Talking about my travel experiences brings out a passion in me. Each locale I visit inspires me in some way, and I know my jewelry—and my life—wouldn't be the same without my experiences in foreign lands. Gratitude doesn't begin to explain how I feel about landing in another country, whether it's for the first time or a return visit to a beloved place.
If you ask for my favorite destination, I can't begin to choose only one. With over 75 countries on my well-worn passport, I truly feel different places served me at different times in my life. I hope sharing some of my favorite memories will inspire you to get your passport stamped a little sooner.
Visiting Africa for the first time
In 1994, I touched down in South Africa for the first time. I've always loved animals, but seeing and living among the wild African species in Kruger National Park remains unforgettable. I remember telling my dad—I was 18 at the time—I wanted to work on a game reserve when I got out of college. At the time, the country was experiencing racial strife. Experiencing that firsthand impacts my life to this day.
A life lesson from Mt. Kilimanjaro
I didn't undertake Mt. Kilimanjaro lightly. I had run 10 marathons in advance of tackling the summit in 2007. I trained like I was running a marathon. At the last minute a friend joined me who was a perfect addition. I loved the experience. Of course there were (expected) discomforts but everything seemed manageable until the final ascent.
I think we left camp an hour or so before midnight, as we wanted to get to the top for sunrise. I was feeling great, but about two hours before we reached the top, I felt an excruciating headache. I remember wishing someone could drill a hole in my head.
Needless to say, I made it to the top, touched the famous sign, and started descending. The guide kept telling me, "Stop. You need to wait." I looked at him with the a look I have never given (before or since!) and said “No, watch me run.”
He was right. In a nutshell, I had extreme swelling of the brain and had to be expedited down to not one but two camps. I don't have any lasting impact from that run down the mountain, at least I don't think I do! Still, it remains one of my greatest life lessons: it is about the journey, not the destination.
A humanitarian effort among Ugandan mountain gorillas
Nature and wild animals fascinate me. The opportunity to see mountain gorillas in the flesh was amazing. I find them such beautiful creatures, and they so remind me of ourselves. We knew the Ugandan terrain would be challenging, and the trek definitely lived up to that expectation. However, we knew we needed to explore the wild to increase our chances of seeing more gorillas.
Just seeing the magnificent creatures would have been an unforgettable experience, but adding a humanitarian component to our visit enhanced the experience even more. While in Uganda, we visited schools, orphanages, and the tribal communities in rural villages, providing goods. We shipped the goods ahead of our arrival, including amazing contributions from our family, friends, and co-workers. The reward on that trip was coupled with seeing amazing wildlife and helping humanity.
Each of those journeys stays with me even now. I remember that even when I feel like I'm speeding forward on a new trajectory, the most important part of my life ties into the connections I feel to nature, animals, and the people I meet both near and far.
Which of your travels impacted you the most?