The idea to tick off the Seven Wonders of the Modern World came to me when I realised I was just randomly picking places to visit. I wanted to do something that had a bit more purpose and I thought that was a really good place to start. And so it became my mission to see all seven by the time I turned 40.
I do a lot of travelling. I always have. When I left home in Northern Ireland to go to university in Scotland in my late teens, I loved being away and experiencing other places. I have never been somebody who sits on a sunbed. Every summer break, I would either go on an adventure or volunteer abroad, which is something I’m also passionate about.
I took an extended break to do the five-day Salkantay Trek
One year, I went backpacking with my sister, visiting Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong. The following year, I went off to Tanzania with my university and volunteered in an orphanage. I also spent three months in the Borneo jungle, helping to connect a village to water. That was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
In my early 20s, I worked with homeless kids in Peru. That’s when I got to visit Machu Picchu. I took an extended break over a long weekend to do the five-day Salkantay Trek to the ancient Inca citadel – a more challenging and quieter route than the normal Inca Trail.
I still have the photo of me standing inside the ancient amphitheatre
By this point, I’d already seen the Colosseum in Rome, too. I’d visited a couple of times for weekends away – the last for a friend’s wedding 20 years ago – we all went to see it together the day after the celebrations. I still have the photo of me standing inside the ancient amphitheatre.
Next, in 2014, I ticked off Christ the Redeemer in Rio with a friend. I’m glad I visited, as it was amazing to see the statue, standing arms spread wide on top of the hunchback Corcovado mountain, overlooking the buzz of the city.
I found Flash Pack the following year, but I didn’t travel with them until 2017 when I booked onto the India adventure, which included a trip to the Taj Mahal. The visit actually brought me to tears. Our Pack Leader and guide, Vijay, was unreal. Because of his knowledge, he was able to show us a quieter spot from which to take it all in. I have a picture of me in front of the marble mausoleum and there is barely a soul in it. We were able to go off and have our own reflective moment, which was so lovely. The whole place just sparkled.
He was able to show us a quieter spot from which to take it all in
I’ve since been on group adventures with Flash Pack to Morocco, Colombia and, more recently, Jordan to tick off the next of the Modern Wonders – Petra. It was absolutely amazing. Our group was brilliant, our guide Fadi was incredible, and the country exceeded my expectations.
The way we arrived at Petra was especially memorable. There are two entrances into the ancient Nabataean Kingdom. Everyone else seemed to be going through the front door. But with Flash Pack, we were able to access through the back entrance, which had been closed for ages and only just reopened.
We got 4x4s through the red-stained desert to a certain point, and then we hiked, so it was a lot quieter. Fadi told us to keep our heads down at one bit. Then, under his instruction, we turned to see The Monastery standing in front of us. I have photos of myself in front of it and there’s hardly a person in sight.
I didn’t realise the extent of the size of Petra until I was there
In all, we walked about 15kms within the huge sandstone walls, going in at 9.30am and not leaving until after dusk. By the time we got to The Treasury, it was so quiet.
Along the way, Fadi organised for us to have lunch with the local Bedouin family in their home. They live in a cave, so it was incredible. We ate amazing rice dishes, salads and breads. There were two bedrooms cut into the cave, a kitchen, a bathroom and a large shaded sitting area, where we ate.
I didn’t realise the extent of the size of Petra until I was there. It’s huge – and what’s been uncovered is only a fraction of what is actually there. The rest is still undiscovered and underground.
Travel really is my biggest passion
I’m now 38 and I have just two sights left – Chichén Itzá in Mexico and the Great Wall of China. If Flash Pack could take me there, I wouldn’t have too much to do and I’d know they would be good trips. The older I get, the more comfort I take from group travel.
More generally, I’ve discovered that travel really is my biggest passion. I love the freedom that comes with it. Even during Covid, I found adventure – hiring a campervan and travelling the six counties of Northern Ireland in it.
The following year, I was a little braver and took the van down to County Clare on the west coast or Ireland. I realised I’d spent three months in the jungles of Borneo and I’d never been to the Cliffs of Moher. So, I did that and then worked my way back up. Over 10 days, I drove over 1,000 amazing miles.
I expect the list to get smaller, but it doesn’t
I can’t wait to achieve the Seven Wonders goal. Afterwards, I’d love to go to Sri Lanka or Japan. Like every keen traveller, I go somewhere new and expect the list to get smaller, but it doesn’t – it only continues to grow.
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Images: AdobeStock, Leonora Rice, Unsplash