Here’s a few more fun ones:
And the platypus was no different.
The platypus has to be one of the most fascinating animals on earth. How much weirder can you get? It’s a mammal that lays eggs, for one. With a bill like a duck and a tail like a beaver how can you not be intrigued?
I have an embarrassing thing to admit. I call myself an animal-lover, but I had absolutely no idea that a platypus was so small! In my mind, they were huge mammals, several feet in length. Boy, was I in for a surprise when I saw the cute little platypus swimming around!!! They were so precious, more than anything I wanted to jump in the creek and catch it to give it a cuddle (spoiler alert: I didn’t).
It’s not an easy feat as platypus are notoriously hard to find, being creatures of dawn and dusk and very easily disturbed. They like to play hard to get… which happens to be a game I like winning at. I was determined to give it a try, since Australia is a wildlife lover’s heaven and the platypus was high on my list. While on one of the best road trips I may have ever taken thus far, we made a detour to try our hand at spotting the platypus even though we’d be arriving in the late afternoon. According to an Aboriginal man we met at one of our other stops, we’d be able to see them in Yungaburra. To Yungaburra we went!
We parked near the creek and followed the sign to the viewing platform. We’d been advised to be extremely, extremely quiet. The platypus are shy creatures and any sort of shuffling about would freak them out. We sat at the top of the creek by the benches at the viewing platform next to Nick’s for several minutes. Nothing. Waiting, waiting, waiting. We lost a little faith, disappointed, as we didn’t see so much as a ripple in the water.
However, as we stood up from the bench, we crossed paths with an American family who came from a different direction. They encouraged us to walk across the street and go down below walking alongside the creek, sit in silence, and we’d be sure to see one.
They were right! In the spirit of full disclosure, I really did form some tears of happiness. Most people get these tears at, you know, things like weddings. But not me, no, I get these when I see a platypus. I am so weird.
Not only did we get to see one, we saw three. Right in front of our eyes we saw two play with each other! It was unbelievable.
Please forgive my shaky video skills. I was so beyond thrilled to see platypus in the wild!!! One of my happiest moments in Australia for sure. Platypus are such unique, adorable animals. Seeing them so closely in their real habitat was just so cool. #cloudnine
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What tricky animal have you managed to catch in the wild? Share below!
All photos credited to The Modern-Day Dreamer.
Do you want to see a part of Southeast Asia that maybe not everyone else has traveled to?
On a scale of 1 to tears of happiness, how much do you love seeing animals in the wild?
If you answered yes to those questions…. Book a flight to Sumatra in Indonesia! After seeing a blogpost from another travel blogger (and not finding much information elsewhere), I booked a ticket from Singapore into Medan to spend a week in the jungle town of Bukit Lawang. I had the best time…
Here, you can see (semi) wild orangutans, 1 of 2 places worldwide (the other being Borneo).If that isn’t enough incentive, I don’t know what is. Some of the orangutans here have been orphaned or rehabilitated and released back into their natural habitats. Make sure you get a guide who doesn’t feed the orangutans. If you do happen to get a guide who feeds them make sure they understand you don’t support doing that sort of tourism. This sort of human interaction is detrimental to the endangered species.
Even more, did you know there is another monkey that is unique to only the Northern part of Sumatra? It isn’t found anywhere else in the world, or even Indonesia for that matter (how much more unique can you get?). It’s called the Thomas Leaf Monkey, and it’s a beautiful monkey that is clearly experienced in posing for cameras.
We also saw a stunning wild peacock. The Sumatran tiger still lives in the jungles, but none of our guides had ever seen one (another species that is in grave danger, which breaks my heart as much as I didn’t want to encounter one).
… should be on everyone’s bucket list, in my opinion. You can spend anywhere from 1 to 8 days trekking in the jungle here (you go with a registered guide, it’s forbidden to go on your own). I was actually planning on doing just a couple 1 day treks so I could get end the day in comfort of my own bed each night, but upon meeting a friend and discussing it, she encouraged me while we were there we might as well spend one night sleeping in the jungle. It’s not like we get that opportunity all the time! So I’ll be honest, I didn’t have the best sleep of my life, but it was a one-of-a-kind experience having dinner with our local guides and waking up to the jungle sounds, seeing monkeys swinging from the trees.
You can get a guide fairly easily. Just ask around at your guesthouse and perhaps do a little research online for some names. I got mine secured through where I stayed at Jungle Inn and I was very pleased (we also had the most incredible food).
Tubing down the river was an experience I’ll never forget. It didn’t have to do 100% with the tubing. Finishing the trek I will admit, I was tired, as it’s not the easiest thing to do (because I’m far from “into” fitness). And taking a tube down the river back to the village at the end was incredibly nice – putting up your feet and letting the water do the work. The reason I won’t forget it is this.
Our tubes strung together with the rest of our crew, I had one of those “wow, is this really happening?!” moments as we moved down the small rapids on our way back to the village. It’s that feeling I chase when I’m traveling… Pure happiness, feeling fully present in where I am, amazed to be in the middle of a jungle on an island in Indonesia with new friends from all over the world, having an adventure. It’s a feeling I don’t know how to get any other way.
Solo traveling has its perks. Maybe you wouldn’t think about this initially, but sometimes, it pays to be on your own! I made a friend who worked at the guesthouse I stayed at, and she offered to take me on a cultural excursion to the Friday market with her on her motorbike (which only fits one more person). She didn’t speak the best English, but it made it even more fun. Friendships aren’t always defined by conversation. These are the moments I live for in my travels, meeting the real local people and doing my best to experience their culture authentically. She brought me on her motorbike, which was an adventure in itself.
At the markets they sell everything from secondhand clothing, handbags, and shoes to huge chunks of rubber – that smell absolutely horrendous, maybe they get used to it?!?! I honestly don’t know but it’s a smell like no other.
My new friend brought me to her friend’s booth, and she kindly served me up a very interesting dessert drink I later learned was cendol. Elsewhere, there were piles and piles of peppers, dried fish, fruits I had never even heard of (snake fruit anyone?), and more.
While we’re on the subject of food, I feel I should mention that there is some pretty incredible food to be eaten in Bukit Lawang. The guesthouse I stayed at had incredibly delicious food (especially the breakfasts) and even a special jungle tea. I was in absolute heaven. And an extravagant breakfast didn’t cost me more than $3-4. If you want to live like a king, come here!
If you can’t make the Friday Market, Bukit Lawang has some cute shops itself including handmade carvings!
As a solo traveler it makes you pretty approachable, and given I traveled in October it wasn’t high season in Bukit Lawang. This meant the guesthouse was a little emptier, and so I was able to enjoy the company of those working there – most of whom were around my age. I enjoyed chatting with them, learning about their dreams, practicing English, and singing along to their guitar songs. I have the happiest of memories from this trip.
Driving to Bukit Lawang in a share taxi was an adventure as we were packed full, but on the way home somehow I ended up alone. This meant I had hilarious conversations with the driver. By hilarious I mean we laughed a lot because we didn’t really understand anything else each other was saying #languagebarriers. However, he spoke volumes to me when he pulled over for some fried banana dessert and handed some of them to me to try. Breaking bread together = friends for life!
If you follow me on Instagram, you may have noticed I left out a portion of my trip which was to visit and bathe elephants. I felt very uneasy and bittersweet about this experience, and I can’t say I fully recommend it, which is the reason I left it out.
My lesson from that was to make sure you do research before visiting anything that has to do with wildlife. Personally, I want to support the places that actually take great care of the elephants and that I feel at peace about supporting. I didn’t feel this when I got to visit the elephants near Bukit Lawang, in fact it made me uncomfortable and even a little guilty about spending money on that experience because I wasn’t sure what I was actually supporting with my money. I found a great article if you are curious to learn a little bit more about elephant welfare.
I arrived by share taxi from the airport in Medan, arranged by my accommodation (through a kind gentleman named Hass) for 200,000 idr each way. Jungle Inn has a very good reputation and you can trust the guides they recommend. However, it’s never a bad idea to ask your own questions and meet the guides before taking off.
Read about my first impressions about coming to Bukit Lawang here.
All photos credited to The Modern-Day Dreamer.
Last fall, I booked a one way ticket to the other side of the world. Even though I had done some (quite tame) traveling on my own, this time felt different. Going to a new continent with me, myself and I, even though it has been done by so many before, felt hard for some reason. New continent: new cultures, languages, food, ways of life. The reason I love travel so much. But it was also slightly scary – as travel can be when you are on your own – no matter how often you go to new places I’m not sure that aspect will ever change, really. Not for me at least.
After spending my first week in Singapore, I boarded a flight to Sumatra in Indonesia. I had seen another blogger go there before, and when I realized they had wild orangutans (1 of 2 places worldwide), I knew I had to go. You see I have this thing, this connection, with animals. At this point in my life and in all of my past history, animals touch my heart in ways people don’t, actually. If you know me you know babies aren’t my thing. At all. Never have been. But baby ANIMALS, that’s a different story people!!!
So back to the orangutans, Sumatra, Indonesia, that whole thing. I had booked my ticket to Medan. After talking with people who had done extensive travel in Asia, I felt…. nervous about this trip. You see, I’d read about it on a blogpost, but the research I found online in terms of going to Bukit Lawang from Medan was so sketchy! Forums from years and years ago (i.e. 2007ish) trying to figure out how to go about the transport situation. Not like googling how to get from Paris to Caen or Avignon. Go here, turn left, buy this ticket, heading for this direction, change here…. not at all! More like each forum had a different story, different price, different method. Several hours’ journey from Medan takes you to the jungle of Northern Sumatra, somewhere it seems has been overlooked from guidebooks and travelers, who instead go to the Gili islands, Lombok, or more obviously, Bali. In a way this exhilarated me, going somewhere not everyone has discovered yet (as is the traveler’s mantra all around the world). But guess what? It also scared me a little. I don’t know Indonesian, I’ve never been to Asia before, flying into a city tourists (generally) don’t go to. Everyone I talked to who had traveled Asia extensively before had the same reaction: “Sumatra? Why? Interesting, I’ve never heard of travelers choosing to go there… Jungle trekking? Are you sure this is legit? Bukit Lawang? Never heard of it.” Me: uhh…. yep that’s where I am going (WHAT AM I DOING?!).
Well, I hired a driver from my guest house to pick me up for some peace of mind (Maybe cost me $30-40 USD for a share taxi from the airport to the guest house and back a week later). But I was still not entirely sure he would show up. It was Indonesia after all, booked via email… thank goodness when I arrived in Medan, he was there for me!! I had some screenshots of obscure directions in case but thankfully didn’t have to refer to those. After driving into Medan from the airport, it really hit me. The roads were absolute madness. I don’t think there are road rules. I think it’s just a free for all there. I’ve never seen so many motorbikes on the road, people just turning whenever they feel like, even if there’s no gap in traffic (and a blinker? Ha!!! What’s that?). It felt like frogger!
After I switched cars, I found myself sandwiched between some Aussies and Dutch girls. Here we go! The adventure has begun!! and I have new friends to boot, and one was a solo traveler like me!!! I can do this. Pep talks are everything, people.
We drove 3-4 hours on roads in the worst conditions I’ve seen, with dangerous potholes and flooding. So many small towns had crazy traffic jams due to trucks getting stuck. However this was part of the adventure. I got to see rice paddies, something I’ve always wanted to see (don’t ask me why), and cows roaming and laying down in the middle of the road just because they can. I saw all the palm plantations I’ve read about, that have damaged the natural jungles and habitats. When you’re in a 3rd world country, it’s a hard thing to think about. On one hand you have the detriment to the ecosystem, contribution to global warming, etc…. and on the other you have extremely poor people trying to figure out how to make money and a living. I can’t pretend like I’m an expert on the topic – far from it – but they are in between a rock and a hard place, what’s the answer?
The long drive to Bukit Lawang was… eye opening. We were crammed in that car, and it wasn’t super comfortable, but I dare say I enjoyed the journey. I enjoyed seeing all the houses along the roads we traveled. In one word, they were vibrant. Many different colors. I love the feeling of arriving in a new place, soaking up everything like a sponge. You feel the full weight of this when you are traveling on your own. What’s going to happen on this trip? What will it be like? What am I doing? Who will I meet? What new things will I eat?!? What will I see? What will I learn?
Arriving in the tiny village of Bukit Lawang, I was wide-eyed. Slightly disheveled. But starting to feel like myself again, traveling, in my element, after a long season back in Indiana. With plans to meet my new Dutch friend for dinner, I felt so grateful and happy.
All photos credited to The Modern-Day Dreamer.
The rest of my Singapore trip involved hitting the highlights of the city and trying to do the authentic “Singapore” things: seeing Marina Bay, the Merlion, the Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay, eating at hawkers, trying Kopi coffee (which you drink out of a bag when it’s to go), indulging in Kaya and other Singaporean foods like chili crab, and enjoying the markets in colorful Chinatown.
Marina Bay has the world’s highest infinity pool, which spans across the three buildings on the very top part of the hotel. It’s pretty incredible! I didn’t get to go in as it’s only for hotel guests, but I did ride the elevator to the top to have a look and dream about going in!
The Super Trees at Gardens by the Bay light up in different colors and patterns each night to various songs they put on… it was lovely!
I thoroughly enjoyed roaming around Chinatown, with the colorful buildings and fun, cheap vendors selling a wide variety of things from unique produce (including mangosteens and durian!!) to Chinese good luck charms.
My favorite thing of all about Singapore was how highly they regard food! It was an integral part of how I toured the city. After watching Anthony Bourdain’s “The Layover:Singapore” episode, I desperately wanted to see and eat at a hawker. I was not disappointed. Here you can find all sorts of local and international foods (really all Asian foods, though) for a fraction of the price you would find in the restaurants. It’s a unique concept, sort of like a giant food court. Some of the stalls in different hawkers even have a Michelin star…. however the wait at those stalls was so long, I decided to eat elsewhere. Overall my food highlights included the famous Singapore chili crab, kaya butter, boba tea with taro milk and aloe vera, a matcha latte that printed our selfies on the top of the foam, and Kopi coffee which I enjoyed from a plastic bag… it was quite a unique experience haha!
All photos credited to The Modern-Day Dreamer.
Singapore is one of the most fascinating places I’ve been. Yes, it’s quite Western and so it’s not all unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells when you arrive. However, I still found it so fun to explore. In my opinion, I feel like Singapore goes out of its way to make people of all walks of life feel comfortable. The people are hospitable and friendly, I remember my taxi driver from the airport engaging in conversation with me about so many things: the weather, the city, his family. The city is proud of itself, and offers free city tours to anyone with a long layover at their airport (who does this?). What a way to promote themselves, right?
I also witnessed on more than one occasion people going out of their way to help others. A lady started going up the escalator with her stroller, and the gentleman in front of me automatically rushed over to help her lift it up. It was almost like instinct. Another instance, my friend and I were searching for a certain place to buy a ticket, and a woman started walking us to the booth instead of simply telling us where to go. We had to stop her from taking us all the way there!
What really stood out to me, though, is how people from all over the world seem to find their place in Singapore. I am sure there’s more to it once you dig a little deeper, and they probably face problems just like any other nation. However, I loved how there seemed to be people with different backgrounds, cultures, cuisine, and religions living side by side in harmony. Various neighborhoods dot the city: Arab Street, Chinatown, Little India… all infused with culture from their homeland but in the backdrop of skyscrapers. It felt like I was visiting a new country every day!
In Little India, you walk down streets selling all sorts of odd things. Electronics, fun shoes (you’ll see what I mean, just wait), spices, fresh flower garlands, and clothing can all be found here in small shops – or you can find everything, literally everything, in Mustafa’s, an incredibly impressive shop. With the backdrop of Bollywood music playing in the background you really do feel transported to India. The food was to die for (I love Indian food) and reasonably priced, unlike a lot of Singapore.
Seriously check these shoes out. So stylish! No they are not children’s shoes, I know what you are thinking, but they came in ADULT SIZES. The heels have beads inside and it probably sounds like maracas when you walk, but who cares!! I can only imagine the treasures you could find in ACTUAL India… if those are any sign!
Near Arab Street, it was a similar story. There were plenty of shops, including a lot of fabric shops and tons of cute boutiques. It seemed to be a bit trendier in this neighborhood, and the buildings were so beautiful! The Mosque is right in the center, and I thought it was quite nice to look at. In the distance you could hear the Islamic call to prayer. It was such a nice neighborhood, and it was hard not to pop into the shops there (would have been dangerous for me given I had no room in my suitcase).
I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I first landed in the Eastern Hemisphere, I suppose it is time for me to get the ball rolling before I forget the details of my travels! I started off in Singapore, due to a friend of my sister’s (and mine as well!) who happens to be a teacher there.
I can say with honesty that I did not plan anything for Singapore – I maybe googled what you do there once? I probably should have been a little more prepared, but I was so focused on trying to figure out the rest of my trip that I showed up with an open mind and empty stomach ready to go wherever I was led. Sometimes that’s the best thing to do. There’s nothing like a resident of the place you are visiting telling you what’s worth your time, money, and appetite.
Singapore is a very interesting place, heavily influenced by the Western world but also infused with so much Asian culture. It definitely took me by surprise how much I liked it there. They speak English (if you are interested in languages definitely read up on the fascinating Singlish that is spoken there) and the city is spotless. No gum chewing allowed!
My first day sightseeing included the famous Botanic Gardens and National Orchid Garden. Orchids are some of my favorite flowers, so I went a bit crazy with the pictures. They were all so unique and beautiful! I spent several hours here, reading, walking, taking pictures, spotting some monitor lizards. The Botanic Gardens are massive and you truly forget you’re in the middle of the city. City-state that is.
My only complaint is the heat and humidity combo…. non stop sweating is not my favorite feeling, but I guess there is always a sacrifice somewhere…
The monitor lizards roam freely in the garden… which I thought was something special, but nobody else turned their heads. I still think it was crazy! (but then again I am from Indiana…)
“Why do I keep doing this to myself?” I kept asking myself this question on the plane ride from Chicago to Singapore (which involved two layovers, making the trip over 24 hours).
It’s true what they say about the travel bug. It bit me several years ago, and the more I tried to itch it the worse it got. After coming back from France last year, I felt frustrated, confused, and restless about what was ahead for me. I worked a job in Indiana sort of near my hometown for almost a year, while simultaneously trying to network and apply for other jobs in other parts of the country. Some seemed great fits, and I had several interviews, but nothing worked out.
I decided it would be good food for my soul to do what I truly love again: travel. However, for some reason, this time it felt different for me. I was going to a new side of the world (two new continents!) with no idea what to expect and not a whole lot of plans. On top of that I did it so spontaneously, and planned to leave so quickly, I was pretty stressed out about the whole thing. I didn’t spend too much time enjoying the anticipation, which is sometimes half the fun.
Thankfully, once I arrived I felt loads better and I’m so excited to share what I’ve done and what’s ahead. So far I went to Singapore and Bukit Lawang, Indonesia. I’ve got a bit of work to do on my blog…. After taking a hiatus since last year, I forgot all my necessary passwords (you know how frustrating password stuff goes….) and when I finally got back in, I noticed how a bunch of my photos are so pixelated. SO! I will try and get some new posts and photos up, please be patient with me though! I also have to go back and edit old posts to get the pictures looking right again… I’m also going to work on getting my old posts from when I studied abroad on here, which will definitely take a lot of work!! But it will be worth it and fun to go through those memories again.
I’m really excited to share my experiences thus far, it’s been pretty great.
Today I say au revoir to my home this past year. In some ways I feel the time has gone by so, so fast, like I just arrived. In others, the day is finally here.
It feels bittersweet and a bit surreal to be leaving. Europe will always have a special place in my heart. I may not know when I will be back next, but I know I will be back.
I am going “home” to the US and to Indiana, for now, but it’s not my complete home. Home is a place in my heart, it is my closest friends and family, it is a myriad of feelings, not solely a physical place… although several places will always be a part of my home, including France. It’s never easy to say goodbye, especially people I’ve gotten to know and shared such special memories with this last year, but I am ready to start my next chapter whatever that may be!
Instead of goodbye, it’s “see you later”! Here’s a handful of memories, from the Normandy coast to countryside, to welcoming a new member to the family, to trying out skis in the Alps, to enjoying having a BFF in my corner of France!!!
All photos credited to The Modern-Day Dreamer.
I got just a few shots of the towns I saw on the Algarve coast in the time spent traveling between the beaches. The buildings there are white with a pop of color here and there, definitely how I picture paradise as in my head. I also bought a beautiful painting (not the one pictured, although mine was still wet when I purchased it!) from a street painter to remember my trip to the Algarve coast by, and snapped a photo of the friendly painter himself. He happily threw up a thumbs up and smiled! In fact, almost everyone I met in Portugal was so nice to me, joking around and delighted to use English (thank goodness!). It was a bit of a contrast with those I encountered in their neighboring Iberian country, Spain, and a happy note to end my adventures on this year in Europe with.