I felt so Bilbo-esque four years ago when I said to myself, “Let’s go on an adventure.” Maybe Bilbo even felt like me, as if his life should have more meaning than it did. On paper, the age of 27 saw me with a philosophy degree, a divorce, debt, a recently deceased father, and a resume that most recently included video store clerk after being laid off from my dream job. So what was the natural thing to do? I’ll tell you what the natural thing was NOT to do. It’s not to quit the only job you have to start your own business as a freelance writer/consultant, leave all of your possessions, and then travel the world without any saved money.

But I did just those things. But while I’ve been fortunate enough to travel my entire life, I always viewed travel as an end in itself, rather than a means to an end. A trip was simply the collection of experiences between the time I stepped onto the plane (or into the car) until I stepped off. I didn’t see travel as something that affected my life beyond the actual trip itself. That all changed, however, when I bought a one-way ticket to Central America.

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There are no hidden meanings here. As I discovered last month on my trip to Cayman Islands, Stingray City is literally a city of stingrays along a series of sandbars just off the coast of Grand Cayman. As the story goes, decades ago, fishing boats would stop in the shallow waters to clean the fish they had caught for the day. What was the inedible, disposable parts for fishers, was dinner for the abundance of stingrays that would gather here. Over the years they’ve continued to congregate, even while it’s become the most popular thing to do on Grand Cayman.

I did quite a bit of research, even more than normal, about Stingray City before my excursion to find out  about the integrity and general consensus about the attraction, being the most popular thing to do on Grand Cayman. And I was pleased with what I found both in my research and on the trip itself. It is a popular destination, but the stingrays come and go as they please. Nonetheless, I’m glad I went when I did, mid-week when there weren’t any docked cruise ships, as there were just 10-15 of us. But rather then bore you with any more details, I’ll just show you in photos. I believe the photos speak for themselves!

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I remember so vividly my first really proper international trip, to Johannesburg, South Africa 10 years ago. Though 10 years later I’m often tasked with the duties of documenting the highlights of destinations I visit, that first international trip was as much of a trip of lowlights (like our accommodations getting broken into twice and having a gun pulled on us in the township of Soweto) as it was of highlights (like attending my first professional rugby game and going on a safari through Kruger National Park).

Yet this summer has seen me do something that I largely hadn’t done before, and that’s revisit destinations abroad that I had previously traveled to. It’s brought with it a collection of experiences and feelings that only I could have had, and only I could have had in those destinations. It’s not a type of experience I could’ve had the first time I went to these countries, nor was it something I could have experienced without revisiting them. In that way, it felt like I was seeing the destination all over again for the first time.

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