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Escaping your everyday routine, immersing yourself in new cultures, taking time to explore your passions, being in places of great beauty… there are so many ways you can find joy in travel. Here, Audley clients and specialists share stories about their recent journeys. They explain how their travels have uplifted them in different ways, and how they’ve left a deep, positive imprint on their lives.

Experiencing new cultures in Thailand

There we were, sitting with one of the monks and talking about his life
Vanessa cooking in the home of a local in Chiang Mai
Vanessa cooking in the home of a local in Chiang Mai
Vanessa with her friend Kevin in Thailand
Vanessa with her friend Kevin in Thailand

'I’ve been a diver for 35 years, and I knew Thailand had some of the best diving in the world, so it had been on my list for a while. I’d actually planned the trip myself before the pandemic — I love planning travel; it’s fun for me. But this was my first time in Asia, and something told me that I needed professional help.

And yes, the diving, which I did in the Phi Phi Islands, was wonderful. The reef we saw was teeming, healthy, and alive — it was like watching an underwater documentary. So many fish, so many vibrant shades. We saw sea turtles, barracudas, and a cuttlefish up close — it was blending in with the surrounding rocks, then glided away and changed its skin patterns right in front of me.

But the diving, it turned out, wasn’t the main highlight. Jack, our specialist, put together a beautiful itinerary with all these off-the-beaten-path activities that I wouldn’t have had access to if I’d just gone it alone.

I wouldn’t have had the chance to go into someone’s house in Chiang Mai and cook with them. Or to visit a local market near Mae Kampong and buy ingredients for a soup, which I then learned how to make in a local lady’s kitchen. (She shared the recipe with me so I can now make it at home.)

I would’ve gone to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep, yes, but I wouldn’t have chatted to one of the monks at sunset after receiving a blessing. I’ve always been curious about Buddhism, and then there we were, sitting and talking (with my guide translating) about his daily life in the monastery.

It was the times I got to interact with local people, who were sharing their culture with me, that were really special.'

Reconnecting with nature in Costa Rica

Our guide told us to take a moment — to lean back in our kayaks, look up at the impossibly green canopy, and listen to our surroundings
Fenella with her mother in Costa Rica
Fenella with her mother in Costa Rica
Fenella kayaking in the Osa Peninsula
Fenella kayaking in the Osa Peninsula

'I’m not really a morning person, but it’s impossible not to be one in Costa Rica.

My family and I still talk about it now — waking up to a pot of fresh, steaming coffee delivered to our balcony in the Osa Peninsula, then taking our first sips while watching the sun rise over the yawning Pacific, the rainforest around us full of chattering birds. Each morning, I’d just stand there, coffee cup in hand, breathing deeply and soaking it all in.

We were there to celebrate my mother’s 60th birthday, and I’d been giddy with excitement to not only get back to Costa Rica, but to share it all with my parents, to show them a country I’ve come to know and love through my years of working at Audley.

And so, we went for it: sunset catamaran tours, zip-lining, guided rainforest walks, birdwatching, alfresco massages, candlelit dinners… it’s like we were all making up for lost time. I’m happy to report that my parents got stuck in, and were thrilled with it all (with the possible exception of some level-4 rafting, which they’ve never quite forgiven me for).

One day, we went kayaking through mangroves in the Osa Peninsula, ending up on a deserted beach. Our guide, Tamar, knew that my mother’s favourite drink was piña colada. She showed us how to open coconuts, then took one of the shell’s halves and squeezed fresh pineapple juice into the coconut water. ‘There you go,’ she said, handing it to my mother, ‘your cocktail, Osa-style.’ Later, paddling back through the mangroves, Tamar told us to take a moment — to lean back in our kayaks, look up at the impossibly green canopy, then close our eyes and listen to our surroundings.

In my mind, I’ve journeyed back to that moment in the mangroves many times since — deeply grateful, in truth, that we all got to be in that astonishing place, sitting still and listening together.'

Making a childhood dream reality in Kenya

We watched a lion pride feast on a kill — a primal experience
Collins and Nick in Kenya
Collins and Nick in Kenya
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi
Giraffe Manor, Nairobi

'When I was in high school, a friend visited Giraffe Manor in Kenya and I fell in love with the idea of having breakfast with these enormous, gangly creatures. So I started a savings account for myself right then. That was my childhood dream trip and I had to make it happen.

My first safari, several years ago, was life-changing, but I couldn’t get a spot at Giraffe Manor at the time — you have to book years in advance. So this trip was very special, a life-long dream. I planned the trip in 2019 so I could get a room at the manor in the summer of 2021. Well, we all know what happened in 2021.

My husband and I worked with our specialist to move the trip to February 2022. While I was there, I fell in love with Africa all over again. I’ve always been fascinated by wildlife — we humans are just renting space on this Earth, while animals have been here long before we were, and they’ll probably be around much longer than we will. Africa is a place where it’s possible to connect to animals in a completely unique way.

For example, my guide, Patrick, suggested a night-time game drive. I’ll admit, I expected to see smaller nocturnal species like porcupines or civet cats, but nothing big. Instead, we came upon a lion pride feasting on a kill they’d made earlier in the day. Patrick used a small red light to illuminate them in the dark. There were so many that, no matter where he pointed the light, we could make out their outlines. We counted maybe 15 or 16, all surrounding this one eland. It was a primal experience, to be in the dark with so many predators.'

Awakening the senses in Chile

Looking up at the Torres, I had to pinch myself
Annie in the Atacama Desert
Annie in the Atacama Desert
Torres del Paine, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park

‘Arriving in Patagonia, I felt this enormous injection of energy. It was as if all my senses were being fired up at once. I looked up at the Torres, the three immense granite needles that give Torres del Paine National Park its name, and it was a real pinch-yourself moment. After having not left home for two years I just stood there and thought, how can I possibly be here?

Chile was overwhelming in the best way possible. There was so much to see and take in: the face of a glacier, a steaming geyser field at dawn, a valley of thousand-year-old cacti. And it was fun, too — one day we went wine-tasting with a really enthusiastic guide, then got to stay over at the winery. In the Atacama Desert, I had a private soak in some hot springs, which are located in a desert conservation reserve owned by a great local hotel, Explora Atacama. I also enjoyed a gourmet lunch of salmon ceviche, plus another glass of that delicious Chilean sauvignon blanc...

I was reminded, too, of how unexpectedly European Chile can feel to a first-time visitor. It was also great to be sharing hotels with many Chilean nationals, who were taking the time to explore their own country more as a result of the pandemic. They were all gracious and extremely welcoming.

Travel is embedded in me: I’m originally from Ireland, live in Boston, and I used to live in Peru — and I left Chile feeling like a huge part of me was finally fulfilled, once more.'

Achieving a long-held ambition in Egypt & Turkey

Our travels have turned him into the person he is today
Garry and Matthew at the Pyramids of Giza
Garry and Matthew at the Pyramids of Giza
Luxor Temple, Luxor
Luxor Temple

‘In 2002, when my son Matthew was born, I announced to his mother that I was going to take him to Antarctica when he turned 14 years old. Over the years, the anticipation built up until I thought that we were both doomed to be disappointed when we finally got to go. But, I found out it’s impossible to get disappointed when you’re going to Antarctica.

We had such a wonderful time that, on the flight back from Chile, we made a vow to each other to visit every continent before he finished high school. That gave us a tight schedule — just four years. Our final continent was Asia and, for spring 2020, we planned a very cool trip through Audley to visit Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Of course, it was cancelled because of the pandemic. So, last year, we decided to visit Egypt and both the European and Asian side of Turkey.

I cannot accurately describe how beneficial our travels have been in turning him into the type of person that he is today. For example, after seeing the effects of climate change around the globe, he’s decided to study for a degree in sustainable architecture.

It really didn’t hit me until the afternoon of our very last day in Turkey. We’d visited Topkapı Palace and Matthew was sitting on the balcony of our hotel, gazing out at the water. I could only imagine what he was thinking at the time, but that’s when I knew that we had finally completed our quest.’


Audley Concierge Service

Audley Concierge Service

If you’re planning a special trip or just need help narrowing down where to go next, speak to our concierge service. A team of passionate experts with a knowledge that spans the globe, they’re on hand to guide you in your upcoming travels.

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