As part of the Life Well Travelled series, travel writer Isobel Diamond explains why Asia has been her greatest discovery and how it keeps her thirst for wanderlust alive
My love for travel began when I set out to discover the world on a series of teenage adventures. I flew to Melbourne, aged 17, and explored the Victoria region with wide-eyed zest. I kicked back in the seaside suburb of St Kilda and watched in awe as surfers caught gigantic waves. Car journeys along the Great Ocean Road revealed shimmering waterfalls, scalloped clifftops and perfect stretches of flaxen beach.
A year later, I spent a long sultry summer in Greece, hopping by ferry between the captivating Cyclades Islands. My two friends and I expended our miniscule budgets on succulent seafood and heady, ouzo-fuelled nights. In Santorini, the air aromatic with oregano and jasmine, we climbed whitewashed steps to witness tangerine sunsets disappear behind the silvery Aegean Sea.
These early memories are still so vivid, I can visualise the people and places like photographs in an album. Yet the memories are just a tiny part of how travel has enriched my life.
Asia has been my greatest discovery. I never cease to be captivated by its ancient rituals and vast, rich landscapes. Hong Kong and its thrilling contradictions: cocktail bars atop skyscrapers and lush, botanical gardens and parks lining the outskirts of the city. And Thailand’s gastronomic delicacies and sacred monuments keep me entranced time-after-time.
I arrived in The Philippines on a whim, with an instinctual feeling that I was somewhere special. I was right. Manila, the pulsating capital, is a frenetic metropolis where mega-malls flank concrete high rises and crumbling art deco buildings sit side-by-side with colonial townhouses. Its historic heart exists within the 16th-century medieval walled city of Intramuros.
The Filipino culture, a mix of Western and Asian influences, has a generosity of spirit that is unique. “You must try some!” cried a friendly street vendor standing in Makati, the popular shopping district. He so wanted me to taste his fish and chilli snacks, he offered them for free.
The raw beauty of Palawan, the country’s westernmost region, enraptures me. This archipelago of more than 1,000 heavenly islands remains largely unexplored.
The hospitality here is overwhelming. In a local village, a couple invited me into their home, wereupon the man attached a harness around his waist, took a cleaver and vanished outside. The sound of rustling branches and a muffled thud were heard before he returned, presenting me with a coconut, freshly cut from the tree.
At the Palawan Museum in the regional capital of Puerto Princesa, I met Elordie, a member of the local Tagbanwa tribe. His indigenous group has “lived in harmony with nature for centuries”, he told me. Surviving by fishing, farming and hunting, they want to protect Palawan’s precious environment and ask visitors to do the same. With every swim in its crystalline waters, every dive among its virgin coral and every ramble through its luxuriant jungle, I remember Elordie’s words.
It is these chance encounters and moments of exchange that keeps my thirst for wanderlust alive. For me, a life well travelled is to simply be in the moment, wherever that moment may be.
Isobel is humbled by the hospitality of Asian culture
Read more: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sponsored/travel/life-well-travelled/11417912/travelling-well-to-be-in-moment.html