tasmania.  This may not sound like a big deal – except that I am Australian!  I have travelled all over the world in search of adventure, to enjoy breath-taking landscapes, to explore the great outdoors and to photograph diverse scenery.  But like many travellers, I’ve neglected my own country.  To rectify this, I joined a two week photography workshop with Glen Campbell which led us along vast outback roads, through national parks, along a river, up a mountain and by the sea.  It may have taken me 38 years to discover Tasmania, but it was worth the wait to experience such an incredible part of the country.

6. Falkland Islands

Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands, with its wealth of wildlife and history, was an enticing first stop on my Falklands-South Georgia-Antarctica adventure.  It is an impressive travel destination in its own right, but it also provided a great introduction to the wild and rugged environment I was heading towards.  Carcass and Saunders Islands and historical Stanley provided a number of attractions, but the highlight was unquestionably the entertaining rockhopper penguins.

7. Croatia

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Croatia has been on my bucket list for some time and the opportunity to join Glen on another photography tour seemed like the perfect introduction to the country.  I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t described Croatia as “beautiful” and after two weeks in the Adriatic Coast and North region, I was certainly no exception.  It provided all of my favourite landscape photography subjects – lakes, waterfalls, seascapes and mountains – in addition to characteristic villages, relaxed and friendly locals and great beer!

8. Kangaroo Island

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Kangaroo Island may be small – it is only 155km long – but it is overflowing with unique and protected wildlife and rugged and diverse landscape.  It is a photographer’s playground and I made the most of it during a five day detour from Adelaide, where I was spending a few months with family and friends.  As someone who feels energised by the great outdoors, loves replacing urban jungles with vast and open countryside and is a keen photographer, I felt spoiled for choice for things to see and do on the island.

9. Flinders Ranges

Morning light - Wilpena Pound (from Puglist Lookout Road), Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Silent and remote countryside, contrasting landscapes, wild and open roads, iconic wildlife and outback scenes, friendly and entertaining locals and fiery sunsets:  these are the elements of the Australian outback that I loved as a child growing up in Broken Hill.  Add to that endless photography opportunities and a road trip that was a refreshing change from the trains and buses of London and it’s no surprise that the Flinders Ranges has made it onto my Top 10 Locations List for 2013.

10. Adelaide

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If you told me a decade ago I would include Adelaide on my Top 10 Locations List for 2013 I would have laughed.  I wasn’t its biggest fan when I left more than 13 years ago, despite having lived there for a decade.  But travel has helped me appreciate how lucky I am to have been born in Australia.  And photography has helped me look at things differently and appreciate the qualities of a location I had previously missed.  One of my favourite travel quotes is from Marcel Proust who said “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes”.  I thought of this constantly during my stay there as I re-discovered a comfortable, attractive and friendly city that is the gateway to some of the best wildlife and landscape Australia has to offer.  And it seems Lonely Planet agrees, having just named it one of the best cities to visit in 2014.

 

Have you been to any of these locations?  What was your favourite travel location in 2013?

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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com

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