A friend and I were chatting recently, about life, and travel, and things we hope to accomplish. So often I hear questions like, "what's your favorite place you've ever been?" or "what's the greatest trip you've ever taken?" Despite the frequency with which I get asked, I've never really come up with an answer. Every trip I've taken, every place I've visited, every incredible experience I've had, has been unique. Different places are beautiful, special, moving, and personally rewarding for different reasons, and in most cases, it has a lot more to do with the people I share it with; people I met somewhere along the way. These, too, are different every time, and come from such a diverse range of backgrounds and walks of life.
I loved living in Brazil because of the inner peace I found there, because for the first time in my life I didn't have a job and I didn't have to, and I could thoroughly enjoy every single hour of every single day. It was liberating, but I couldn't have done it forever. Eventually I would have needed some sort of purpose, for self-fulfillment. France always felt like home, having spent so much time there growing up. The culture felt like my own, with nuances I understood and traditions I embraced. Every time I spent time in France, I come back to my own culture feeling like an outsider, but going to France always feels like coming home. I loved everything about living there, the culture, history, landscape, and food, obviously, but mostly the people. The French get a bad rep for being cold and unwelcoming, but I've never, ever seen that side. (Granted I speak the language like a native, which helps immensely). I've been received there with nothing but open arms, smiles, and an incredible generosity, welcomed into people's homes, families, and hearts. South Africa came to feel like home as well, and I was lucky to have some very amazing adventures while I lived there. Just by accident, I landed in the right place, with the right people, at the right time, and everything clicked, which is why I can't wait to go back.
So back to my friend and I. I spend a lot more time thinking about the places I've been, that I wish I could go back to, and not nearly enough time thinking about places I would still like to go. I do think about it, sure, but I have these fuzzy ideas of places that are a bit blurry, as if in a fog. Australia...Indonesia...India...Scandinavia. Places that hold a particular interest, but for no particular reason, something about them just calls to me. But I asked my friend what was on his bucket list, and he said he felt like he had already checked most of them off. For him, I could tell this gave him immense satisfaction, as he is someone who likes to check off lists and reach goals, and it gives him a sense of accomplishment. For me, if I check everything off my list, what would be left? What would I have left to strive for? Not to mention, for every single item I check off the Bucket List, I add at least 10 more, so the list is pretty long. SO I decided to come up with a condensed version, and in light of this particular context (Equescapes) I've put together a list of places I would like to go and things I would like to do on horseback. But first, here's a list of my top 5 favorite horseback adventures I've already been on.
1. RIDING ON THE BEACH
There's just something magical about galloping across the sand, ocean spray in the air, and the sound of crashing waves. It never gets old. I never thought my first beach ride experience would be on the black sand beaches of Iceland, wearing a parka (see separate entry below), and since then I've left hoof beats in the sand in Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Brazil, South Africa, and everywhere I get the chance.
I joined the Arapahoe Hunt in Colorado in 2011 and never looked back. Each and every hunt is unique, and every single one an adventure (sometimes for better, sometimes for worse). It's a wonderful community of horse-people, one which extends far beyond our club. I've been welcomed as a guest to foxhunt in France and South Africa, and every hunt club has its own particular customs, despite upholding many of the same traditions.
3. POLO IN ARGENTINA
Watching the Argentinian Open and seeing the world's best polo players ride some of the fittest ponies on the planet was an exceptional experience. However, although I rode a lot of polo ponies and sort of played polo when I lived there, I never actually played on a team or in any kind of official match. so I still want to go to Argentina and feel like a polo player, not just a rider who kind of sort of pretends to know a thing or two about polo and gets to stick and ball on the farm.
I was only 15 when I went to Iceland, and I would love to revisit it. I went with my whole family, and I have to give credit to the ponies - those little guys are tough, hauling guys the size of my dad and uncles up and down mountains all day. The landscape was surreal; sometimes it felt like we were on another planet. The Icelandic Pony is one of the world's purest horse breeds, since horses are not allowed to be imported into Iceland, and once they leave, they cannot come back. Only Icelandic horses born in Iceland are gaited; they develop the gait due to the rough landscape, and a foal born to gaited parents who have been exported elsewhere will normally not be gaited.
This list could not be complete without including my home state, which boasts beautiful landscapes to ride through, a thriving horse community, a competitive show circuit, a rich ranching history, and herds of wild mustangs. What a perfect place to ride!
What's the most epic equestrian adventure you've been on? We would love to hear your stories, see your photos, and we're always open to suggestions so let's plan an adventure together!