65 PHOTOS THAT WILL MAKE YOU WANT TO VISIT SOUTH AFRICA

Confession. I wasn’t sure this travel post was ever going to make it on the blog. When we left for our winter trip in February, I had a system in place. I was going to blog our photos in real time (well, close to it). But then afternoons at outdoor patios, cage diving with great white sharks (yes, we are crazy!), road trips along the South African coast and wine tasting in Stellenbosch took over, and editing my photos took the back seat to enjoying the moment … which is the point of traveling, isn’t it?!

Coming back just weeks before busy season, I thought these photos would have a destiny like my Chiang Mai photos (stuck forever on my laptop, unedited), but I have been dreaming of South Africa non-stop. I keep thinking about how amazing Cape Town is, how I long for king protea flowers, and how I miss seeing rocket on the menus everywhere (so much, that I snagged some at Trader Joe’s this week). If I could have jumped on a plane and been back at our little apartment in Mouille Point, I would have.

Instead, I spent late nights on the couch editing the photos from a place that makes my heart full. Phil and I are so blessed to travel for as long and as much as we do. We have been to exotic countries, beautiful beaches and bustling cities, but South Africa without a doubt is my favorite of them all. Why? Here are 65 photos that will only tease you with the magic of South Africa.

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Want to see more of South Africa …. visit my blog post from our safari in Kruger National Park.

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KRUGER NATIONAL PARK SOUTH AFRICA SAFARI PHOTOS

My obsession with going on an African safari started back in the 90’s. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit ran a behind-the-scenes special on the making off the issue, and the team traveled to Africa and went on a safari. I remember watching and becoming completely infatuated with Africa, and I knew I HAD to make it there at some point. A safari in Africa was one of the top things on my travel bucket list.

So, when Phil suggested we head to South Africa this winter, I was thrilled! We chose to spend 3 nights at Kruger National Park and experience our first safari with Robbie from Nhongo Safaris (He is the BEST!). The whole experience was a dream. Phil and I have traveled quite a bit over the last few years, however this experience, hands down, was and will forever be my favorite. Not sure why? Here are 43 photos that will make you want to book a plane ticket, head to South Africa and experience a safari.

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ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES PHOTOS

When I first left corporate America three years ago, travel was a huge priority to me. I was sick of watching Anthony Bourdain explore the world from my couch and tired of pinning another gorgeous, exotic landscape to my Pinterest “Bucket List” board. Seeing, viewing, and learning about the world from Chicago wasn’t working. I had an appetite (and a little push from Phil) to get out there and document it for myself. So, I did. Welcome, #wanderlust.

Phil and I are about two weeks into our current three continent trip, and every morning when I wake up in a foreign land, I cannot help but feel so blessed and alive. We have already experienced so many amazing things during this trip that I cannot wait to share. I am doing my best to photograph as much of what we are seeing / eating / trying as possible and share it on the blog. But be sure to follow along on instagram to see snaps in live time. :) I haven’t been editing and sharing quite as quickly as I had hoped. :)

Our first stop was Abu Dhabi. We only had two full days to take in the culture of the Middle East, but we managed to sneak in a lot. Here is a little look at ABU DHABI!

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All of the guidebooks suggested a visit to the Emirates Palace Hotel even if you were not staying there. We opted to walk the Corniche there (which was a nice (long) walk – with lots of photo taking). The hotel is stunning on the outside and pretty grand on the inside.

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I really wanted to photograph the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque once I saw it when I was planning our trip, and it was just as magnificent as it appeared in the images I saw. It might be one of the most beautiful places of worship that I have ever visited.

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The mosque is HUGE. During Eid it can be visited by more than 40,000 people!

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One of my favorite things to do when we travel is visit the local markets (hello, shopping!). We wandered the local souks and tasted some delicious local dates.

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We made friends with Sadiq, one of the owners of the date stalls, while we were shopping. He let us sample the dates, and was so kind to give us a container to bring home. My favorite were the chocolate covered dates. :)

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And no trip to the Middle East could be complete without a trip to the desert.

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It was a pretty windy day, so the sand was blowing everywhere. I definitely had sand coming out of my ears and scalp for days, but it was such an incredible experience. Everywhere you look is dunes and dunes of sand.

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Heading to Abu Dhabi? Or want to know more about where we stayed / what we did / what not to miss? Leave me a message in the comments below, and I would love to tell you more. Until then …. #wanderlust.

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THAILAND ISLANDS in PHOTOGRAPHS

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of gorgeous locations over the years – St. Lucia, Dominican Repeblic, Hawaii, Grand Cayman – but the Thai islands are something out of a dream. Do you all remember the Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio? Those jaw-dropping beaches …. that is exactly what I woke up to every day for near 6 weeks. I know, insane right? I had to pitch myself, but it was real life. We spent time on Ko Samui, Ko Tao, Ko Phanghan, Ang Thong, Maya Bay, Ko Phi Phi and Phuket.

It took me WAY to long to edit through the photos from Thailand. I think, in a way, I was avoiding editing them because it meant this magical trip was actually over, but after nearly 8 weeks, I finally put my big girl pants on and forced myself to look at them and relive every perfect (and not so perfect) moment on the islands of Thailand.

So without babbling too much about Thailand, let me show you some of the beauty that is just a plane ride away. And if you are planning a trip to Thailand, pack me in your suitcase …. :)

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ANGKOR WAT + SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA in PHOTOGRAPHS

The second country we visited during my 8 weeks in South East Asia was Cambodia. We had one major thing we came for …. Angkor Wat … and all of the ancient temples throughout Siem Reap. Be prepared to be amazed by these stunning temples! I was in complete awe as we visited so many different temples during our 3 days touring these ruins. Besides the temples, our time in Cambodia was spent in the A/C (it was over 100 degrees during the day) so these photos really only show the grandeur and detail of these amazing temples (but I promise you … it is so worth checking out!).

Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com Siem Reap, Cambodia + Angkor Wat in photographs // brittany bekas photography // www,brittanybekas.com

 

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TRAVEL // the only thing that makes you richer

I sat on the beach sand as the wind breezed through my tangled, ocean kissed hair watching a Thai local throw fire. I watched  in complete awe as he spun waterfalls of fire on to the sand. I had seen these fireshows more times than I could remember during my 8 weeks in South East Asia but in this moment, as I starred at the fire cascading down, I couldn’t help but feel complete bliss.

Here I was, sitting on one of the most beautiful beaches in Thailand, after weeks of seeing and photographing places I never had dreamed about with the love of my life at my side. It was surreal. The whole experience felt as if it shouldn’t be happening. Like I was living in a movie. Like it was way to good to actually be real life.  But it was. And it was my life.

When Phil and I talked about this adventure months before, I was completely apprehensive. Could I be half way around the world for 8 weeks? How would this affect my business? What about all the things I would miss at home? Could I go that long without Portillo’s? (Hey, it was a concern…) As much as my heart was pulling me to go, my head was holding me back. But the more we talked about the trip, I knew I would regret not saying yes to this incredible adventure more than I would actually miss everything I thought I would miss.

So, I packed my life into a backpack and traveled half-way around the world to foreign lands with my eyes wide open … camera in hand. Vietnam. Cambodia. Thailand. The opportunity to see a whole new world while personally changing in the process. I left Chicago a little jaded … seeking some renewed energy and passion and that is exactly what I found in Asia. Every life experience impacts you, but I have found that every time I travel, I come back a different person. Wiser, more cultured, more appreciative, relaxed and definitely more inspired.

Leaving my comfort zone behind allowed me to grow as a person. It allowed me to walk away from the daily grind of dishes, to-do lists and schedules to just BE. To see. To try. And to explore. And it is because of the things I saw, felt and lived during my 8 weeks in Asia that forever changed me and my outlook on what is truly important.

As my trip came to an end in Thailand, I made a promise to myself  to “buy less things and more experiences”. I have been posting the same message a lot since I got back, but it is because I know it to be true. It is something that has taken me longer than it should have to realize. While I may currently be oogling over a new Michael Kors watch and a few colorful dresses for spring, I know that the only thing that I have ever bought that truly gives me everlasting happiness (and endless memories and stories) is travel. And for that reason, I will continue to make time for travel.

Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer // Brittany Bekas Photography

If you are stuck at your desk on this Wednesday, travel to Vietnam through my photos from my trip: Ho Chi Minh // Nha Trang // Hoi An. And stay tuned for photo stories from Cambodia and Thailand coming in the next week.

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NHA TRANG, VIETNAM in PHOTOGRAPHS

Stop number 2 on our tour of Asia …. Nha Trang, Vietnam. This town has to be one of my favorite towns that we have traveled to. It is the perfect mix of a beach town and a city (and for city-lover and sunbathing fan, I was in heaven). Nha Trang has beautiful beaches, great shopping and delicious food. Here is a little look at Nha Trang from my perspective.

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