The Unexpected Is the Unforgettable

Favorite Travel Memories from Around the World

The Unexpected Is the Unforgettable



Lightning snapped across the inky blue Belizean sky, lighting up our world for a split second, just enough to reveal that we were still not anywhere close to shore. I shouted over the roar of the wind and the whizzing of tiny, sharp raindrops stinging our faces: “Hold on, ladies!”

So begins one of my favorite travel memories. That's right, not worst, not scariest — favorite. Yes, I was in charge of ten teenagers on a volunteer trip in Central America, and yes we were caught in a less-than-adequate boat, in an awful storm, in the middle of the night. And yes, this memory is precious to me.

I've spent some time this week pondering why. What factors lift a moment from the road to “unforgettable” status? What makes some moments stand out over others?

It's a complex question that lacks a single correct answer, so I polled other Matador staff, students, and travel bloggers, trying to get a sense of what solidifies a moment into an unforgettable memory. Nobody’s response involved fancy hotel rooms, predictable plans, or a good night's sleep. Rather, there was the opposite: unhinged plans, the unforeseen, the unknown. Regardless of the specifics of the memory, each seemed to draw near to a sense of self-awareness, of our tiny and precious place in the universe — that is, moments where we felt honestly alive.

So why is one of my favorite moments a memory of ten terrified girls, stuck in a storm, in a tiny metal boat? Because when I turned around to shout to check on them, I didn't see ten terrified girls. I saw ten strong young ladies on the cusp of womanhood — albeit drenched and shivering, hair plastered to their face — holding hands, singing. Yup, singing. Together, the twelve of us sang an African hymn to the rain, watching the lightning come down all around, praying to the good Lord that our boat was headed for shore. And we felt it. Present, aware, together. I felt as though I saw them awaken, right in front of me, unfolding like flowers towards the sun.

What favorite travel moments do you have? Moments of mayhem? Community? Sacredness? The unknown? The simple, poignant, ancient pleasures of food, drink, or friends? Love?

Here's how some of my fellow travelers answered the question:

*- Rachel Kristensen, MatadorU student, *www.meandertheworld.tumblr.com

- Katka Lapelosa, Matador editor, www.katkatravels.com

- Michael Bonocore, travel photographer, http://www.mb-photography-sf.com/

- Maryanne Wirkkanen, travel blogger, www.unknownhome.wordpress.com

*- Carlo Alcos, Matador managing editor, @vagab0nderz, *vagabonderz.com

*- @RosaLiaJune, MatadorU student, *http://throughthewardrobe-rosa.blogspot.co.uk/

- Katie Scott Alton, Matador staff writer, http://katiesaras.wordpress.com/

- Dikson Slam, Matador staff writer, @diksonslam

- @CandiceWalsh, MatadorU Travel Writing faculty, www.candicedoestheworld.com

*- Pat Kennedy Corlin, photographer, *http://www.PatCorlinPhotography.com

*- Joshua Johnson, MatadorU Dean of Education, @joshywashinton, *http://joshywashington.wordpress.com/

This article also appears on Matador Network.  A nexus of travel, culture and stories from around the world, Matador Network is the largest independent travel publication on the web.

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Kate Siobhan

Kate Siobhan is a Vancouver-Based writer and photographer, as well as contributing editor at Matador and lead photo faculty at MatadorU.
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Now it’s your turn. What’s your favorite travel memory?

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