I like traveling, and being a Dutch citizen I'm privileged to be able to go abroad without a lot of hassle. So I did. Here's a very very short list of highlights:
The first time I traveled on my own was in the summer of 2005. Barely 19 years old, and still too shy to even speak English, I decided to take Spanish classes in Valencia. Doing this was one of the best decisions of my life, as I not only learned Spanish, but I also tasted the pleasure of living and traveling abroad.
In 2008 I made a round-trip through the Central American countries of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Some of the highlights were obtaining my diving certificate, watching sunrise from the top of ancient Maya temples, and spending many hours in local public transport. The latter doesn't sound like a a lot of fun, but it actually was. While moving forward at a pace that one can almost keep up with on foot, there was always entertainment going on. Drivers driving recklessly in a bus decorated by 'God bless this bus and its passengers' leaflets. People selling food, drinks, or vitamin pills. People playing the guitar or reading Bible stories. Babies (or a basket full of chicken, or a goat) being placed on my lap. Anything you can ever think of can happen in a Central American chicken bus.
From November 2009 to May 2010 I traveled through Asia. This trip included trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, enjoying Buddhist temples and picture-perfect beaches in Thailand, hiking ancient rain forests in Malaysia, enjoying amazing food in Singapore, snorkeling with whale sharks and diving in the Philippines, strolling along night markets in Taiwan, and watching a sumo wrestling tournament in Japan. And that's just 1% of it.
In 2011 my friend Ruth and I made the famous train ride from Saint Petersburg to Beijing. We split the 150-hours-lasting journey into smaller chunks and got off the train in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Ulaanbaatar, and finally Beijing. English-speaking people were very scarce on this journey, which led to lots of funny situations with hand-gesture communication. We also read quite a few books and played innumerable games of yahtzee.
In 2012 I visited Senegal and The Gambia with eight volleyball girls from Amsterdam. This was a lot of fun! We played beach volleyball with students from Dakar, made a little road trip with our private minivan plus driver, and received countless marriage proposals (all rejected). Sadly, like in some of the countries I've visited before, poverty was very visible at times.
In 2013 I walked the Camino from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, together with my dad who had been there a couple of times before. Compared to his first pilgrimage from Utrecht, our ten days of walking were a piece of cake (speaking of which, we ate lots of those on the way), but it still felt like a great achievement when we finally reached the famous Cathedral.
In 2015, after visiting ACL I made an overland trip from Beijing to Hong Kong, stopping in Qingdao, Huangshan, Guilin, and Yangshuo. Cultural differences and communication difficulties often made me feel as if I were on a different planet. But that's when I like traveling the most! I met countless nice people ("my English teacher tells me to speak to every foreigner"), enjoyed lovely food, and visited beautiful places. In summary: I had an amazing time!
In 2016, my friend Ruth and I hit the road again and this time visited Colombia. For many people still seemingly dangerous, but what an amazing country it is! We never before spent so much time in hammocks on the side of swimming pools and beaches, with a book in one hand and a cocktail in the other... which was well deserved after our four-day trek through the jungle to Ciudad Perdida, an ancient city that can only be reached by foot.