26 letters for 26 places, atmospheres and travelling anecdotes: this is the challenge I set to myself with this article! I published it first in January 2020; two and a half years later, it was time to give it a new lease of life and write a second version, including a few changes compared to the original. From Australia to Yosemite and Zion, via Iceland, hostel life and a meal of okonomiyaki, here is my traveller’s alphabet: 26 letters for a journey around the world!
This is the second part, from the letter M to the letter Z. For the first part, follow the link below.
M as in… Maui
I spent about twenty days in Hawaii in October 2017. Maui is one the eight main islands of the archipelago, out of 137 in total. In the first part of this article, I wrote about hostels; the one I stayed in during the week I spent in Maui, the Banana Bungalow Hostel, is without a single doubt the best one I ever stayed in. Do you want to know why? The complete story of this week will be online soon!
N as in… Norway or New Zealand?
Hard to choose between these two wonderful countries! I spent ten days in Norway in 2021 and a month and a half in New Zealand in 2018, and I enjoyed both of these trips a lot. But can you guess where the following pictures have been taken? Answers below!
Answers: picture 1 Norway (Lake Vestrevatnet), picture 2 New Zealand (Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook – hint, the car is on the left side of the road!), picture 3 New Zealand (Banks Peninsula), picture 4 Norway (the waterfall of Latefoss), picture 5 New Zealand (Arthur’s Pass), picture 6 New Zealand (Milford Sound), picture 7 Norway (the fjord of Lysefjord).
O as in… Okonomiyaki
In my opinion, travelling without trying to embrace the local culture of the place you’re visiting doesn’t really make sense. One of the most important things to discover when you’re in a different country is the food; there’s no point in eating the same things as usual when you’re away from home right? I tried as many local dishes as I could during my travels, such as the poutine in Quebec, kangaroo meat in Australia or traditional fish recipes in Iceland, but the country where I discovered the greatest amount of new flavours was without any doubt Japan. Among all the different things I tried for the first time during my two weeks in the country (I didn’t like them all), there was one dish that I really loved: the okonomiyaki. It’s a popular savoury pancake with all sorts of ingredients and it is yummy!
P as in… Pears and apples
Pears and apples aren’t my favourite fruits (I like apples, don’t like pears) but the reason why they appear on this list is because I spent three months harvesting them in Australia. I still have contrasted memories of this period of my life that I described in an article that will be online soon!
Q as in… Quebec
Firstly, Q as in Quebec City: memories of my very first solo trip during the summer of 2015, three weeks in North America. I was instantly taken by the beauty of its old centre, by its festive atmosphere, by the kindness of its inhabitants and by the majesty of the Château Frontenac overlooking the St Laurent river; a very positive first impression confirmed during my second visit two years later, in September 2017, at the beginning of another long journey around the world.
Secondly, Q as in the province of Quebec: I only visited a tiny part of it, a round trip towards Tadoussac on the north side of the St Laurent river in 2015 for a whale watching tour, then ten days of road trip in Gaspésie on the south side of the river in 2017, but the beauty of the landscapes brought stars in my eyes during both of these trips!
R as in… Road trip
Is there a better way to travel than to go on a road trip? It has at least always been my favourite way of exploring a country or a region: having the freedom to go wherever I’d like to, make as many detours as I want, being able to stop anywhere I’m pleased to… And it’s even ten times better with a van: there have been so many mornings in Australia where I woke up in front of a fabulous landscape, or so many evenings sitting on a camping chair, quietly sipping a beer while staring at the horizon…
S as in… Saint-Nazaire
Saint-Nazaire, a medium-sized city on the French Atantic coast, will always remain my hometown, the place where I was born, where I grew up, where I spent the twenty first years of my life. I thought that I was leaving for good when I moved to Switzerland in 2011, but I actually came back for three beautiful years between 2019 and 2022! I am now about to leave again, probably for a long period of time and I don’t think I’ll ever come back a second time, but I’ll always have a deep attachment for this city.
T as in… Toyota Hiace
…or the first ever model of van I had in Australia! I bought it in Cairns, at the beginning of my journey in 2016. I instantly fell in love with its appearance: its light-blue bull bars, its rooftop tent, the octopuss drawing barely visible on its right side… It turned out to be a very reliable road companion, until the very end of my trip where it eventually began to look his old age. The third gear broke down (I had to switch from second to fourth, and vice-versa), the back door didn’t open anymore, I accidentally tore off the left wing mirror against an apple tree… I was its last owner: after eleven months and more than 30.000 kilometers, I sold it (for a very good price) to a car-wreck guy who was only interested in some parts of it and was going to dismantle it. It was heart-breaking to let it go, on the back of a truck!
U as in… Uluru
Along with the Sydney Opera House, it’s the other timeless Australian icon. I was dying to stand at the foot of this formidable monolith for a very long time, and I eventually made this dream come true in June 2017. There’s something in the air around Uluru, a unique mystical atmosphere, and stare at its silhouette slowly emerging from the darkness at sunrise and standing out against the completely flat horizon of the Australian desert is an unforgettable memory.
For a very long time, Uluru was better known as Ayer’s Rock, the name given to it by the British settlers during the 19th century. Its Aboriginal name was officially recognised in 1993 only. It’s a sacred place of very high importance for these people, who lived in Australia tens of thousands of years before the first Europeans but were forced to witness “their” rock becoming a hotspot for mass tourism over the years. Luckily, things are (slowly) evolving towards a better recognition of their rights, and of the sacred aspect of Uluru: the lands surrounding it were given back to the Aboriginal people in the 1980s, and the summit climb which was like a desecration for them was finally forbidden in 2019.
V as in… Vancouver Island
Complete change of scenery. In September 2017, a few months after my visit to Uluru, I went to Vancouver on the Pacific coast of Canada. I planned to visit Vancouver Island, a vast island nearby, but I didn’t want to go there on my own. That’s how I eventually met three Danish people via Facebook, Helena, Martin and Nivi, with whom I was going to spend three wonderful days in a fantastic place. The complete story of this trip will soon be online, please be patient!
W as in… Writing
I always enjoyed writing, ever since my childhood. I had a very good grade in French at the baccalaureate, the exam at the end of high school in France, and I still remember one of my teachers reading my copy out loud to the entire class. When I went to Australia in 2016, it felt obvious for me to write about my adventures in my own blog. Very descriptive at the beginning, with more pictures than text, it slowly evolved into something deeper, becoming almost a private diary at the end. Then came this website, during the summer of 2017; once again with very generic articles at first, then more and more personal subjects over the years. It still wasn’t enough: in 2021, I began another project, writing my first book, a fictional novel inspired by the year I spent in Australia. I’m still working on it at the moment, but I really hope to unveil it soon, even if it will only be in French at first. Where is it going to lead me? I have no idea, but I still enjoy writing a lot and I hope that you enjoy reading me as well!
X as in… Xanax
Ok, I admit that this one is a little far-fetched, but I really had no idea of which word to use for the letter X! That’s why I chose Xanax, not because I am a regular consumer (although I am quite an anxious person), but because I wanted to bring up the few really difficult moments I had to face up during my travels. I especially remember two very specific situations:
- I hadn’t really begun to travel when the first one happened. On my way to Australia, I had chosen to stop in Bangkok for a couple of days. I took a night flight during which I barely slept. When we landed in the early morning in Thailand, middle of the night in Europe, I felt as if I was caught in a whirlwind of contradictory emotions: I was exhausted, nervous, a bit scared, but also excited and impatient to begin this new chapter of my life. I went through customs without any issues, then stood next to the luggage conveyor belt and waited. I waited for a long time. Too long. Around me, other passengers collected their suitcases one by one, but still no sign of my backpack. After a while, I had to face the reality: my backpack wasn’t there. It was a terrible hard blow. I spent an hour, two hours maybe, prostrate on a bench in the hall of the airport, wondering what to do, even considering taking the first plane back home. But there’s a good ending to that story! After a lot of self-persuasion, I decided to see the silver lining: I was in Bangkok after all, there was nothing more I could do, so I tried to enjoy my stay as much as possible. As for my backpack, after a stopover in… Vienna, it was eventually brought back to me on the last evening!
- My second anecdote has something in common with the first: time difference. When I left Japan, I took a flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles that landed, by the miracle of time zones… earlier than my departure time! Put another way, as night was falling down in Japan, a new day began in California… The shock couldn’t have been bigger. I was leaving behind a country that I loved, to arrive in a city that I would quickly hate: huge but with very bad public transports, dirty, infamous… And the fact that I couldn’t find sleep made it even worse! But time difference was not the only cause. The staff of the hostel where I was staying thought that doing renovation work during the night was a great idea: I could hear furniture being moved, footsteps, even a drill around midnight… I complained to the manager on the next morning, but instead of apologising he was very rude and even insulted me and threatened me! Luckily, the girl at the reception accepted to give me my money back and I found another hostel for the remaining night, but it wasn’t a dream start for my trip in the US…
Y as in… Yosemite…
…and Z as in Zion !
Funny coincidence: my two favourite parks in the South West of the United States stand for the two last letters of the alphabet, Yosemite and Zion. It’s also in these parks that I did my two favourite hikes in the US so far: the climb to Glacier Point and Panorama Trail in Yosemite, the path leading to Observation Point in Zion.
But my dream is to visit another National Park whose name also starts with a Y: the oldest National Park in the world, Yellowstone…
My traveller’s alphabet (1)
Have a look at the first part of my traveller’s alphabet, from the letter A to the letter L.
French amateur writer and travel enthusiast: find out who’s hiding behind Inside my Backpack