‘Experience’ collections

This item appears on page 35 of the April 2020 issue.
Anemonefish, or clownfish, in Marovo Lagoon. Photo by Ann Cabot

Patrica McKevlin of Charleston, South Carolina, wrote, “In 2018 I finished viewing all of Johannes Vermeer’s paintings, which I was introduced to in the sixth or seventh grade! It was a difficult challenge, but I had wanted to do it for a very long time. I know some travelers who are counting countries, while others are aiming to visit all the capitals of Europe. I would like to hear what types of experiences other people are ‘collecting’.”

Another ITN subscriber (from Iowa) wrote, “On my next trip to India, among other things, I will ‘get’ my 26th and 27th of the 27 principal hill stations of British India [from the Dane Kennedy list] for my ‘collection.’ I know people who ‘collect’ wineries or visits with different tribal cultural groups, and I’ve crossed paths with people focused on narrow-gauge railroads or golf courses. I’m wondering what other experiences travelers ‘collect’.”

With those letters in mind, we asked any ITN subscribers with a particular type of experience that they seek out, “collect” or hope to complete as a goal to write in about it. Following are some of the responses, with more to be printed in upcoming issues.

I have ridden horses since I was a very small child in Iowa and have continued riding this beautiful animal in many of the countries I have visited. My encounters have ranged from several hours to week-long trips.

One of my special memories is riding on the steppes of Mongolia on a mori (“horse” in Mongolian), the breed of which is said to be largely unchanged since the time of Genghis Khan. That trip, in August 2004, also included the local Naadam Festival, which has a horse race up to 26 kilometers in length in which children as young as 5 are the jockeys! What a treat it was to be seated on the bed of the big truck used by the announcers to watch the end of the race.

Lorna Tjaden on a horse in Mongolia.

Riding horses in Greece was indeed a special trip. For one week there in 2005, I rode with two young women from Switzerland and a local guide. We rode around small peninsulas covered with hills and through small villages, staying in inns and eating with locals in the town squares. A highlight of the trip was a picnic lunch in a grove of olive trees, with the horses hobbled nearby enjoying their lunch — a welcome break.

A unique experience was riding an Icelandic horse in Iceland in 2008. They are small, almost pony-size. The horse I was to ride for the week loved to do the tölt, a gait that is special to the breed. I am not sure he ever knew what a walk was. I believe you could hold a glass of water while tölting and not spill a drop.

Our trail took us through rivers and past waterfalls. To cross a huge lake, the horses swam across while we rode in the cabs of huge transport trucks. Many of the participants were from Europe, and with our common bond of horses, it was extra-special to make friends with them.

Among many more adventures, I have ridden at the Pushkar Festival in India, in the Amish country of Belize (where my guide used a machete to cut our path through the jungle) and, in 2012, along the east coast of Bali, where my guide scaled a palm tree during a break in our ride to harvest a fresh coconut for a snack.

At the top of my bucket list is to ride a horse among giraffes in the savanna of Kenya as they eat leaves and twigs from the thorny acacia tree.

Lorna Tjaden
New Hope, MN


A lover of horses from the time I knew what they were, I have taken dedicated horse-oriented trips and sought out riding opportunities in many parts of the world.

Among the places I’ve gone specifically to ride horses was Estancia Los Potreros (www.estancialospotreros.com) in northern Argentina, where I rode Peruvian paso and Criollo breeds.

On my first trip to Australia, at a ranch in the Atherton Tablelands north of Cairns, I rode various breeds. For my second trip to Australia, I went with Cochran Horse Treks (Yaouk, NSW, Australia; www.cochranhorsetreks.com.au) on a 6-day ride across the Snowy Mountains on Australian stock horses. I joined Cochran Horse Treks for a third trip, again crossing the Snowy Mountains, then taking in the Man from Snowy River Bush Festival and heading back over the mountains — a 12-day ride, all on stock horses — after which I visited a friend near the Queensland coast and rode a Clydesdale on a beach.

Places I went to on trips not dedicated to horse riding but where I had the opportunity to ride were Bonaire, riding paso finos; France, for the Camargue; Ireland and New Zealand, for thoroughbreds; Norway, for a Norwegian fjord horse; Spain, an Andalusian, and Portugal, Costa Rica and Mexico, riding various breeds.

Rosemary McDaniel
Trenton, FL


A school of fish in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Photo by Ann Cabot

I collect fish photos and memories from ocean snorkeling. When I first slide into the water, face mask and snorkel in place, I don’t know what’s going to show up. As I fin my way forward into the alluring unknown, perhaps a turtle will idle by, maybe a school of brightly colored fish will swish past, or maybe there’s a field of hard corals just ahead. Every destination is a new adventure.

For enormous schools of fish, clear water and gobs of healthy corals, the best destination I’ve found is Kri Island in the Raja Ampat archipelago, off of West Papua in Indonesia. Locals running the island’s homestays will ferry you by dugout canoe to the best spots. Of my three visits to the island, the last was in 2015.

Ann and Eirik Cabot in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands.

Another great place is Marovo Lagoon in the Solomon Islands. The waters there are warm and current-free, and the corals are extremely healthy. Fish populations are diverse as well. I go every year with my adult son, staying at Uepi Island Resort (phone +61 3 9787 7904, www.uepi.com).

Other less “wow!” sites include Fiji (wonderful infrastructure for getting around); Aqaba, Jordan; the Cook Islands; Tonga (easy islands to reach, with an interesting culture); Sipidan in Malaysian Borneo; Palau (not much coral), and, my favorite Caribbean island, Bonaire, where you can easily snorkel from the beach.

My collection of snorkeling destinations grows more slowly these days (Egypt and Oman are scheduled). Instead, I’ve been returning to locations I’ve enjoyed, appreciating them anew.

Ann Cabot
Austin, TX


There is only a tiny difference between wanderlust and waterlust, which I discovered after getting my scuba diving certification in 1973. What I collect are diving sites, and I have dipped fins in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea.

My wife, Linda, dove with me from the time we were certified (for basic open water) in the Bahamas in 1973 until the mid-1990s. Though she stopped diving, she continues to travel with me to many diving-related destinations and stays wet by snorkeling. I have also gone by myself in groups to diving destinations.

Near Latin America, my favorite “go to” places are Cozumel (12 visits), Grand Cayman (five visits), Bonaire (four visits), the Bahamas (three visits), Costa Rica, and the island of Roatán in Honduras. In the Indo-Pacific region, the premier places include Micronesia (Yap and the Chuuk Lagoon), Palau, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (Lady Elliot Island and the Cairns area) and French Polynesia.

James Hansen on the sea floor a decade ago.

I can thank Paul Gauguin Cruises (800/848-6172, www.pgcruises.com) for far-flung visits in 2012 to French Polynesia (dives in Bora Bora, Faka rava, Rangiroa and Moorea) as well as an epic cruise in 2014 into the remote Western Pacific (dives in Fiji, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea).

These days, Linda and I are doing other types of trips, including cruises as well as apartment stays in Europe. My last foreign dive-oriented trip was to Cozumel, Mexico, in 2016, but Curaçao is planned for mid-2020.

The diving and travel industries have blessed me with rewarding and unforgettable experiences, including hearing humpback whales singing underwater (Great Barrier Reef in 1997); diving alongside Jean-Michel Cousteau, the eldest son of Jacques Cousteau (French Polynesia, 2012); participating in three Nikonos Shootouts, an international underwater photo competition (Cozumel and Bonaire, 1992-1994), and visiting wrecks of Japanese ships and aircraft, remnants of 1944 battles (Chuuk Lagoon in 1994 and Saipan in 2009).

James Hansen
Weeki Wachee, FL


I have collected a number of great train experiences. (I volunteer on a local tourist railroad in southern California.) Two I did alone after my first wife passed away: the Trans-Siberian Railroad from Moscow to Vladivostok and eight of the nine (at the time, in 2006) Great Little Trains of Wales.

In 2012, with my second wife, we rode a train from high in the Swiss Bernese Alps to Monte Carlo. We changed trains five times, at Lauter brunnen, Interlaken, Bern, Geneva (onto the TGV high-speed rail) and Marseilles. It was a wonderful, relaxing trip, and we saw a tremendous amount of the countryside.

Steve Goch
Santa Paula, CA

 A jelly in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Photo by Ann Cabot
Ann Cabot diving in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands.
Eirik Cabot diving in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands.
An adult anemonefish, or clownfish, guarding her eggs in Marovo Lagoon, Solomon Islands. Photo by Ann Cabot