Ten travel experiences that will change your life

Characters of Egypt. Photo: Belinda Jackson.
If you've been living under a rock (or possibly not in Australia), you may have missed the launch of the fabulous new Traveller website, from Fairfax Media. To kick off, a handful of us were asked for 10 travel experiences that changed our lives. I nominated hanging off a glacier on Russia's Mt Elbrus and watching the cultural puzzle click in India, but also experiencing the absolute inability to communicate (in South Korea) and travelling in the Middle East (oh, there are SO many ways this has changed my life). 

Here are my two published experiences below, and you can click here to read the full story, which includes seeing Rome's Colosseum, going on safari on the Masai Mara and visiting the former Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz.

There are holidays that help you relax and unwind, then there are travel experiences that change your entire outlook on life. Here, some of Traveller's most well-travelled writers name the experiences that changed their lives - and could change yours, too.

Where: South Korea and beyond

The experience: Finding yourself in a truly foreign culture
How it will change your life:
One of the great joys of travel is connecting with a local without a tour guide babying you through the conversation.There are those little milestones – the first time you buy water, order a meal, score a date in a foreign language.
I thought I was pretty slick: I could fumble French, shout Spanish, read Russian. My mime skills were excellent, the vocabulary list in my travel guides well-studied. But my global communication skills foundered, profoundly, in South Korea.
I'm sitting in an empty café in Seoul. According to the photos around us, it sells noodles. I would like noodles. Every time I suggest a noodle dish, the waitress shakes her head. So I point. She shakes. Point. Shake. Point. Shake. I give up, I find a vending machine. (Later, I learn I was sitting in a closed restaurant.)
Having the complete inability to communicate is a humbling experience. It is a reminder that the world is a far bigger place than just you and your orbit. - Belinda Jackson
More: english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/index.kto

Where: The Middle East

The experience: See life beyond the newsreels
How it will change your life: They do things big in the Middle East: the Great Pyramid of Gizas, Iran's Persepolis, the Sahara desert and the Empty Quarter, to name a few. Steer clear if you like orderly queues, traffic lights and 10pm bedtimes.
The standard backdrop for the Middle East in news bulletins is of tanks, screaming masses and men in epaulettes. The reality on the ground – save a few war zones – is about traffic jams, happily shouting friends and men in epaulettes (what's not to love about a good uniform?).
Men and women live in different spheres, pork and booze are largely off the menu and if you're foreign, you're rich. Yes, there are camels and shisha (tobacco water pipes) and you will see belly dancers. Yet there are also chic beach resorts, the sneaky late-night bars and saucy cabarets, the deep and abiding love of football (that's soccer). And while headscarves can polarise a nation, from Iran to Oman, the passion for fashion is alive and kicking, with the same obsession for black.
Let go: travelling in the Middle East requires sinking deep into a rich, cultural morass. Deep down, you'll realise, we all just want the good life. - Belinda Jackson.

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