Basking next to elephant seals and penguins. Bliss (*christopher*)
Blog Words : Lyn Hughes | 10 December

Travel doesn’t get better than this!

When we think of our travels, it is often the small, personal moments that linger in our memories; the strongest of all are those of sheer happiness and joy

Chatting to adventurer Bruce Parry the other day (sorry, I can’t help name-dropping!) he described how there were several moments on his big Arctic trip this year when he was so taken with some amazing vista that the happiness he felt “was explosive in my heart.”

I’ve had several such travel moments this year. I took the Caledonia Sleeper train to Scotland at the end of September. I was absolutely exhausted, and going away for a few days was the last thing I wanted to do. But, the next morning I pulled up the blind in my little cabin, and immediately felt the travel buzz return and a wave of happiness wash over me. I sent a text message:

Heavy mist lifting; sun now hitting the hillsides. A day full of promise. I love Scotland!

There were several other moments of unmitigated joy on that trip to Scotland. Standing in the Callanish stone circle, the atmosphere so heavy I could almost touch it… and then a sea eagle swept along the valley below. Seeing my first pine marten from a hide. And a riotous night in Aviemore’s Cairngorm Hotel, tapping my feet to a brilliant local fiddle and accordion band.

Those were specific experiences but there are plenty of more generic moments that elicit travel euphoria. Sitting around a campfire – or on the roof of a riad, or in a cosy bar with convivial company. There have been many been awe-inspiring views, amazing vistas that have made me want to hug myself. Then there’s the elation of turning off a tarmac road and onto a rough track... my spirit soars with anticipation every time. There’s the breeze on your face when you’re heading upriver in an open boat. And there’s the joy of leaving the airport in just about any new destination.

A few of my happiest travel moments:

South Georgia We’d had one highlight after another. At Salisbury Plain the spectacle of over 1000,000 king penguins crowding the beach had reduced grown men to tears. But my happiest moment of all was in beautiful Gold Harbour when I lay on the sand next to some basking elephant seals and penguins. Bliss.

Swimming with dolphins off Kaikoura, New Zealand I’m not a strong swimmer and hadn’t used a snorkel before, the sea was rough... But once I was in the water, with dolphins below and around me, it was sheer bliss, especially when one gently brushed against me.

I was on a ranch stay in Wyoming My favourite of the horses I’d been allocated was a tough little mustang the colour of cocoa. On one ride amongst stunning scenery of mountain, sage-brush and pine forest, I held her back from the group, so that I could savour the grandeur around me.

Rooftop cafes and bars always do it for me But a particularly special one was sitting on the roof of the Four Seasons Hotel in Istanbul. A former prison (the one featured in Midnight Express), it is now a luxury hotel (no, I hadn’t been staying there) in the heart of Sultanahmet. As the sun went down, I enjoyed some gorgeous cocktails in great company, with a backdrop of Hagia Sofia, the Blue Mosque and the Boshphorus.

I’ve had several magical moments in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley Amongst them has been the time on a walking safari when we came across a leopard lying on the track, oblivious to our presence. Then there have been some incredible times in a microlioght where we have had an eagles-eye view of the wildlife. And the night sounds – I’ve often struggled to sleep because I’m so excited and happy.

What have been your travel moments of sheer happiness? Let us know…