My memory is not as good as it used to be but I believe I wrote another top ten best travel moments of my life at one point. Yet that previous one was probably published years ago if it even exists. Today, I’ve crossed the 30-country mark and am happy to report there is no finish line in sight for me. Travel is still my number one passion, the thing for everything good or bad.
When I travel, I learn a lot not just about my destination but also about myself. Because when you’re left stranded in an airport in Sweden with $25 on your name, you quickly find out what you’re made of. When you get to experience so many cultures, traditions, ideas and laws you’ve never experienced before, it puts life into a whole new light. Travel is about the lessons you learn.
Throughout my travels, I’ve made a habit of learning from the worst and remembering the best. It’s hard to pick a top ten of the greatest moments in my travels. Yet this post was on my mind for a great deal of time so I just decided to write it. If it’s bad or mundane, or boring, deal with it. Travel is a personal experience even a couple should live differently. And transformative to all.
In this guide:
Drinking a glass of prosecco surrounded by Italy’s vineyards
One of the most vivid memories I have from all of my travels is from Conegliano. It’s okay if you don’t know where that is. But do you know prosecco? Of course you do! Prosecco is an Italian bubbly wine that you can drink from just a certain area in Italy, much like champagne from that famous region in France. Conegliano sits at the heart of the prosecco-making region of Italy.
On my arrival night at the guesthouse of Maristella, she and her husband greeted me with a glass of homemade prosecco. This is prosecco that they make, much like we Romanians make palinka at home from our own plums. I can still remember the sunset coming down over the grape vines, looking at it through the glass half-full of the magical potion. Magic in a tall glass.
The drink is merely part of the story. In reality, the thing you remember is the conversation between you and the people around you. The owners were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met during my travels. Sitting down with me to chat, tell me about their guesthouse, and just enjoy it. It’s rare to find such people when you travel. They’re the gift you never pay for.
Getting overwhelmed by the Pyramids of Giza
I remember the excitement I’d felt when entering Cairo and starting to look after the pyramids. It’s one of those moments you will never forget. Especially since Cairo is such a mess. A crazy city of 20 million people and no traffic laws. The drive towards our hotel, which obviously was on the other side of the city from the entrance towards Hurghada, was the most intense of my life.
Looking through the overcrowded highways, unfinished buildings and overall mess, we finally saw the tip of one of the pyramids as we were approaching the hotel. It was a surreal moment. One that’s been, at least for me, a lifetime in the making. I still have the picture from that moment in my Stories. It’s nothing but to me, it’s a moment of complete excitement.
Of course, I then got scammed for a photo at the pyramids, paying 10 bucks for literally nothing. Yet that was not enough trouble to screw my excitement (third time using the word, I know) and ruin my day. The pyramids are a wonder, even now, thousands of years after they’ve been erected. You’re surely never going to be in the presence of something more majestic than this.
Feeling awed in the most incredible room on Earth
While I don’t have the exact measurements, I’ve probably been inside 100 or so of the most important rooms on the planet. Blue Room of the Stockholm City Hall. Unirii Hall of the People’s Palace in Bucharest. King’s Room in the Great Pyramid of Giza. US Capitol’s Rotonda. The list goes on and on. All of these rooms are grand, important, and simply breathtaking.
And then there’s the Grand Ballroom at the Dolmabahce Palace in Istanbul, Turkey. Or Turkye. Whatever, the kebab is still like, the best. When entering that room, I felt a sense of smallness and grandeur at the same time I’d never felt before, or after. It was the most INCREDIBLE room I’ve ever been into, no matter wherever else I’ve been. I was awed, speechless, wowed.
There are all these incredible rooms in the palace, as well as these stairways to heaven and all those decorations and… but when you get into that final room with the largest chandelier in the universe, I guess… nope. You’re done. Your legs start shaking as does your heart. You’re in complete denial a room can be this beautiful. Dolmabahce over Topkapi any day of the week!
Eating the best meal of my life in a posh Moroccan restaurant
I’ve had many culinary experiences worth mentioning here during my travels but one in particular I can say was life-changing at the time of me experiencing it. I’ve had omakase sushi in London, toast Skagen in Stockholm, Shake Shack in New York and the most amazing kebab in Istanbul. Yet the beef tajine dish from Marrakech was by far the best meal of my life. Still is!
I sat down with little expectations at a posh restaurant in the good part of Marrakech. The area with the fancy hotels and paved roads. This chubby chef came to me and took my order himself. I wanted some protein so I went for the beef tajine, a dish made into a clay pot hat, for lack of a better description. All over a charcoal fire and masterfully arranged and supervised by the chef.
What came out of that hat made out of clay was divine. Rice at the bottom, made with the most incredible spices I’ve ever tasted. A sauce made of the natural fats of the beef topped with raisins, plums, figs and some vegetables. All flaming hot and still boiling when reaching my table. Served with fries (I love fries) and semolina bread. Book a flight and go now, please!
Hearing a glacier sing in the Icelandic wilderness
Did you know that nature is unbeatable when it comes to making you feel small and simplistic? It is true! Just being in the presence of a river, a hill or a mountain has that effect on us people. But what about a waterfall, falling from 100 meters above you? A lake formed inside a former volcano, coloured in all the nuances of the rainbow all around it. Or a glacier singing away?
Yes, glaciers can sing. And one of them sang for me. It’s called… I have no idea how people in Iceland even remember these names but here you go, Solheimajokull. This glacier is not the largest or the most spectacular one on the island. For me though it was the most incredible sight to see and hear from my entire trip to Iceland. This thing is alive, forming, breaking, singing.
Glaciers are the pinnacle of nature. They take millennia to form and as much time to develop, transform, mature and move around. They make sounds and splash the waters in front of them from time to time when ice falls down from them. I’ve seen many natural wonders but being in front of that glacier for an hour or so was the most incredible nature experience of my whole life.
Finding stillness in the busiest train station in Italy
I usually get back home more tired than when I left when it comes to my travels. I can’t sit on a beach and do nothing all day. My mind and body don’t work like that. When I’m away, I like to do as much as I can with the time I have on my hands. If I stay still for too long I feel like I’m quitting on my “mission” to make as many memories as I can at the said destination.
Yet at some points during my trips, I met complete peace and quiet. And in the most uncommon places for that specific situation. Once it happened in the central train station of Milan. Here I was, hundreds of people strolling around me, trying to catch either their trains or a taxi. And for a few moments, a feeling of complete stillness caught my attention. I will always cherish that.
Getting lost on the little canal streets of Venice
Speaking of quiet moments and still minds… Venice! Specifically, the first time I’d been to this city of fairytales. I remember the plane coming in and seeing the entire lagoon from the window, the most magical plane view of my travels. And then the streets, always surprising, never the same, all just picture perfect. Getting lost on those little canals is like dreaming about heaven.
It’s funny but yes, you will get lost on the canal streets of Venice. I don’t care what type of GPS your phone has. Even if you’re a tourist who keeps himself on the Canal Grande, one turn to the left and… you’re gone. Not in the water, hopefully, but in the maze of small canals and tiny streets the size of an aeroplane bathroom. A magical walk into the wonderland that is Venezia.
Being meters away from 20 1000-hp Formula 1 cars as they departed in a GP
Do you know what grinds my gears? Formula 1! I’ve been into this sport for more than 20 years now. And I’m never going to quit. I’ve been through season after season of boredom and statistics. Just so that I can enjoy that one season that leaves you breathless with every single race happening. One of those seasons was 2021, decided during the last 3 laps of the last race.
After that season Formula 1 grew its audience in an incredible manner. Numbers just exploded. Races began to get sold out within minutes of organisers releasing the tickets online. Even if they were 7 or 8 months away. My first race was in my neighbouring country of Hungary, in gorgeous Budapest. And although you can’t really see much there, the sounds make it.
When you’re waiting for the race to start, nothing prepares you for what’s to come. 20 Formula 1 cars racing towards the first corner, all rilled up and pushed to the maximum. Crowds cheering away. Kids and adults going nuts over it. The magic of motorsport happening right there, in front of your eyes and ears. There’s NOTHING on this planet that sounds like an F1 race start.
Feeling like a kid while visiting Disneyland Paris
I was almost 30 when I visited Disneyland Paris all by myself. Not to brag but I went in suffering from a little midlife crisis. No, it was cool, really! Here I was, a full-grown adult just coming out of a shit relationship, freelancing my way through the world’s airports and, yes, theme parks. My expectations were low and my mood was not great. Especially after the very long night before.
Yet when I went through the gates of the park and “Ready for the Ride” began playing very loudly all over the thing (they have to blast it, kids can scream very loudly) I felt something snapping inside of me. Not my heart but my sense of mehness. It was as if I were taken back to childhood when all of my worries were going out to play soccer as fast as possible.
Disneyland is for everyone. Kids and adults. Male and female. Rich and poor. Sad or happy. It’s one of those places you don’t really make a fuss about before. But that stays with you forever, and you can’t even explain why. I went on a few rides while there. Yet that day at the park rekindled my childlike curiosity about life, myself, people, and all else. It made me… happy!
Seeing the Manhattan skyline from the back of my NYC taxi
New York City is a dream for most Europeans. Still now, years after the communist era, it’s considered a big deal to travel to the US from Romania. You are, for lack of a better word, “someone” if you’ve been to the Promised Land. I somehow hate to admit it but, in all honesty, the best moment of my entire travels was seeing the Manhattan skyline for the first time.
You’ve seen this skyline literally hundreds of times. I’m looking at it right now, as a long video with background music is playing on my old computer I’ve turned it into a hotspot for my other two laptops. I’ve also seen it in movies, TV series, cartoons even. On posters. In ads. Video games. Everywhere. Yet there’s NOTHING like just noticing those buildings with your own eyes for the very first time. Especially at night, from the back of a true NYC yellow cab.
I decided to go for the $75 (plus taxes) taxi ride from JFK airport to the centre of the city. Me, I was arriving in America after countless nights of prep, airport hotel stays and not much sleep. So I was tired yet when that taxi finally got to the bridge from where you can see the whole city, my heart felt like it wanted to jump out of my chest and run towards them. I’ve never been happier.
Sure the entire trip to the United States was a blast but that moment is undoubtedly the single most memorable in all of my travels. It just has all of the greatest feelings one can get, especially if one is addicted to travel. The greatest being that of accomplishment. Of finally reaching the city of dreams, of all possibilities, the big rich town. The capital of the world.
Wow, this feels like a retirement article. I’m not going to live up in the mountains from now on. I plan on writing a new post just like this one in 5 years, when I’d reach country number 50, maybe? In the meantime, a “Top Ten Worst Travel Moments Of My Life” is on its way. Complete with that time a drunk guy broke into my hotel room at 3 AM in Milan and other mishaps…