I feel giddy like a 7-year-old before the holidays. I look out over the barren tundra, a new environment for me, and think about how it makes me feel free and hopeful. The clouds break and a crack of blue sky appears, as if the game of hide and seek is over and it can finally reveal it’s hiding space. The river glistens as the sunlight hits it and I put on my sunglasses. I can feel my eyes open wider and my soul practically tingles as I anticipate this next month of travel to new remote and simple landscapes. I think to myself, this must be one of my best days on earth.
Alaska has that effect on you. For someone like myself who travels full time non-stop, travel days like this are magical—they are the days you yearn for and the ‘crack’ that keeps you going. Yet everyone has different things that turns them on. For some it’s cities or music; for me it’s landscapes, new experiences, and wide open spaces. Here are my top….
Winter Snowshoeing in Alberta Canada
We had just received a foot of new snow that crunched underneath our snowshoes as my friend Dan and I took off behind our nature guide Nadine. The scene near Lake Louise was picture perfect, like we had walked into Narnia and I kept expecting the White Witch to come riding out to offer us Turkish Delight. Instead we had Nadine offer us homemade granola bars and hot cocoa made from real cream — more Martha Stewart than White Witch thankfully. It was one of those perfect days where I was so happy to have a good friend, Dan, traveling with me, and one of the best guides I’ve ever met teaching me about how to see snow differently. We didn’t just walk through the snow; we examined the snow in all of its glorious layers. We learned about avalanches, the forest, and how to get up if you fell in the snowpack! The day was full of laughs, revelations, and spectacular scenery leaving me grinning from ear to ear.
Picture perfect Lake Louise covered in a fresh layer of snow.
Dan and me stomping through the snow.
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day or perfect setting.
Spring Surfing in Australia
I am ready, lying in the correct position ready to paddle like mad when the moment comes. I look over my shoulder and start paddling. My arms are already tired from going in and out all morning doing this same dance over and over, but no matter how much they burn I keep paddling. I feel like I’m getting nowhere, as if I’m running in place, but suddenly I feel the swell pick me up and for a moment paddling becomes easier. I know this is my shot as I go through the motions from lying on the board to standing up. I can hear Warwick cheering me on nearby which just bolsters my confidence. I sink into a lower position, hands out for balance, and I ride the little wave in to the beach with a big grin. “That was great doll you paddled onto a wave, now you are officially a surfer!” Warwick smiles.
I’ve taken surfing lessons before, but what made this day special was not only that I paddled myself onto a wave, but that I was also traveling in this beach paradise with friends. Charlie, Dan, and Warwick were the best cheerleaders, drinking buddies, and friends anyone could ask for. Among the crashing waves, we all felt the swell of excitement as we explored a day of surfing and hiking in the sun along the North Shore of Sydney.
Mornings don’t get much better than this. Sunrise in Mona Vale Australia
Summer Polar Bear Sightings in Russia
He raises his nose in the air and sniffs, trying to get our scent, but the wind isn’t cooperating with him. He knows we are there, but what we are is a mystery. Just as I’ve never seen a polar bear before, this polar bear has most likely never seen a human before. Since the polar bear’s eyesight isn’t great, it relies on its sense of smell to assess a new situation. He stares right at us, curiosity in his expressions; could we be lunch, should we be feared, or are we harmless? He comes a bit closer; we drift a bit closer. Suddenly he catches it and he has what he wants – our scent. He promptly turns and runs away. This was the beginning of many polar bear encounters around Wrangel Island.
Prior to this best day on earth, I had many failed attempts at seeing a bear in the wild. But in the remote Arctic Ocean on an island no one goes to, I came face to face with a multitude of polar bears. Finally, my long quest was satiated in one of the most beautiful, untouched settings on this globe, Wrangel Island, Russia.
A polar bear walks along the coast of Wrangel Island. The ice has floated away and this is his new home until it returns.
This curious bear sort of liked us!
I can’t imagine anything more perfect than this. Viewing these beauties on top of the world.
Fall Road Tripping in Alaska
I started seeing the mountains first; they stood out against the blue sky and golden fall foliage. Every mile I drove just kept getting more beautiful as the road wound up and down along the river valley. The road finally led up and out of the valley where I was blinded by a glaring light. No, it wasn’t the Lord speaking to me; it was a different kind of miracle — a beautiful, giant white glacier right next to the road!
What made this a ‘best day on earth’ moment was the element of surprise; I never saw this coming. Mother Nature, you are tricky. The drive out of Anchorage, Alaska on the Glenn highway should be on the list of the great drives of the world, but it’s not, and that’s why I loved it. It’s not often that you get to drive near a glacier. I’ve boated by them, hiked by them, kayaked by them, but they are notoriously hard to get to normally, unless you drive the Glenn Highway. Not only did I gasp at glaciers all day out my car window, but I also enjoyed the incredible scenery surrounding the highway. It was a driving day of perfect light, scenery, and color — and I wanted it to last forever.
Glacier spotting from my car. A perfect day for a fall drive in Alaska!