I read an interesting article about this on the BBC, so I thought I’d add my own 50 reasons to love the world. Honourable mentions must go to amazing experiences I’ve had in Mexico, Ireland, Holland, Hong Kong, France, Spain, Jordan, Maldives….the list goes on! I need to do another 50!
What are yours?
1. Because I’ve traveled extensively, and loved what I’ve seen – and, by and large, the world has loved me back, and goodness and love exist everywhere. If you don’t love life and embrace it, life won’t love and embrace you.
2. Because I know that Syria is one of the most amazing countries in the world, with the most hospitable people. I was lucky to be invited into the house of these Bedouin in Palmyra. Happy times. Now? Who knows.
3. Because this tree in the Serengeti is a symbol of strength, resilience, and beauty, and when I captured this shot, seconds before the sky became black and the storm came in, I knew that, compared to the tree, I was weak, and I was in awe of raw nature once again.
4. Because nature is all-powerful, and makes me feel all-powerful, it energises me and makes me believe, it dares me to dream. Here I am under Angel Falls in Canaima, Venezuela. Daring to dream got me far that day.
5. Because the world helps me realise that I can slow down sometimes. The world can wait. Life is much more real when enjoyed at the pace of this tortoise in the Galapagos Islands.
6. Because this view of Guatape, near Medellin, Colombia, was only beaten by the hospitality of a Colombian family I met there, who befriended me, showed me the sights, then drove me back to Medellin via a lovely little restaurant where we enjoyed a chocolate caliente con queso, a speciality of the place. Typical Colombian hospitality.
7. Because watching this Egyptian couple watching the sunset over Isalmic Cairo as the sound of the muezzins issued the hauntingly beautiful call to prayer from several mosques helped me realise the power and importance of faith in peoples’ lives, and how we need to respect that, even if it does not appeal to us in the same way. The world needs something to believe in.
8. Because after visiting the Genocide Museum in Kigali, Rwanda, I met a forward-thinking, inspiring new generation of Rwandese. I met Tabitha, an American-Rwandese, who was working as a volunteer teacher in an orphanage. I was invited to a Rwandan home. I had a lovely dinner with a local family, and we watched the Simpsons over a cup of tea and cake. I love it how humanity can persevere and win in the end.
9. Because, despite the injustices of the world, we can still be, as is this protestor in Valparaiso in Chile, believers. If we don’t believe we can never achieve.
10. Because I met a woman in this village in Mae Hong Son who had broken with tradition from the woman and her mother above. She had taken off the brass rings. Plagued with headaches, she removed them and it took long periods of relaxation interspersed with periods of light neck muscle exercise to be able be able to move her neck freely and get over the migraines. She seemed happy. Choice in life is a powerful thing. I’d love a world of endless choices, limitless possibilities. The woman? Maybe she has never known the power of choice. Maybe she’s OK with that. Maybe not.
11. Because the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall of China made me realise the true meaning of ‘Wonder of the World.’ If this can be conceived and carried out, we can do anything.
12. Because Paraty in Brazil is the kind of place the world dreams of relaxing in. Plus, it’s close to Trindade beach, in another sleepy town. The kind of place that exists in novels….which brings me to….
13. ….Because Cartagena, Colombia, is a time-trapped wonder straight from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel…..so, as I did, get some slices of succulent pineapple, and go and explore its labyrinth of cobbled streets, each echoing with memories of bygone days. Special.
14. Because, out there, exist vineyards that produce Malbec – quite possibly the most delicious wine in world. I got to sample the ‘Ferrari’ of Malbecs in the famous Trapiche vineyard….which made cycling back through the vineyards to Mr Hugos bike rental shop all the mall hazily pleasant.
15. Because Lebanon proves that the best things in the world come in small packages. In the morning I was strolling by the beaches off the Corniche in Beirut. In the afternoon I was up here in the snow-capped mountains in one of the most important ancient sites in the Middle East – Baalbek. In the evening, I was in the cool valleys of Ksara enjoying fine Lebanese wine. What a place.
16. Because in Mombasa, Kenya, as I enjoyed a beer, I realised that you are the master of your own temple, and you will be what you will be, and if you’re happy with that, great, if not, get up and do something about it….these chaps aren’t waiting around for life to give them something for nothing.
17. Because Kathy, the old woman with the long teeth, chatted to me in Mandalay, Burma, and her genuine warmth, wit, and cheerfulness belie her situation. A former English teacher, she speaks impeccable English, and is neither beggar nor vendor, but has a bad leg that means she can’t work anymore. She lost her husband many years ago and sits from morning until night, a lonely old woman looking to chat….and you meet such people and you feel sad to say goodbye. Some people in the world touch you in special ways like that. The others in the photos also left their impressions on me – the Burmese are a shy, lovely people.
18. Because these kids in a poor area of Manila might just be able to shape their own futures. There are others around them living on the streets, others lured into prostitution….but here is hope, untainted souls, innocence and minds that know no cynicism. That’s power in this world.
19. Because such fearsome beasts as the Komodo dragon actually exist. I took this snap on Rinca island, as the Komodo Dragon walked across the bridge in pursuit of a deer on the beach. Amazing.
20. Because Vang Vien is absolutely wonderful….and the limestone karsts very impressive. Cycling through the corn fields on an old hired bicycle is slightly less majestic, but exploring the network of caves here is a real adventure. Laos is an absolute gem of a country.
21. Because nature makes for great umbrellas. These village girls in Boti, West Timor, Indonesia, are well sheltered from the rain.
22. Because old village chiefs in West Timor, Indonesia, demand nothing but an offering of betel nut to enter their village. And then they share it with you anyway.
23. Because here, in Sacramento de Colonia, the next generation are ready to defy the odds and continue to put tiny Uruguay firmly on the world map. They’ll probably be the next crop of famous footballers.
24. Because the Taj Mahal really is the gateway to eternal love. Being here makes you feel really, really small, but the love you can give is really, really big.
25. Because White Beach in Boracay is the best beach in the world – without a doubt. It’s the kind of place I want to go back to again and again – and the fact that there are no roads next to the beach make it even more paradisiacal.
26. Because animals and birds in the Galapagos Islands are not afraid of people. And that’s pretty cool in today’s world.
27. Because sunsets like this one in Aruba make it worth waking up the next day to see a different one.
28. Because in Kampala, grasshoppers are not just a good source of protein, they make the world go round for the people who depend on catching and cooking them. Predicting grasshopper season, however, is not easy!
29. Because the longest teak wood bridge in the world (U Bein bridge) is actually still the quickest way from A to B for the people in this part of Mandalay in this largely forgotten about part of Asia….and it’s surely one of the most picturesque bridges in the world.
30. Because England is more and more beautiful each time I return for a holiday, and Whitby has the best fish and chips in the world.
31. Because at the top of the mountain in Quito, Ecuador, with my poncho on, I felt on top of the world, and the world looked back challenging me to explore more, and I didn’t need a second invitation.
32. Because Japan never fails to surprise. 3 years living there, and countless trips back haven’t dampened my enthusiasm for the place, and the sense of wonder I get when I’m there. If there is a truly unique place in this world, Japan is it.
33. Because Singapore is a true wonder of the modern world. I’ve lived here since 2006….it never stops moving, changing, adapting, growing….it’s an amazing country to call home. I can walk home safely any time of day or night. Things get done. It’s a benevolent dictatorship. The world can learn a lot from Singapore.
34. Because visiting sacred Roraima in Venezuela, the oldest rock formation in the world, made me realise just how….powerful the world can be….I may even have had a spiritual moment when I reached the top.
35. Because after I went up in this hot air balloon in Luxor, Egypt, I felt truly blessed. The air was silent (save the occasional blast of fire in to the balloon), and I thought that, as I glided over the Valley of the Kings, if the Egyptians could build the kind of things they did in the West Bank, they can do anything, can’t they?
36. Because Krabi, Thailand, makes me think that if God could design his own personal bathtub, this would be it. And I went swimming with the phosphorescence. I thought that was just an effect on that movie, The Beach. It’s real!
37. Because in the incredible islands of San Blas, Panama, some of the islands are inhabited by the shy Kuna people, and the government has given ownership and governance over to these indigenous people in this area. That kind of thing should happen more often in other countries – it might stop wars!
38. Rainbows. Here in the Bahamas, I was treated to this incredible display of colours. Thank you, world.
39. Because here in Kandy, Sri Lanka, I met some friendly monks, and was invited to a face-to-face with the 92-year-old Chief Monk. He sat alone in his burnt-orange coloured robes, clutching a straw fan. My guide bowed and knelt on the floor, and began praying. The Chief Monk seemed not to notice. I remarked he looked much younger than 92, and he smiled, a toothless, tired smile. Through the interpretation of my guide, I learned of how the monk has travelled to many places, and how he survived the Tamil Tigers bomb attack in 1998, and he lifted up the monks robes to show his scars from the shrapnel. The Chief Monk then blessed me as I knelt and put my hands together in prayer, something I haven’t done since I was 15. Over my head he placed silk white threads, 3 of them – one for health, one for family, and one for love. He then chanted prayers, and I bowed my head more and tried my best to concentrate. Amazing.
40. Because Havana, Cuba, is the place where I saw streets come alive with the sound of music and dancing, and the kind of energy, sounds, smells and tastes associated with that trip gave me an unquenchable thirst for all things Latin.
41. Because here, in Langkawi, Malaysia, I spent the most incredible Valentines Day of my life on a day-long jet-ski trip through caves, into Sea Eagle territory, and into beautiful and peaceful fjords. Romantic.
42. Because Gunung Bromo in Surubaya is like another planet….and the cloud of smoke that shoots up every 10 minutes from Mt Semeru makes it seem even more of an alien world. What a place to begin your day!
43. Because here, in West Palm Beach, Florida, USA, people are really allowed to express themselves – and have a hell of a lot of fun doing it.
43. Because this lake, Laguna Mucubaji, is the most beautiful lake I think I’ve ever seen – shimmering so majestically like that. Veronica and I had a very memorable walk around it, followed by a horse ride. This was our reward for the 12 hour drive here from Caracas. Venezuela is, quite possibly, the most beautiful country in the world.
44. Because nature is so immense it can do what it likes. It will take back over, eventually, like it has here in Ta Prohm, Ankor Wat, Cambodia. Go on trees!
45. Because I made it to Barossa Valley, Australia, and got to try some of the most delicious wines I’ve ever tried – many of them in small batches that never leave the country. I’d have a bottle of the stuff a day if I could get away with it. Good grape, that.
46. Because here, over the Rio Chama, in Merida, I was a bird for 45 minutes, and it’s a pretty cool thing, being a bird. This was one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever done. Different perspectives make the world a better place.
47. Because here in Toroko Gorge, Taiwan, temples are iconic, like the Hsiangte Temple here. It was also the place I met Tonny, my tour guide for the day. As we approached the entrance to the gorge and past the majestic mountains, I made an off-hand comment that the mountains would make excellent secret prisons or bases for the military. “Well, it’s true, actually. There are planes stationed inside different parts of the mountain, ready to attack in case China decides to launch an offensive” he said, rather grimly, then added “that’s classified information….I shouldn’t be telling you that” and laughing weakly. If anyone knew what was in those protected mountains, it was going to be a high-ranking army senior like Tonny. The characters you meet!
48. Because Kelimetu in Flores, Indonesia, is one of those places that are too beautiful to really exist. Having dinner with the villages the night before was also really special.
49. Because walking onto Paraguay’s National football stadium in Asuncion is like strolling onto Wembley Pitch – and it was all for free! We went inside unchallenged, and were about to get into the players tunnel when the groundsman stopped us. He didn’t want us to leave though, he just wanted us to ask him permission to enter the stadium. People from South America are keen on such polite formalities. We did, and he let us go alone….Alex, a friend I traveled with, and I, put on our Paraguay shirts and acted out Roy of the Rovers football scenes.
50. Because the world allowed fate to let me meet my beautiful wife, and now we explore this wondrous place together, in love with the world, with life, with each other.