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Moments That Define Us: 8 Travel Experiences I Will Never Forget


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Every great travel adventure is made up of a series of moments — here are some of my favourite from the past few years

In This Travel Article You Will Discover

  • The Joy of Living “In The Moment”
  • 8 Personal Experiences That Defined Me
  • How to Contribute Your Own Memory!

Our lives are defined by a series of moments: joy, pain, excitement, disappointment, contentment, confusion and all the rest. Some of my most significant memories — some of which have shaped me as a person — come down to a mere moment where I stood still and quiet, absorbing the experience.

And other times I have forgotten to live in the moment. I’ve been too busy looking for the “next” experience or perhaps committing the biggest sin of all: putting all my effort towards documenting a moment rather than experiencing it full on. (Damn cameras.)

But sitting in my home on a rainy Vancouver day, I find myself with a moment to relive some of those experiences that will stay with me until my last breath.

And I’d love to hear yours. If you have a moment.

Dempster Highway, Northwest Territories, 2010

Dempster Highway

Solo riding my motorcycle on Canada’s Dempster Highway was an experience I’ll never forget.

It was this moment, some 100 km north of the Arctic Circle — alone, on a motorcycle, stuck in hellish weather with no safe haven for another 300 km — when I realized I was in over my head. I felt as though the tundra was going to open up and swallow me whole. I have never felt so alone, so insignificant. The realization that I may be in trouble — real trouble — hit me like a kick to the gut. But without a moment like that, the sense of triumph when I safely completed my solo motorcycle journey from Vancouver to Inuvik and back would not have been so sweet.

Hat Rin, Thailand, 2006

Full Moon Party

Thailand’s beach party scene is a spectacle of epic proportions.

I had waded knee-deep into the bathwater-warm water of the Gulf of Thailand in the middle of Ko Phangan’s famous Full Moon Party. I needed a break from the craziness, and my new vantage point allowed me to take in the entire night scene in all its inglorious glory: torches, fire dancing, confusion, buckets of Sangsom and Red Bull and revelers from the four corners of the Earth. I had been inspired by the film The Beach to make this journey and it was everything I had imagined and more. I heard someone scream, “We are in Thailand!” Yes. Yes we are.

Cariboo Mountains, British Columbia, 2005

Mike Wiegele Heli Skiing

Heli skiing in the Cariboo Mountains: snow-drunk and astonished.

At 8,700 feet above sea level, morning sun starbursting over the endless mountain ranges of BC’s north and nothing around me but a half-dozen ski buddies, a Bell 212 helicopter disappearing into the valley and about 5,000 vertical feet of untouched powder, I had to take a moment to just breathe then pinch myself to ensure I was actually awake and not dreaming. It remains the greatest ski experience of my life. And all I need to do is close my eyes and I’m right back there again.

Jimbaran, Bali, 2009


Dinner on the beach at Jimbaran is a must-do on when visiting Bali.

My girlfriend, Erin, and I had been in Bali for about a week at this point, and we’d managed to muster up a sense of familiarity of the island. Surfing, temples, shopping… it was comfortable, save the heinous jet lag. But on the beach in Jimbaran, watching the sun set into the sea and the stars appear one by one I was struck by a moment when the Southern Cross materialized. I had never seen this constellation before, and for the first time in my life I was staring at an unfamiliar night sky. The expansive distance I had travelled from Canada to Indonesia never seemed more apparent than right then, right there.

Tree River, Nunavut, 2008

Tree River Nunavut

The desolate Arctic Ocean, at the mouth of Nunavut’s Tree River.

I was 200 km north of the Arctic Circle, at the mouth of the Tree River, in Nunavut. The nearest settlement was more than 150 km away; the nearest town was 700 km south. Examining the desolate Arctic beach, I noticed an Inukshuk positioned atop a rust-coloured cliff at the river mouth as if standing guard over native Inuit territory. And there I was: actually swimming in the Arctic Ocean. North of me was the sea, the Islands of Nunavut and the North Pole itself. South of me was, well, everything else. It was a powerful moment when I realized how few people would ever experience a swim like this — but it was a moment short-lived because I was freakin’ freezing and I had to get out of the water now.

Hamoa Beach, Maui, 2007

Hamoa Beach Maui

Maui is a true paradise island: livable and lovable in every way.

When we arrived at Hamoa Beach, in Hana, on Maui’s east side, Erin and I were immediately glad we had left the hotel so early that morning. The tourist hoards had not yet arrived, and the beach was mostly ours. Hamoa is the Hawaii of your dreams: a silver-sand crescent tucked in among jagged lava rock cliffs accented with swaying palm and banana trees. Waves crash endlessly and South Pacific breezes keep you cool in the hot Hawaiian sun. The moment came when we both realized this was true paradise and that we will strive to one-day make Maui our home.

Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, 2010

Haida Gwaii Orca

Canada’s Haida Gwaii archipelago is bursting at the seams with life.

I have been to the wondrous Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) archipelago three times, and each trip feels like the first. It is pristine and bursting at the seams with life — Canada’s Galapagos, if you will. This year I took my girlfriend along for the first time. I had made big promises of what we’d see and do, and when a pod of Orcas swam in from Alaska and encircled our boat, huffing, puffing and porpoising around us as if putting on a staged show, I knew at that moment the Haida Gwaii had delivered — big time. The wide-eyed smile on Erin’s face said it all. However, watching Erin enjoy her moment was the real memory I would cherish from that day.

Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic landmarks on Earth.

Statue of Liberty, New York City, 2010

Visiting the Statue of Liberty with Erin caught me off-guard. We had always planned to check out the Modern Colossus, but standing at her feet, Manhattan behind us and this iconic structure towering above, I felt out-of-body. This was really the Statue of Liberty. Not some replica, like in Las Vegas, but the real thing. The image of Lady Liberty has permeated Western culture for more than a century, and standing in her shadow was both humbling and surreal.

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About the author: David Webb is a Vancouver, BC-based travel writer, photographer and magazine editor.

6 comments… add one
  • john Nov 30, 2010 Link

    makes me want to drink alchoholic beverages

  • RedMango Oct 18, 2010 Link

    Very nice post!

  • Sarah Kroeker Oct 6, 2010 Link

    I loved it – made me tear up a little, and think about my own moments.

  • Erin O'Connor Oct 5, 2010 Link

    This maybe my favorite thing you have ever wrote.

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