At the age of 15 I boarded a plane with a group of American students bound for a month in Europe. As our bus drove from the airport into the streets of Rome, I was mesmerized by the world outside my window. It was so different to life in my home country. Over the course of that month, I fell head over heels in love with travel.
Listening to different languages; tasting foods previously unknown to me; discovering that every place has a distinct aroma; feasting my eyes on the beauty of our planet; feeling soft leather and shimmery silks, the many textures of a place became indelible memories. Travel awakened all of my senses and I knew that it would be an important part of my life.
As the years rolled by, my love of travel increased and I found that short holidays from the office weren’t enough. In 2013, I set out to travel full-time and the next year I found a new love: the Philippines. I arrived with a backpack and a bag of dive gear planning to stay for a month and let the diving guide me. I stayed for three and explored well beyond the diving. The caves of Sagada and the traditional tribes in the north enchanted me, the beaches of Bohol, Boracay, and Palawan spoiled me, and the diving … I could wax on about the diving for ages. My love for the Philippines and its warm-hearted people runs deep and helping others experience this incredible nation brings me nothing but joy.
When my travels took me to Malaysia, I knew I’d found another nation to love. This multicultural country is often overlooked by visitors to Southeast Asia yet it has so much to offer. Borneo is full of incredible wildlife, fascinating cultures, and achingly beautiful landscapes. Climbing Mount Kinabalu was an experience I’ll always treasure as watching the sunrise at the summit was both humbling and uplifting. Diving the clear waters of the Celebes and South China Seas and digging my toes into the white sands along the way brought me one smile after another. Western Malaysia offers incredible food, culture, beaches, cities, tropical landscapes, and more than a few surprises. Wandering the streets of Penang looking at the art and nibbling my way through Malay, Indian, Chinese, and Nyonya specialities always leaves me wanting more.
During my years spent in an office in North America, my holidays were often brief and not too far from home. The Cayman Islands quickly became a favorite for the great diving coupled with plenty to keep a non-diving partner busy. Mornings spent underwater and afternoons exploring Grand Cayman, walking the trails of Cayman Brac, or simply lazing in a hammock. When I sought a bit of luxury, warm blue ocean, and the chance to soak up the sun, these were the islands to which I turned.
I’ve traveled extensively across six continents but the Philippines, Malaysia, and the rest of Southeast Asia have captured my heart. I spend as much of the year as I can in the countries that frame the Coral Triangle: Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia. When I’m back in North America, I try to squeeze in a trip to one of the Cayman Islands as the Caribbean never fails to leave me rested and rejuvenated. I’m an avid diver, hiker, and lover of finding fruits and vegetables that have no names in the English language.
The photos below are some of my favorite travel memories in the countries I focus on for Fleewinter. Read about some of my travels, reviews, and experiences over on Luxury Travel in Asia.
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Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia and Cayman Islands
“At least once in every journey, travel by local transport. Some of the most memorable conversations I’ve had have occurred in the back of jeepneys, trucks, and in the passenger seats of tricycles and tuk-tuks. You’ll gain insight into daily life and see your destination the way locals do.” Marbree, Philippines, Borneo, Malaysia, and Cayman Islands Specialist