Ashlyn George is an award-winning Canadian travel blogger that has visited more than 50 countries and all seven continents.
What are three of your favourite countries, and why?
Picking my favourite countries is as difficult as it is for a parent to pick their favourite child. It’s so hard to choose as every time I travel somewhere, it’s been a wonderful experience in regards to learning, growing and getting to know different cultures.
I love New Zealand as this is where it all began for me back in 2010. I discovered my passion for travel and outdoor adventure. It was a safe and easy place for me to travel when I was new to figuring it all out.
I love Borneo Malaysia for its jungles and my first time ascending a mountain above 4000 metres. I continued to pursue my passion for scuba diving and had the opportunity to dive Sipadan while I was there.
I love Madagascar for its remoteness and also for its nature. Wandering amongst the giant Allee des Baobabs, scuba diving with whale sharks and trekking in world-class national parks left an impression on me.
Other countries I loved visiting include Iceland, South Africa, Chile and Argentina, and Turkey.
Are there any countries you don’t like visiting?
I would go back anywhere! Every visit will always be different, so regardless of if I had a wonderful time or it was a challenging experience, I know the next time won’t be the same.
What are three of your favourite cities, and why?
The city dazzled me. I’m not a huge fan of cities and prefer to get out to smaller towns and out into nature, but Budapest captured my attention. I felt like I could have wandered the streets and along the Danube for days. I also loved all the thermal baths.
I had big expectations for New York and thought it would disappoint me because I had built it up so much in my head. But New York is just as fun and fabulous as every person, movie and book would have you believe. The opportunities in the city are limitless.
There was something about Kuala Lumpur that was the right city at the right time for me when I was travelling through Southeast Asia. While it doesn’t have the same “polished” feel as nearby Singapore, I just felt comfortable in the city. It was also a great location to base myself out of for further travels around Malaysia and nearby countries.
What are three of the worst places you’ve stayed?
A one-dollar bed in Cambodia
Especially when I was backpacking, I rarely booked ahead. I would show up at a location and wander around an area in search of accommodation. That occasionally leads to some interesting experiences with the places I’ve stayed. In Cambodia, I paid one US dollar for a bed outside that was covered by a mosquito net in a hostel’s backyard. While I was showering in the nearby outdoor shower, I watched a rat run across the top of the open roof of the shower stall. I guess I got what I paid for that night.
Event in Luang Prabang
When travelling through Laos, I arrived in Luang Prabang when a major event was happening in the city. Of course, I was unaware and hadn’t booked accommodation in advance. I couldn’t find anywhere to stay, but thankfully a small hotel put a pad down in a broom closet, and I was able to spend the night and then find better accommodation the next morning.
Cockroaches and dirty rooms
I’ve also had numerous experiences with cockroaches and dirty rooms. My lesson when caught in a pinch on a budget and not having many options is to carry a sleep sheet with you.
Do you have any favourite hotels or restaurants?
Sleeping in a treehouse on The Gibbon Experience in Laos
Picture hiking through the forest and zipling above the canopy into the world’s tallest treehouses where you get to spend the night. Guides carry in meals and even wine for your enjoyment in the evening. It’s truly one of the most spectacular experiences and places I’ve stayed that I’ll never forget.
Street Food in both Thailand and Vietnam
While I can’t pick one specific spot in either country, my tastebuds were so delighted by all the flavours and varieties of food from vendors and markets in both these countries. While I wouldn’t say I’m a foodie when travelling, these are two countries I can’t wait to get back to and specifically enjoy their cuisine.
The Lost and Found Hostel, Panama
It’s a hike-in hostel in the Cloud Forest with access to hikes to waterfalls, coffee plantations. Even cooler they offer treasure hunts on and off-site. It was an amazing place to get away to but also to meet other travellers.
What are three of your favourite travel moments, and why?
Like picking favourite countries, my favourite travel moments are just as hard to choose from. Most of my favourite memories revolve around the wonderful people I’ve been able to share my travels with.
I love road-tripping, and three road trips that stand out for me include a road trip from Canada to Alaska in the autumn, a 4000km road trip around Iceland and a road trip across South Africa and into Swaziland.
Travelling with parents
I’ve also spent a bit of time travelling with my parents and will always treasure the moments I’ve been able to share with them. It was special travelling to Easter Island and then around northern and central Chile with my mom and dad as well as visiting Machu Picchu with them. I was also able to have my mom join me on a safari in Tanzania for her 65th birthday with a stopover in Zanzibar, where she tried scuba diving for the first time.
Spending nearly two months in the Galapagos Islands
Another travel moment that stands out was spending nearly two months in the Galapagos Islands. I originally travelled there for a week-long cruise and to spend a couple of days scuba diving. After my first day of diving, I decided to stay on and do my PADI rescue diver and divemaster courses. It’s a location I dreamed about visiting since I was a teenager. It was surreal to have it all come true and be able to dive with hammerhead sharks, Galapagos sharks, and so many other unique endemic species around the islands.
What are three of your worst travel moments, and why?
Camera quit working
Three of my worst travel moments happened all within a week or two of one another. I was travelling in Turkey, where I was about to start a trip where I was hired to create videos for a client. Less than 48 hours before boarding their boat for two weeks to sail the Turkish and Greek Islands, my new camera quit working. Although it was a warranty problem, I was unable to get it fixed while abroad on such short notice. I was also in a situation where buying a new camera of the quality I needed was extremely complicated. It’s a long and dramatic story, including trusting a stranger to deliver a pre-purchased camera to me in the airport on a layover, but he was a no-show and I almost missed my connecting flight. However, in the end, I managed to hire a driver to take me to a city four hours away where I was able to find an overpriced camera that worked.
Larva hatch into worms on the left eye
Two weeks after the camera fiasco, I ended up having a dozen larva hatch into worms on my left eye. It’s another dramatic story that involved me flying and riding a train across Greece and obtaining the services of an ophthalmologist in the small city of Kalabaka, near Meteora. Thankfully, no permanent damage was done, and the worms eventually resolved themselves, but I had lingering effects for nearly five months.
Luggage lost for more than ten days
To add insult to injury on this trip, only a few days later, I was travelling from Greece into Croatia by plane. During my layover in Rome, my luggage was lost for more than ten days. While normally not a major issue as I had travel insurance to replace a few necessities, I had luggage full of tech equipment and work clothes that I needed for my next job on a high-end cruise beginning in Germany. Thankfully, I was able to go to the Munich airport at midnight the night before the cruise started. Someone was able to help me find my luggage that had been delivered by the airline but was hiding in a back office.
On a positive note, when travel goes wrong, it sure makes for the best stories and memorable moments!
What are three of your best travel tips?
Having a bit of a plan is important, but make sure to have some flexibility. The best parts of travel are the unexpected adventures that come up.
It’s not always about the places you see but the people you share your travels with – whether that’s travel mates, locals or other tourists.