Best Sunsets and Sunrises for Earth Day 2015

In honour of Earth Day 2015, I have compiled a list of my favourite sunsets and sunrises around the world. I think that sunrises and sunsets are one of nature’s greatest shows, and taking the time to take either one or both in is a great way to bookend a day of travelling. By no means a comprehensive list, here are some of the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises I have seen around the world:

1) Pays Dogon, Mali 

Yup, I cried. 

After three days of hiking in semi-desert heat and eating dried out “cliff bread”, I was awarded with this superlative sunset from the top of the Bandiagara escarpment in Mali’s Dogon Country, which is one of the most unique and memorable places I have been.


2) Nungwi, Zanzibar

Pictured: bliss. 
Zanzibar sunsets will always have a special place in my heart, as that was where I first set eyes on the Indian Ocean. Sitting out on a table on the sand and watching fishermen bring their nets while sipping on a Tusker is about as blissful as it gets. 
3) Prince’s Island Park, Calgary, Alberta, Canada 
Inspiration can be found at home too. 
I used to have the luxury of walking to work through Prince’s Island Park, home to the iconic Calgary Folk Music Festival and the perfect place to spot a beautiful wintry sunrise. 
4) Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado, USA
Sunset and a storm. Two of nature’s best shows in one!
Great Sand Dunes NP is by far one of my favourite places I have been in the USA. Massive, Sahara-like sand dunes are dwarfed by the surrounding Sangre de Christo mountains making it seem like you’re on another planet. We caught this sunset while a storm approached. Shortly after taking this picture, we were huddling in our tent waiting for the rain to pass. 
5) Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda
Being up early is relatively easy when this view greets you. 
In order to make the 2+ hour drive and be briefed and ready at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to accomplish a lifelong dream of spotting a gorilla in the wild, we had to wake up at 4:00am to be almost left behind when our boat to the mainland where the driver was waiting left 15 minutes early. The only thing that mellowed that brutally early wake-up and the stress of almost being left behind on one of our big ticket items during our East African adventure was this otherworldly sunrise.
Oh, and the sunsets were pretty great too.
There you have it, among many other feats, the Earth does an amazing job of putting on a superb twice-daily show for us. Where have you seen some amazing sunrises and sunsets? 

Finding the Zen in Travel Regrets

There is a certain glamour associated with not having any regrets.

This glamour.
Photo credit: www.themetapicture.com 

But regrets should not be treated as something to be avoided, rather they should be seen as lessons learned. This is very important when considering travel regrets since the stakes are high when travelling. Time is money, parts are unknown and strangers are everywhere, so it is easy to have regrets for many reasons. For example, not avoiding a dangerous place even though you’ve been warned and having your things stolen, not going to that place even though it came highly rated, or conversely, wasting money on things that were not worth seeing despite being highly rated. Despite the negative feelings associated with regrets, they come with a lesson and it’s our role as Zen-minded travellers to figure out what that lesson is.

Any self respecting traveller knows that learning lessons while on the road is a constant, so I’m sharing some of my travel regrets and the lessons they brought with the understanding that I’m sure many more lessons are in store for me as I continue travelling.

1) The crucial importance of details
I am typically someone who is in the middle when it comes to details. So I think I am slightly more observant than the average person, but not Type A about things either. This tendency was both a strength and a weakness when Philip and I planned a roadtrip to Colorado from Alberta one summer. After missing out on tickets to Austin City Limits which had a killer lineup that year, we followed the bands that we wanted to see all the way to Red Rocks in Colorado. Both Neil Young and Crazy Horse and My Morning Jacket were playing a day after each other. Instead of seeing them at the festival, we decided to drive to beautiful Colorado to see them at what we now consider an unrivalled venue. My Morning Jacket played the first show, and our minds were blown. They are an act that are consistently good live, who play for hours with seemingly impossible energy, so imagine our disappointment when we learned that they had played another set the night before with no song repeats. If we had just dug a little deeper and imagined the most perfect concert scenario ever, we could have seen a wonderful band play most of their songs live in back-to-back concerts at arguably, the world’s greatest music venue. Damn. Our only solace is at least one MMJ show at Red Rocks is enough to keep a person floored for years.

Red Rocks. Best. Venue. Ever. 

2) The crucial importance of compatibility
I’ve had the luck to travel both solo and with a crew,  and I have learned that I usually prefer a crew. To me, there is nothing like being able to turn to someone in your crew and know that they are thinking the exact same thing when you see something amazing while travelling. That being said, I have learned that some people are just not travel compatible. For example, while trying to travel to Coachella one year with Philip and some people I hadn’t travelled with before, compatibility became very important. We learned that while some people may be fun to have the odd beer with, going on a trip to a music festival with them is another thing. Our planning and travel styles differed greatly and ultimately Philip and I decided that we would have more fun travelling without them than we would with them. While I regret having something as fun as planning a trip to a music festival end up mired in drama, it was worthwhile to learn that respecting your own style will always guarantee you having the most fun.

One of Coachella’s iconic stages.
 Also a very clear example of  how taking pictures at a concert is a waste of time. 

3) Sometimes you will never know if what you did was right
When I was nearing the end of my 5 months in Mali, my affable host mother Fatamatou asked me to join her on a trip to Southern Mali for a religious event. It meant a very long and uncomfortable bus ride, and probably more uncomfortable sleeping arrangements, but also it meant the chance to spend some time with a woman that I had grown to love immensely, seeing a new part of the country and experiencing a truly unique cultural event. However, the same weekend two of my favourite people that I had met while in Mali would be spending the weekend in Bamako and I had the chance to show them the parts of the city I loved. I mulled over it for a long time, factoring in my recent and unfortunate experience with a parasite, and decided that a relaxing weekend in the city I loved with some people who I missed and didn’t get to see all that often was the best thing for me at the time. Now that some time has passed and I am no longer recovering from a parasite, I sometimes wonder if I should have opted to go with Fatamatou instead, since it was an opportunity do so something truly unique while travelling with someone who I now miss dearly. In the end, I think that I needed to do what was right for me at the time, which was to take care of myself and therein lies the lesson. Despite how amazing the experience would have been, I would have been no use to Fatamatou while feeling sick and I made some amazing memories staying home with my friends that I still cherish to this day.

Bustlin’ Bamako

4) Not fighting for what you want
Normally I would be the first to suggest taking a local’s advice, but there are moments where it is worth standing up for what you want to do or see. A few years back, my dad and I travelled to England to see some relatives and cruise around. Our relative took us to the area of Stonehenge but told us that it was “not worth our time”. Instead of paying to go into the site, he told us that he knew of a perfect spot to get a great picture and he would take us there. Once at the “perfect” spot, I realized that all I wanted to do was pay the stupid fee and see Stonehenge up close. I could have sent my dad and great uncle down the road to have an afternoon in the pub together and enjoyed the site on my own. Instead, it is years later and I still don’t really feel like I saw Stonehenge. Finding a compromise would have been easy enough if I had just spoken up.

Check it, I “saw” Stonehenge (sort of)!

In short, the above examples represent so-called travel regrets: missing a concert, trying to plan a trip with people who who have different travel styles, wondering if you made the right choice or wishing that you could do something over. But digging deeper into these regrets reveals some powerful lessons and the most important one is that travel is your time. It’s about you and your priorities and your well-being. No one else can travel the same path as you, so make yours count and be open to learning lessons along the way.

No regrets is right.
Photo credit. www.theoatmeal.com